Hotel Histories

History of the Hacienda / Mandalay Bay

First Opened as the Hacienda June 1956
Replaced with the Mandalay Bay which opened March 2, 1999


In 1954, a new project was being planned for the resort farthest down the Strip called The Lady Luck.

The Lady Luck, two miles south from the nearest Strip resort, was spearheaded by Carlton Adair, Stanley Burke, Frank Hoefus, Orville Chedister, and Warren "Doc" Bayley who also owned the Fresno and Bakersfield Hacienda Hotels. Bayley would also run this hotel.

Building of The Lady Luck was slow with many problems. Partners dropped out leaving only Burke and Bayley. They obtained Jake Kozloff as a co-owner. In June of 1956, the 256 room Hacienda opened after Bayley changed its name to correspond with his California hotels.

The Hacienda opened as a hotel only because the Gaming and Control Board denied it a gambling license. The denial was because of Kozloff who was then taken off the application and the Hacienda's gaming license was approved. Dick Taylor became Secretary Treasurer/Resident Manager. The Hacienda then became known by professional gamblers as "Hayseed Heaven" because of its local ownership.

The Hacienda began a new trend by appealing to the family market with several pools, a miniature golf course, a go-cart track, and no showroom or expensive restaurants.

It also thrived on promotions, one of which was called the "Hacienda Holiday" offering a deluxe room for $16.00, and $10.00 in chips upon check-in.

Because the Hacienda was away from the other resorts, people spent all their time and money at the Hacienda. This was the first resort seen by people coming to Vegas from California. During the hot months people tended to stop at the Hacienda first.

The Hacienda was close to McCarran Airport and began Hacienda Airlines with a DC-3, then adding a DC-4 (outfitted with a piano bar) to fly in gamblers from all over the country. The popularity of the flight was due, in large part, to entertainer and pianist, Dick Winslow who also emceed a fashion show on the flight.

In 1959, Hacienda opened their $6 million convention center.

Doc died on December 26, 1964. His wife Judy became the first and only woman in the world to oversee a Strip gaming operation. Judy died on December 31, 1971. Four days before she died she changed her Will disinheriting her family and a couple key employees, giving her entire estate to her attorney and Raishbrook. The Will was challenged but subsequently was ruled to stay as written.

By this time there were many liens filed against the hotel and it was in such a bad financial shape that it was sold to Allen Glick's Argent Corporation in 1972.

In 1973, it was reported that Atlas Hotel entered into an agreement to operate and manage the resort until 1978.

In 1977, the Gaming Control Board cited massive skimming in Argent's operations which forced a sale.

Paul Lowden bought the Hacienda and in 1979 added a recreational vehicle park to attract long distance families.

Over the years, the Hacienda showroom was home to shows including Ice Fantasy, Fire & Ice, Redd Foxx, Andy Gibb, Norman, Is That You? starring Sherman Hemsley, and Minsky's Burlesque with Bambi Jr. (later, Mrs. Montel Williams). The lounge showcased comic/impressionist Babe Pier with Jay Orlando, caustic comic Cork Proctor, vocal group Chazz, and musician Henry Shed among others.

In 1980, the Hacienda opened a 300 room, 11-story addition, and was home to one of Las Vegas' oldest wedding chapels, the Little Church of the West, which originally belonged to the Hotel Last Frontier.

In 1991, the Hacienda expanded to 1,140 rooms. Also added was the 21,000 foot Matador Arena giving the public televised monthly boxing. Also featured was a new magician, Lance Burton in A Magical Journey.

In 1995, Circus Circus Enterprises purchased the Hacienda for $80 million, closed it on December 1, 1996, and imploded it on New Years Eve 1996.

On December 4, 1996, the Little Church of the West was moved two-tenths of a mile south to the east side of the Strip at Russell Road.

On March 2, 1999, the opening of the $950 million Mandalay Bay took place with over 1,000 people going through the doors. The 3,309 room resort spent approximately $10 million on ads alone publicizing the Strip's newest addition. Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi and John Goodman headlined a parade of Harley-Davidson motorcycles through Mandalay Bay's front doors.

In the lobby stands a 12,200 gallon, 14-foot salt water aquarium. The interior aquarium is 8 feet high and includes 2,600 gallons of water. Behind the registration desk, water runs continuously through a mock dense jungle. Also included are two wedding chapels, and a museum featuring a $40 million dollar collection of rare gold and silver coins, bank notes and Old West memorabilia.

The standard deluxe rooms average 515 square feet and includes an abundance of upscale features. Mandalay contains approximately 500 suites ranging from 690 to 6,670 square feet.

The casino offers 122 gaming tables and 2,400 slot machines encompassing more than 135,000 square feet of gaming space, including a high-stakes gaming parlor. In addition, a 300 seat full-service race and sports book emphasizes the best in sports and thoroughbred wagering.

A lush, 11-acre tropical water environment comprised of a sand-and-surf beach, lazy river ride, three pools and jogging track provides a remarkable recreation and relaxation experience. An outdoor island stage in the sand and surf beach provides additional facilities for events and concerts.

Located at the beach level, the 30,0000 square foot Spa overlooks the resort's tropical lagoon. The Spa includes 21 state-of-the-art treatment rooms, and a 3,000 foot fitness center encircled by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the tropical lagoon.

The resort contains approximately 13 shops, 4 lounges, and 13 restaurants, among them Charlie Palmer's Aureole, China Grill, rumjungle, Red Square, Wolfgang Puck's Trattoria del Lupo, Border Grill, Red White and Blue, Shanghai Lilly and the House of Blues restaurant.

The Mandalay also contains the 12,000 seat Mandalay Bay Events Center, and the 1,700 seat Broadway-style Mandalay Bay Theatre. The musical Chicago, starring Chita Rivera, Ute Lemper, Ben Vereen and Marcia Lewis, opened the theater, followed by Storm and, in 2003, Mamma Mia!

Mandalay Bay has an 11-acre pool environment including a shark tank and a wave machine that is designed to host world-class surfing competitions. Water gardens with foliage and waterfalls, three exotic pools, and a one-half mile jogging track surrounding the lagoon is also contained therein.

Mandalay also contains the Mandalay Bay Conference Center. The Center features two ballrooms - The South Pacific Ballroom, and The Islander Ballroom.

The Bay View Court offers 35,104 square feet of pre-function area which overlooks the tropical gardens and pools. It includes the 8,500 square foot Bay View Patio and two information counters with storage immediately behind.

The Mandalay Bay contains the Four Seasons Hotel which has its own entrance, parking, check-in, five-star dining, pool, spa and convention center.

In June, 1999, Circus Circus Enterprises, Inc., became Mandalay Resort Group.

On April 22, 2000, Mandalay celebrated its first birthday by featuring the Three Tenors.

More detailed information can be found at