Thunderbird Hotel & Casino

Thunderbird Hotel & Casino

The Thunderbird Hotel & Casino opened on Labor Day 1948.  It was the brainchild of Marion Hicks and attorney, and Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, Cliff Jones.  

The Thunderbird had a distinct Southwest theme; utilizing "weeping mortar" construction on the outside and warm earthen paint and pictures of Native Americans on the walls to reinforce this Southwest theme.

The Opening Day of the Thunderbird was almost Hicks & Jones last days as owners.  Invited owners from the El Rancho and Pioneer Club, and others, won so much money at the tables that evening that they literally won the casino away from Hicks and Jones.  Luckily for the both of them a deal was negotiated that allowed them to keep the casino.

The Thunderbird made an immediately successful and to further insure that success Hicks & Jones brought together an experienced team of investors and partners that helped to insure prosperous times for everyone.

This success did not come without controversy or setbacks, in 1955 the Thunderbird had its licence suspended as the Nevada Tax Commission investigated that Hicks & Jones hid substantial investments from known Underworld figures.  After a prolonged court case the ended at the Nevada Supreme Court the Thunderbird and its owners where cleared of any wrong doing by the court. 

The Thunderbird became the first casino to bring cut down versions of popular Broadway Musicals to Las Vegas, a tradition that has continued to this day.  The phrase by their innovative Entertainment Manager "Remember you saw it first at the Thunderbird" became the hotel's popular catchphrase for many years.  The Thunderbird also held the distinction of opening the first semi-nude ice show in Las Vegas, called 'Ecstasy on Ice' the show ran for three years and even made the cover of Time magazine.

In the early 1960's the a 5/8th mile racetrack was added behind the Thunderbird, it was aptly called Thunderbird Downs and it hosted both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing.  

The Thunderbird also is credited with hiring the very first Convention Sales Manager and for hosting the first convention on the Las Vegas Strip when it hosted a gathering of air-conditioning specialists.  

In 1964 the Thunderbird was sold to Del Webb and the next year the Thunderbird was extensively remodeled, including a new 700 foot long sign that was the largest in Las Vegas at the time.   The sign proved to be very expensive to operate costing an estimated $19,000 a month to keep lit.

The Thunderbird was sold again in 1972, this time to Caesars World.  They planned to demolish the hotel to make room for their twin towered hotel project.  Fate intervened though for the Thunderbird and the project was cancelled as funding fell away.  The Thunderbird was then sold to local investors and was sold again in 1977 to Dunes owner Major Riddle.  

Riddle's plan was to close the Thunderbird and in 1978, just shy of its 30th Anniversary the Thunderbird closed its doors for the final time.  The Thunderbird escaped demolition and would be reborn as the Silver Bird Hotel & Casino, but that is a story for another week...



Thunderbird Casino Chips

The Thunderbird Hotel and Casino was situated on Las Vegas Blvd, where the stalled Fontainebleau Resort project is currently located.

Chips from the Thunderbird Hotel & Casino are a great addition to any collection of Las Vegas Casino Chips. 


Thunderbird Used Casino Dice

Add a rare pair of collector Casino Dice from the Thunderbird Hotel & Casino to your collection. These dice are sold exclusively on Spinettis Ebay Store.  


Thunderbird Fantasy Chips

 If casino Fantasy Chips are what you like to collect Spinettis has a full range of Fantasy Chips representing many casinos from a bygone age. Check out our full collection of Fantasy Chips on our website or stop by our Retail Store.

Las vegas history

1 comment

Andrea Abrunzo

Andrea Abrunzo

I was digging in my garden and I found a members card for the Thunderbird Resort. The card is cut in half so it was a little difficult to figure out which resort this card did belong to. I’m not sure the date of this card but I have half the members name on it. It was definitely an interesting find.

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