History of the Circus Circus
Opened October 18, 1968
Caesars owner Jay Sarno decided that a casino should be opened that
attracted all members of the family. On October 18, 1968, Sarno and
associates Stanley L. Mallin of Atlanta, and the Rogers brothers of
Beaumont, Texas, opened the $15 million Circus Circus Casino with a Coney
Island-style merry-go-round as its sign on the Strip.
Architects Rissman and Rissman Associates designed a giant pink and white
oval shaped circus tent across from the Riviera. The football field sized
casino and big top was built by R.C. Johnson Construction of Las
Vegas. The workers were paid overtime to speed the completion of the
casino. The tent-like canopy had to be poured in a continual fashion so
that no one section would harden before any other. The result was a proof
that produced the image of a taut canvas. Despite paying overtime, the
casino missed its October 1st opening date.
Circus acts were scheduled to perform until 2:00am, but instead the
excitement lasted until 6:00am, when the acts finally had to stop due to
Opening night guests entered through the second floor which gave them a
panorama view of the huge, oval-shaped casino stretching below, surrounded
by amusement arcades and restaurants. The sounds of slot machines and
the drone of the dealers mixed with the squeals of laughter from children
who gazed mystified at the jugglers, acrobats, and clowns. To separate the
gamblers from children as required by law, a second level contained midway
games and attractions in view of the circus acts.
Sarno was so proud of Circus that he charged admission just to come in and
look. He was so confident of his idea's drawing power that he opened the
casino without hotel rooms, figuring people would be drawn from all those
plain-vanilla resorts. He planned to build the hotel rooms later. Circus
suffered considerable money problems. There was a problem with paying off
the many construction loans that had been taken out to finance the
facility. Anticipated revenues from the casino's operation was not as good
as had been expected. In April of 1969, the Nevada Gaming Control Board
ordered it closed.
Only a last minute resignation by Sarno, elevating Mallin to the office of
President saved the casino from being shut down. Sarno rejoined the
organization in January of 1970, after having arranged to rectify some of
the resort's pressing financial matters with a personal load of
$200,000. Sarno had sold the midway concessions and had not been
particular with who bought them. Some of the midway games were dishonest,
and their operators lacked discretion.
During 1969, Circus opened their new 750 seat Hippodrome showroom with the
Nudes in the Night. The Hippodrome featured dancing waters direct from
Radio City Music Hall with continuous performances.
Even though the exact date isn't known, Circus opened a 175 seat lounge
called the Gilded Cage.
In 1972, Circus originally a casino, became a full-fledged hotel resort
with a 15-story room tower housing 400 rooms. The resort also contained
an authentic Japanese bath. Trained Geisha girls treated guests by
brushing and anointing them with aromatic soaps, then guiding them to a
steam bath and then to a cool pool.
Apparently, in mid-1973, the buffet replaced the Hippodrome and Gilded Cage.
In May of 1974, Sarno leased the property and sold the structures to
William Bennett and William N. Pennington. It was a complex deal that did
not result in a complete transfer of real estate until 1983. The new
owners were unique to the Vegas corporate picture. They were the sole
stockholders in Circus Circus Hotels, Inc., the company that succeeded
CIRCO, Inc., which was the original operating company. Bennett and
Pennington did not have to deal with a complex hierarchy of stockholders
and board members, which made their operation one of the most efficient and
clear-cut in the state. At the time Bennett and Pennington took over,
things were dim for the resort.
The new operators proved that Sarno's ideas would work, with a few
modifications. They brought the midway under the hotel's direct control,
replacing the more ribald sideshows and the sleazier games. They
recognized that Circus Circus had been trying to do too many things at
once, working to attract high rollers with high limits and credit, yet
driving them away with distractions. The real potential of a casino that
bathed the senses with excitement, they saw, was to attract the casual
gambler who would risk a few bucks while taking in the
sights. Concentrating on the middle-class market, they put the operation
into the black in two months.
In 1975, a 15 story, 395 room twin tower was completed which brought the
number of rooms to 795.
In 1978, Circus built a five-story parking garage with 1,000 spaces to
accommodate its growing visitors.
In 1979, Circus opened a 421 space recreational vehicle park on the rear of
its property. The vehicle park was equipped with 50-amp hookups, swimming
pools, Jacuzzi, saunas, 24-hour convenience store, fenced tots' playground,
pet runs, on-site disposal station, game arcade, and a laundromat. Circus
also purchased the Slots-A-Fun Casino next door.
In 1980, Circus added five three-story buildings containing 810 rooms
calling it Circus Circus Manor. Also built were parking areas for each
building, in-room kitchenettes, its own swimming pool and a lobby as well
as a mini-casino.
