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Mandalay Bay resort turns 25 in Las Vegas

Mandalay Bay Resort

Some things are hard to believe. Here’s one: March 2 marked the 25th anniversary of the opening of Mandalay Bay.

Its location has a history. The Hacienda Hotel opened there in 1956 under the ownership of Warren Bayley. He took over the operation from Carlton Adair, who later started what became Lake Las Vegas. Bayley had to delay opening the casino because his original casino manager was to be Jake Kozloff, who had what we used to call connections. The Hacienda was the first casino you encountered driving up Highway 91 from Los Angeles. It was known for its Hacienda Airlines plane service for customers, including a piano player on board, and for catering to families, including with a miniature golf course. When Warren Bayley died, his wife Judy took over. After Argent owned it along with the Stardust and Fremont, Paul Lowden bought the Hacienda. His company sold it to Circus Circus Enterprises.

There’s a history to that company, too. It originated, really, with Caesars Palace, built by Jay Sarno, Stan Mallin, and their partners. They opened the Circus Circus in 1968 and later sold it to William Bennett and William Pennington. As the company expanded, it built the Excalibur and Luxor. Then Circus Circus Enterprises bought the Hacienda and surrounding land, and imploded the old hotel at the end of 1996.

Mandalay Bay with its South Seas theme debuted just over two years later, weighing in at forty-three stories. It cost just under a billion to build. It was a big step for the parent company, which wasn’t known for such high-end properties. Their biggest problem during construction was that the property sank more than a foot … we tend to forget this area is, in Spanish, the meadows. The same thing happened when they built Shea Stadium, where the New York Mets used to play, in Queens … in Flushing Meadow. Same difficulty, and the Mandalay’s builders solved it with metal pipes filled with grout and with hydraulic jacks.

None of that mattered when it opened. It was a hit. On opening night, the Blues Brothers led the way and then performed at the House of Blues. The Four Seasons opened a Las Vegas property as part of Mandalay Bay. The Shark Reef caused oohs and aahs. The Red Square bar was a hit for two decades and led to a great Las Vegas mystery: Someone stole the head off of a statue of communist Vladimir Lenin, and it wound up at a thrift store. Its entertainment included The Lion King and, today, the Cirque show One, featuring Michael Jackson’s music, along with two dozen restaurants.

Mandalay Bay unfortunately became part of the most tragic moment in Las Vegas history. On October 1, 2017, a man fired into the Route 91 country concert across the street. Ultimately, 60 died, with more than 800 wounded. They settled the lawsuits claiming a lack of proper

security and have never again rented out the suite from which the shots were fired.

In 2005, MGM Resorts bought out the company. Today, the Mandalay Bay has a nearly 150,000-square-foot casino and more than 3,200 rooms, plus the Four Seasons and the Delano Las Vegas on its property. At age twenty-five, it’s now a longtime site at the end of the Strip … or is it the beginning? Maybe we can settle that another time.