Thunderbird Owners Bet on Retro Appeal
Downtown Las Vegas’ venerable Thunderbird hotel has been reborn as the Thunderbird Retro Boutique Hotel & Lounge, sporting not just a new name, but a new look inside and out and an array of fresh attractions.
A consortium led by California-based developer Ilan Gorodezki has spent some $5 million to remake the non-gaming venue, located on Las Vegas Boulevard between the Stratosphere and the Fremont Street casino cluster farther north.
The revamp encompasses all 100 rooms and suites, including a new, detached “Presidential Suite,” and the hotel lobby. The 3,500-square-foot showroom has been remodeled to hold up to 350 and is configurable for smaller events.
Additions include a new food & beverage program developed by Kelley Jones Hospitality in partnership with Todd Parmelee. An adjacent lounge offers bar-top gaming, pool, beer pong and a full bar serving a variety of original cocktails. Historic photos of Old Vegas line the hallway to the lounge and restaurant.
Rounding out the offering are two new wedding chapels, long a Downtown staple: the Garden of Love, which features an altar fashioned around a giant pine tree that extends through a glass roof, and the smaller Crystal Wedding Chapel.
The new owners are banking on a mix of nostalgia, vintage quirkiness and proximity to Downtown and the Las Vegas Arts District to overcome a location in a generally neglected and rundown neighborhood.
“The current owners have done an admirable job with cleaning up that property over the past few years, said Realtor Steven Franklin, who goes by the nickname Downtown Steve. “It’s certainly an improvement from what it had been.”
The Thunderbird was once owned by Bob Stupak, a high-stakes gambler and gaming promoter and entrepreneur best-known in Las Vegas as the creator of the Stratosphere. Stupak, who died in 2009, wanted to build a “Titanic”-themed casino at the Thunderbird site, but the plan was rejected by Las Vegas City Council and never left the drawing board. Stupak, who also owned a number of small motels surrounding the Thunderbird, sold the property in 1999.
Gorodezki and his investors purchased it in 2016 with plans to replace it with a 15-story building called Thunderbird Lofts encompassing apartments and retail space. The city approved the plan, but local residents opposed it, and eventually it was abandoned.