Bring out your Mardi Gras masks, because it’s time to celebrate the Rio Suite Hotel’s 30th birthday. The groundbreaking hotel shook up the Las Vegas resort scene when it opened on Jan. 15, 1990.
With the countless number of resorts on the Las Vegas scene now, it’s easy to forget how the Rio pioneered the way to the norm that’s industry standard today. The Rio was the first of its kind when it put the buffet kitchen in the dining area, when it opened a large-scale nightclub, and when it enticed crowds to its pool with white sands and exotic parties.
The off-Strip Brazilian-themed property also had the first all-suite resort in Las Vegas, with floor-to-ceiling glass in all the rooms. They also perfected the art of on-resort entertainment, with Danny Gans being the first start headliner to command a $100 ticket per show. Magic-show entertainers, Penn and Teller, have been serving laughs at their show that’s been running on the property since 2001.
Rio’s Highlights Over the Years
The Rio has had a colorful past thirty years indeed. Early visitors will recall being greeted by women dressed in colorful costumes with artificial fruit baskets on their heads.
In its heyday, it hosted its famous “Masquerade Show in the Sky,” that Rio guests were able to enjoy several times a night. It’s a much-missed attraction that amused both tourists and locals from Feb. 7, 1997, to its final performance on March 30, 2013.
In 1998, the Rio opened its Convention Center, that would later set the stage for the 2005 World Series of Poker Tournament. In 2006, Harrah’s purchased Caesars properties, including the Rio, for $9 billion. Caesars sponsorship of the WSOP helped fill the hotel to maximum capacity.
It was even the home of the late Prince’s residency in the 2000s.
The Chippendales show has also had its famous run there, usually falling under the first-time Vegas visitor’s to-see list.
New Owner: Looking To the Future
On Dec. 5, 2019, the newly formed Dreamscape Companies, became the new owner of the hotel in a $516.3 million deal. It has major hopes bringing the property back to its former glory.
Dreamscape will have plenty of lead time to determine how to drive customers to the 2,500-suite off-Strip property. Caesars Entertainment will continue to operate the building for two years with an option for a third year before Dreamscape takes over with its own management team, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Caesars will pay annualized rent of $45 million while Dreamscape strategizes on to whom and how it will market the resort.
The 22 acres of unused land, part of the 90-acre Rio campus, also provides potential opportunity, with potential development plans possibly including a Major League Baseball stadium, though it hasn’t been confirmed.
One thing that will remain the same under the new ownership is that Rio will continue to host Caesars’ popular World Series of Poker tournament, at least next year. Hosting rights will remain with Caesars which will later make decisions on where to host the event that attracted a record of more than 154,000 entrants in 2019.