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

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The Tropicana Las Vegas, an emblematic sinew to the heart of Sin City, from its ostentatious inception in 1957 on a desolate Las Vegas Boulevard to its quieter epoch among the rise of megaresorts, has held the mantle as a paragon of the city’s chromatic events and relentless reinvention. Yet, with 67 years richly enscribed in the annals of Las Vegas history, the illustrious Tropicana, the third-oldest casino on the Strip, closed its doors one last time this Tuesday. The once lively venue will be razed in October, clearing the way for the rise of a $1.5 billion Major League Baseball stadium, the new home for the relocating Oakland Athletics, as Las Vegas continues its chameleonic journey, this time as a lynchpin of sports entertainment.

The Tropicana story weaves an interesting narrative, intricately laden with glittering highlights that collectively remain an indelible part of Las Vegas’s vibrant history. The Tropicana, originally dubbed ‘The Tiffany of the Strip’, sprang to life on April 4, 1957. An early sign at the construction site promised an upcoming ‘desert oasis’; when the Tropicana did open, it exceeded expectations. As the costliest and most sumptuous casino on the Strip, it drew an impressive crowd of over 12,500 people at its grand opening. The venue, a $15 million marvel, spanned three stories and 300 rooms, divided judiciously into two wings that formed the shape of a ‘Y’.

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Every suite came equipped with a balcony, and between the hotel’s wings was nestled a crescent-shaped pool, wrapped in lush landscaping and tall palm trees. A 60-foot tulip fountain welcomed the guests upon entrance, an array of international flags setting the stage. Inside, every corner whispered luxury; mosaic tiles and mahogany-paneled walls echoed the extravagance. The Tropicana underwent two significant expansions in its lifetime, opening the Tiffany Tower in 1979 and the Island Tower in 1986.

Beneath the public fanfare and glamour, however, cloaked in shadows and whispered in rumors, the Tropicana held ties to the mob. At its factual epicenter was reputed mobster, Frank Costello. A significant event unfolded mere weeks after the Tropicana’s opening, when Costello barely survived a bullet to his head in New York. When the police found a note in his coat pocket revealing the Tropicana’s precise earnings along with the phrase ‘money to be skimmed’, the underworld ties moved from rumor to reality. By the 1970s, federal investigations led to over a dozen mobsters facing charges connected to nearly $2 million embezzled from Las Vegas casinos, including the Tropicana, resulting in five convictions.

In addition to the mysterious intrigues, the Tropicana had a brighter element in its history. On Christmas Eve, 1959, it launched ‘Folies Bergere’, an exuberant topless revue imported from Paris that enchased the portrait of a now iconic Las Vegas legend: the feathered showgirl. With five decades under its belt, Folies Bergere captured the quintessence of pure entertainment, featuring an array of elaborate costumes, original music, line dancing, acrobatics, and plentiful comedy.

The casino’s legend extended to pop culture as well, its fame immortalized in movies and TV shows. Faamed movies like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ gave the Tropicana a celluloid life, with the latter indoctrinating Bond’s casual remark: “I hear that the Hotel Tropicana is quite comfortable”. To this day, monochromatic images of stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and members of the Rat Pack like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. infuse a vintage nostalgia that clings to the Tropicana’s memory.

Even in its final act, the Tropicana demonstrated the spirit of Sin City as a beacon of shelter, providing refuge and aid to thousands of people fleeing gunfire during the heart-breaking Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017. Today, the Tropicana may exit the stage, but its indomitable spirit, opulence, and resiliency live on, forever embedded in the heartstrings of Las Vegas.