In 1981, Circus implemented the Circus Sky Shuttle which linked major areas
of the resort. Dual pink and white air-conditioned cabins ride along an
elevated guide-way spanning Circus Circus Drive 18 feet above street
level. The Sky Shuttle carries up to 1,200 passengers per hour, and is
fully automated, pollution free, energy saving and quiet.
In 1982, completion of the $7 million expansion and renovation included
enlarging the casino, dining and valet parking facilities, interior
decoration and a new front entrance marquee. The sign, dubbed Lucky, is a
123 foot tall clown. The sign was mostly rear-list plastic but the porte
cochere was the star. The Circus marquee created an instantly
identifiable image of a turn-of-the-century entertainment emporium, scaled
it to be visible across the parking lot, and still made its astonishing
bulk appear to float overhead.
In 1983, Circus went public with shares being traded on the New York Stock
Exchange. Bennett served as Chairman of the Board of Circus Circus
Enterprises, Inc., and William Pennington was on the Board of Directors.
In 1985, a second 1,000-car high-rise parking garage was built. Also added
was the West Casino adding 17,000 square-feet of gaming space along with a
new bar and snack bar.
On February 28, 1986, Circus opened the 1,188 room, 29-story Skyrise Tower
featuring bars, dining areas, swimming pool, a third high-rise garage, a
10,000 square-foot race and sports book, and another 17,000 square-foot
casino making Circus the largest casino in the world with over 100,000
square feet of gaming space. Also added was the Circus Skywalk, linking
the Skyrise Tower and the Big Top.
On August 23, 1993, Circus opened The Adventuredome. The first theme park
in Las Vegas, the 150 foot high, five acre, $90 million dome, enclosed by
8,615 panes of glass features the world's only indoor double-loop,
double-corkscrew roller coaster, The Canyon Blaster, which travels at 55
miles per hour.
The Adventuredome also includes the Rim Runner boat ride which features a
60 foot water plunge at its climax, circulating 600,000 gallons of
water; laser tag Hot Shots; and the Xtreme Zone, where seekers can climb
walls and bounce into the air on a "bungee trampoline." The park remains
open year-long and is kept at a constant 72 degrees for the comfort of all.
Adventuredome has the traditional Carousel, standard children's rides,
bumper cars, midway games, clown shows, and arcade games.
On December 23, 1996, The West Tower, with an additional 999 rooms, was
completed. This tower features a centralized hotel lobby at the base, and
a 40,000 square-foot shopping district called The Promenade. The Promenade
has easy access to the Skyrise Tower and serves as the gateway to The
In 1997, Circus opened its 8,000 square-feet of banquet and meeting
facilities in the Skyrise Tower and completed renovation of the Casino
Tower. In this same year, The Adventuredome opened its Fun House
Express. The multi-million dollar ride is an IMAX Ridefilm, which utilizes
state-of-the-art motion simulator technology.
As of 1999, Circus is situated on 68.30 acres with buildings covering
2,870.08 square-feet. The megaresort has 3,744 guestrooms, 5,719 parking
spaces, 399-space recreational vehicle park, a wedding chapel, three
swimming pools, four restaurants as well as the famous Circus
Buffet. Circus employs 3,800 employees and the resort holds 52 public
elevators, 12 service elevators, nine escalators, and two moving walkways.
Circus has over 101,286 square feet of gaming space in the three
casinos. In the Casino Tower one can find a 160-seat Keno lounge as well
as a full race and sports book with a seating area featuring individual
television sets to monitor sporting events.
Restaurants include The Steak House, Stivali Italian Ristorante, Promenade
Cafe, The Pink Pony, Circus Buffet and Pizzeria. Snack bars include
Westside Deli, Skyrise Deli, McDonalds and The Adventuredome Snack
Bar. Bars/lounges include the Keno Bar, West Casino Bar, Steak House Bar,
Stivali Bar, Skyrise Lounge and Horse-A-Round Bar.
No circus would be a true circus without a Big Top show. Circus Circus presents
dazzling aerialists, high-wire walkers, trapeze artists and clown shows
twice an hour daily from 11:00am to midnight free of charge.
As of June, 1999, Circus Circus Enterprises, Inc., was changed to Mandalay
In March, 2000, Circus Circus announced that their 30 year old Chapel of
the Fountain was renovated. The original and longest-running hotel-casino
wedding chapel in Las Vegas sported a new look. It is now in a romantic
renaissance setting, with an English Garden theme, decorated in eggplant
purple, gold, and taupe.
In April of 2000, the magic of special effects filmmaking, combined with
modern motion simulator technology is taking a popular theme park
attraction to a whole new level of excitement. Reboot: The Ride, is
playing at the new IMAX RideFilm Cineplex in The Adventuredome of Circus
Circus, is guaranteed to take passengers on a simulation experience they'll
More detailed information can be found at www.lvstriphistory.com