The Sands Hotel opened in Las Vegas, Nevada in December 1952. A controversial group of investors fronted by Texas gambler and oilman Jake Freedman and New York nightclub boss Jack Entratter built what was considered at the time one of the world’s most lavish hotels and a showcase Las Vegas resort. Freedman purchased the property itself for $15,000 and spent $600,000 on the construction. The Sands was designed by Googie California architect Wayne McAllister. The combination of Entratter’s connections in the entertainment world (from his days at the Copacabana Club in New York) with the hotel’s lavish spending on entertainment assured the Sands a preeminent place in show business for top-name entertainers and shows. In the Sands famous Copa Room, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. performed in the 1950s and 1960s surrounded by legions of glamorous Copa Girls in beautiful costumes.
After the death of Jake Freedman in 1958, Entratter and Carl Cohen, the casino boss, took over the hotel as President and Vice-President. The original hotel was a series of low-rise structures. In 1963 construction of the 15-story circular tower was begun, part of an overall expansion and renovation as a major convention facility. Howard Hughes acquired the hotel in 1967 from Entratter and Cohen for $23 million and planned a “new Sands,” a gargantuan 400 room resort, which he never built. Dallas-based Inns of the Americas, Inc. purchased the Sands from Hughes’ Summa Corporation in 1981 and re-opened the “new Sands” in January 1982, with a totally renovated 30,000 square foot casino, twice the size of the original. Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM Grand, Inc. owned the hotel briefly in 1988, but quickly sold it to Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Interface Group, for $110 million. Adelson, a producer of trade shows, built a 575,000-square foot convention facility, the Sands Expo and Convention Center which opened in 1990. Further expansion, including a new high-rise tower, was planned but not realized.
The hotel was officially closed on June 30, 1996. Later that year, scenes from the Nicholas Cage film “Con Air” were filmed at the property, with a plane crashing into the casino of the famed Sands Tower. On November 26, 1996, the legendary hotel was imploded and Adelson announced plans to build a Venetian-themed hotel/casino on the site.