LAS VEGAS-The new owners of the Sahara Hotel and Casino have won county approval for a planned renovation and expansion of the 1950s-era property featured in the original “Ocean’s Eleven” film starring Rat Pack leaders Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Plans call for demolition of the mid-rise hotel tower, renovation of the two high-rise towers and development of a third high-rise tower. The resort would remain open throughout the project, which is currently expected to be complete in 2011.

The mid-rise tower to be torn down holds 200 rooms. The new tower would rise 520-feet and hold approximately 1,000 rooms. The work, including the renovation of the two existing high-rise towers, would take the total room count to 2,506 rooms from 1,720 rooms. Upon completion of the work, the resort would consist of 90,000 sf of casino, 56,900 sf of retail, 78,900 sf devoted to restaurants, 32,600 sf of meeting space, 26,600 sf of nightclubs, a 22,600-sf spa and fitness center and a 19,000-sf theater. Price and design have not yet been solidified.

SBE Entertainment Group LLC of Los Angeles and San Francisco-based Stockbridge Real Estate Funds acquired the 18-acre property at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip for between $300 million and $400 million in August and have since put a couple of million into minor upgrades. SBE, which has hotel, nightclub, restaurant and film divisions, has assumed management of the hotel and its associated food and beverage operations. Sahara’s 85,000-sf casino will be operated by Navegante Group, a casino management and development company owned by Las Vegas casino executive and entrepreneur, Larry J. Woolf.

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