“The Old West in Modern Splendor” is No More

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported yesterday on the closure of a strip icon, albeit one that has seen better days. Of course, I’m talking about the Frontier. To be specific, it is the New Frontier, not to be confused with the Frontier (which it replaced, sort of), or the New Frontier (which it replaced), or the Last Frontier (which was the first Frontier).

Confused yet?

The original “Last Frontier” was the second “mega” resort on the strip, with 105 rooms. It was further south than the El Rancho Vegas, and the first hotel one would see as one drove to Vegas from Los Angeles. It had an old western theme, with lots of low slung buildings, a pool by the edge of the highway, and a small casino. Both the Last Frontier and the El Rancho Vegas pre-dated the original Flamingo (of Bugsy Siegel fame). By the late 1950s, early 1960s, the Last Frontier had seen better days, and the “New Frontier” was constructed with a space-age theme. The hotel remained open all this time, and the Last Frontier closed after the New Frontier was operating. Later in the 1960s, the New Frontier morphed into the Frontier. It added a tower and “mod” styling, and for a time was owned by Howard Hughes. It then started to stagnate (as did many of the resorts in the late 1970s and 1980s), and by the 1990s was the target of an extended labor union strike. It eventually was sold, the strike settled, and rechristened the New Frontier, but the end was in sight. Phil Ruffian, the penultimate owner, wanted to build a San Francisco themed resort, but that fell through. It has just been sold to the Israeli-controled Elad Group, which said in May that it would pay more than $1.2 billion for the New Frontier site and spend $5 billion more to construct a replica of New York’s famous Plaza Hotel. The complex would include a casino and a hotel with 3,500 rooms and 300 private residences.

And thus, the storied resort name “Frontier” sinks into the sunset, just like the other western and desert themed names (Sands, Hacienda, Thunderbird, Desert Inn, Dunes). It is but a Vegas memory.