Iconic Tropicana Casino Closes, Makes Way for $1.5B MLB Stadium

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On a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, once surrounded by a vast desert, the gilded doors of the Tropicana Las Vegas welcomed its first guests in 1957. From its opening glory days to its quieter years nestled amongst rising megaresorts, the Tropicana has been an iconic sight across the Las Vegas landscape, crafting vibrant memories in a city in which the only constant has been change.

Today, the Tropicana, this sparkling relic of the Golden Age of Vegas, halted its gears after completing a glorious run of 67 years. The doors of the Strip’s third-oldest casino closed permanently on Tuesday, making way for a new chapter in the city’s illustrious journey. Slated for demolition in October, it will be replaced by a $1.5 billion Major League Baseball stadium for the Oakland Athletics, a move that reinstates Las Vegas as the hub of sports entertainment.

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The lavish entry to the Tropicana, which was widely alluded to as the “Tiffany of the Strip”, kicked off with much fanfare on April 4, 1957. As the most luxurious and pricey establishment on the Strip, over 12,500 people attended its inauguration. It came equipped with three floors hosting 300 rooms divided into two wings, embracing a “Y” shape blueprint, each room adorned with a balcony. Adding to its grandeur, a half-moon pool with verdant landscaping and majestic palm trees straddled the resort’s wings.

Imposing a grand welcome was the sixty-foot tulip fountain at the front of the property. A striking array of flags from different nations bordered the casino’s entrance, while the interiors boasted of kaleidoscopic mosaic tiles and mahogany-paneled walls.

Offstage, the story of the Tropicana’s opening was enveloped in a novel of mobsters and mystery. Meticulating through the annals of Sin City’s history, the Tropicana bore a close relationship with reputed mobster Frank Costello. When Costello met with an assassination attempt a few weeks post the Tropicana’s grand opening, a slip with the casino’s exact earnings tucked away in his coat pocket sparked a series of investigations.

By the 1970s, federal authorities had charged over a dozen mob operatives with scheming to skim the large pie of gambling profits from Las Vegas casinos, including the Tropicana, leading to five convictions.

Nothing represents the glamour of Las Vegas better than the iconic feathered showgirls. Fulfilling this, on Christmas Eve of 1959, a topless revue, “Folies Bergere”, imported all the way from Paris made its grand debut at the Tropicana. It boasted elaborate touches from intricate costumes and stage sets to live orchestra-backed original music and featured line dancers, acrobats, magic shows and comedy. The revue remained a staple until the final curtain fell in 2009.

Adding to its charm, Tropicana etched its place in pop culture as an enduring symbol of vintage Vegas. Cinematic moments from iconic films like “The Godfather” and “Diamonds Are Forever” were shot here. Photos of A-list stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Frank Sinatra during their heydays still abound today.

In a city known for its glitz, Tropicana underpins the sublime. From hosting performances by Mel Tormé, Eddie Fisher, Gladys Knight, and Wayne Newton to witnessing the feats of daredevil Robbie Knievel catapult across 30 limousines in a record-breaking stunt, Tropicana has been home to a myriad of splendid spectacles.

However, as an enduring symbol in the city’s history, the Tropicana has also been part of somber events. In October of 2017, as havoc was unleashed onto a crowded country music festival from the rooms of the Mandalay Bay, Tropicana became a sanctuary for thousands as they sought safety, offering them both physical and emotional support.

As it prepares itself for demolition, Tropicana stands tall, encapsulating seven decades of vibrant Las Vegas narratives. The closure of its doors marks a poignant turn of the pages, signifying the end of one epoch and the grand unveiling of another in the ever-revolving story of Sin City. One thing remains unequivocal: the iconic Tropicana has earned its place in Las Vegas’ eternal lore.