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Flamingo Capri Motel
History of the Imperial Palace
At the center of the Las Vegas Strip stands the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino. It is a monument to the man who made a dream come true - Ralph Engelstad (1930-2002), one of the few sole owners of a major Las Vegas hotel casino resort. At one time, the Imperial Palace was the largest privately owned hotel-casino in the world.
Engelstad began as a general contractor in 1954 and in 1971 decided to purchase the grounds and buildings of the old Flamingo Capri Motel, a long-time landmark, once located where the Imperial Palace now stands.
Acting as his own general contractor, Engelstad built some low rise buildings on the site and employed a staff of 250. Gaming began at the Flamingo Capri a year later in 1972.
In 1974, the east and north buildings opened, along with the addition of the Shangri-la pool.
On Nov. 1, 1979, the Imperial Palace's beautiful casino opened, and the number of employees grew to 1,100.
Engelstad selected an Oriental theme for its originality and personal appeal. Influenced by Japanese temple architecture, architect Merlin Barth specified traditional blue tile imported from Japan for the roof.
The Oriental theme is featured inside as well, influencing everything from decor to food service and employee uniforms. In the casino, carved dragons and giant wind chime chandeliers compete with gaming tables for the visitor's attention.
Entertainment began in the Imperial Theatre showroom in June 1980. The showroom seats 850 and since its opening has featured top stars as well as exciting revue shows. In 1983, the original celebrity tribute spectacular, "Legends In Concert," began its more than 20-year run.
By 1981, the Imperial Palace was a 19-story hotel with 850 rooms. On Dec. 1 of that year, The Auto Collections - Imperial Palace's world-famous gallery - opened as a museum on the fifth level of the hotel's self-parking facility. More than 250 antique, classic and special interest vehicles, which change nearly every day, are on display and for sale.
In 1981, another innovation took place under Engelstad's direction. He instituted the Senior Citizen Christmas Party, an annual event that provided low-income senior citizens and non-ambulatory convalescent center residents with a complimentary holiday dinner and show.
A year later, in August 1982, the number of hotel rooms increased to 1,500.
The covered parking garage was expanded early in 1985 to accommodate more than 1,000 vehicles.
During the 1986 expansion program, meeting and convention space was expanded, hotel rooms increased to 2,100 with the completion of Tower IV, and an additional 15,000 square feet of space was added to the casino.
A three-phase expansion project began in August 1987 and was completed in July 1989. The first phase included a new swimming pool, a two-story waterfall, heated spa and poolside bar. The second phase included a 547-room, 19-story tower, which brought the Imperial Palace's total guestroom count to 2,637. The final phase of the expansion project extended the front of the hotel to the sidewalk of the famous Las Vegas Strip and included a nightclub, race & sports book, spa with health and fitness center and office complex.
The race & sports book opened in September 1989 as the most unique facility of its kind, featuring a color television at each individual seat. By May 3, 1992, it had achieved yet another first in the world feature - six levels of tiered seating, doubling its capacity and individual color television monitors to 230.
Other facilities valued by guests include a shopping promenade with many fine retailers, a beauty salon, a video arcade, a wedding chapel, a foreign currency exchange and a gambling school offering free lessons each weekday in blackjack, craps, roulette and poker.
The Imperial Palace also features fine dining in nine restaurants with varied menus. The Fifth-Floor Dining Plaza features Ming, Fireside, Embers, Cockeyed Clam and Pizza Palace. Elsewhere there is the 24-hour Teahouse coffee shop, Emperor's Buffet, Burger Palace and Betty's Diner/Cyber Cafe.
The Imperial Palace employs approximately 2,500 people, 13 percent of whom have some form of disability. This fact alone prompted numerous awards to be bestowed upon the hotel, with the highest achievement coming in 1991 when the Imperial Palace was named the National Employer of the Year by the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. The Imperial Palace has also received a Distinguished Service Award from the National Council on Disability.
In March 1993, another first at the Imperial Palace took place with the opening of the resortís medical center, an independent 24-hour medical facility serving hotel employees, their families and guests staying at the Imperial Palace and other Las Vegas hotels.
On Dec. 30, 1997, the first out-of-state expansion of the Imperial Palace occurred with the opening of the three-story floating casino, the Imperial Palace - Biloxi. Fifteen floors of the adjacent 32-story, 1,100-room hotel tower opened on Feb. 6, 1998, a mirror image of the center-Strip property.
On Nov. 26, 2002, veteran gaming executive, entrepreneur and humanitarian Ralph Engelstad, who built and owned the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and in Biloxi, Miss., passed away at his home after a valiant battle with cancer.
Ralph, as he preferred to be called, was perhaps best known publicly as an ingenious casino owner and operator. Privately, he was a loving family man.
His second "family" was the employees of both Imperial Palace properties, who always remained an important part of his life. In fact, following the Sept. 11, 2001, disaster, while most Las Vegas resorts reduced their staffs, Ralph refused to lay off a single employee, and all continued to receive full benefits.
In May and June 2003, the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas heralded in another new era in gaming and entertainment with the opening of the Champagne and "Dealertainers" blackjack pits. The new pits feature themed blackjack with free-flowing champagne and "Rat Pack"-era attire in the Champagne Pit, and celebrity impersonator dealers in the Dealertainers Pit.
The Imperial Palace was a large part of Las Vegas history in June 2004 with the opening of the Las Vegas Monorail. The hotel built a lavish new Hotel Access main entrance - featuring Asian-themed architecture and decoration - from the main hotel to the monorail station it shares with Harrah's, one of seven stops on the line.
In 2005, Harrah's Entertainment purchased the Imperial Palace and assumed ownership on Dec. 23. With more than a quarter century of history behind it, the Imperial Palace remains a quality hotel and casino at the center of the action-packed Las Vegas Strip providing friendly service and value to its many loyal customers.
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