Westgate celebrates 50 years of star power
Fans of Westgate Las Vegas love it for its superlative restaurants, world’s largest Superbook and of course, Barry Manilow. But the hotel that launched the era of the megaresort also has a rich history. Many staff members who have been there since the beginning join us in looking back at five amazing decades.
Westgate began as Las Vegas International Hotel. When it opened on July 2, 1969, at a cost of $50 million, it was the largest hotel in the world. Announcements boasted, “An embodiment of everything the Las Vegas resort industry has learned in the last 10 years.” But what really set the International apart was an outstanding staff and legendary entertainment.
Business icon Kirk Kerkorian was so committed to developing his team that he purchased the Flamingo to train new employees. As the structure rose, a power struggle between Kerkorian and billionaire Howard Hughes threatened to halt construction. Hughes eventually turned his energies to finishing adjacent Landmark, and the rival hotels opened one day apart.
True to its name, the International celebrated world cultures. Guest rooms, staff uniforms and a collection of “unusual foreign restaurants” made the theme come alive. Barbra Streisand was signed to the International Showroom as its first headliner. Elvis Presley followed Streisand with a historic seven-year run. “My fondest memories in this hotel were the years when Elvis performed here,” said 47-year staffer Dominic Parisi, now executive casino host. “The energy was unlike I’ve ever seen in this town.”
The resort was acquired by Hilton brands in 1971. Star Trek: The Experience opened in 1998, drawing thousands of fans, celebrities and television coverage. Remnants of the attraction, which closed in 2008, can still be spotted by eagle-eyed guests. The Hilton partnership was dissolved in 2012, but the resort operated under the name LVH until Westgate Resorts acquired it in 2014 and invested more than $160 million in renovations and updates, which include high-end dining options and the award-winning Serenity Spa. They also lured back Hilton favorite Manilow.
Usher Angel Lopez Rosas has been on property the entire 50 years. He’s witnessed performances by Charo, Liberace, Wayne Newton and Manilow. “The most amazing thing for me is all of the headliners I’ve seen over the years. All of the biggest names. If they came to Las Vegas, they performed right here.”
Cami Christensen has been with the hotel for 18 years. Today, as president and general manager, Christensen couldn’t be more thrilled with Westgate’s current success. “I’m filled with pride to be part of a place that has such a rich history. We owe so much to the talented, dedicated and hard-working team members who made our first 50 years successful and memorable. I feel excited about what lies ahead for this legendary Vegas icon.”
The vibe of vintage Vegas is something that Westgate continues to embrace. Polished brass, dazzling chandeliers and world-class amenities compliment a level of service rarely seen on the Strip. All of these elements combine to make Westgate a timeless destination worth discovering again—and again.