Union Plaza, part 2 | Nevada Public Radio


Last time we were talking about the group that built Union Plaza — Frank Scott, Sam Boyd, Jackie Gaughan and Kell Houssels, Junior, as well as investors like Bill Boyd and Howard Cannon. Let’s look at what they produced.

They broke new ground on August 10, 1970. Zick and Sharp, a long-time Las Vegas company, were the main architects. The hotel opened on July 2, 1971 – not variable speed, but fast. Union Plaza was unusual for downtown and, indeed, for the Las Vegas gambling industry. It was substantial at 504 rooms and suites. Operators promoted it as “the largest casino in the world” and it was about an acre and a half, or 66,000 square feet, with parking for 1,000 cars. It opened with a champagne party at midnight with enough bubbles for 10,000 celebrants. The more formal opening ceremonies lasted more than three nights in August. Its main showroom opened with Fiddler on the Roof, then the longest-running Broadway show of all time – and the film version was released in November. Just to annoy you, we’ll tell you that the dinner show was 5.75 and the late show was 4.50.

Fiddler set the model for bringing true Broadway and Broadway-style shows to Union Plaza, although the types of shows vary. Maynard Sloate, a former jazz drummer and Tropicana veteran, became director of entertainment in 1972. He continued to import plays and musicals to the hotel, including shows like Mind with the Dirty Man, featuring starring pornstar Marilyn Chambers, and Norman, Is That Toi, about a Jewish couple surprised to learn their son is gay. But Sloate also introduced other Broadway classics, like The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and plays like The Owl and the Pussycat.

A radio station also contributed to the success of Union Plaza. KDWN wasn’t the first Las Vegas radio station to broadcast from a hotel. But it was the region’s first 50,000-watt station, and later a pioneer of conservative talk radio. And for many years, the station’s identification reverberated throughout the Southwest, announcing that it was at “Number One Main Street, the Union Plaza Hotel.” They also noted with pride that they were at the top of town while being downtown.

Sam and Bill Boyd sold their interest in the hotel and opened the California. But Union Plaza has also continued to grow and change. He added a tower and convention space. The swimming pool overlooking Fremont Street has given way to the famous Center Stage restaurant. Union Plaza was also home to the local Amtrak station until service ended in 1997, and the Greyhound Bus Station is right next door.

Most of the original owners had largely left by the early 1990s, and the owner changed her name to Jackie Gaughan’s Plaza. Gaughan sold in 2002 to Barrick Gaming, and the Tamares Group then took over the operation and bought the company. Today, the Plaza Hotel and Casino, as it is called, still sits at Number One Main Street, with nearly 1,000 rooms, 80,000 square feet of casino space, 25,000 square feet of casino space. conventions, an equestrian center and pickleball grounds… and Oscar’s Restaurant, named for the former mayor, who is known to run there. CEO Jonathan Jossel plans to redevelop the space freed up by the Greyhound bus station. Fifty years after its opening, the Plaza still has ties to old Las Vegas, as it is being built anew.


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