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The Tropicana enters its seventh decade

Tropicana Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. (Jeff Gillan/KSNV)

Only it, the Flamingo and the successor to the Sahara (now the SLS) are left. The Sahara was completely gutted. The Flamingo only has memories of Bugsy.

But at the Tropicana, if you know where to look, history still lurks for the iconic property that turned 60 on Tuesday.

“We’re doing great, actually,” says the Trop’s Vice President and General Manager, Aaron Rosenthal.

You could excuse him for feeling like he’s come full circle.

“This is what I snuck into as a boy,” Rosenthal told me as he led me into the Tropicana’s lush pool area with palms that have been here for years.

He doesn't have to sneak into the pool anymore.

These days, as the head guy, he goes where he wants.

Rosenthal runs the property for Penn National Gaming, which bought the Tropicana in 2015. Penn, the latest in a procession of Tropicana owners, also owns the “M” Resort in Henderson.

“We're not owners of the Tropicana to blow it up and build something new. We're committed to making it work. We're committed to the legacy - everything that it represents,” Rosenthal said.

The Tropicana opened on April 4, 1957, becoming the 12th Strip resort, joining other landmarks as the Flamingo, Sahara, and the Dunes.

In 60 years, it has seen its share of stars and its share of history.

Along the way, the resort, like others of the era, had brushes with organized crime, which skimmed millions. Those days are long-gone.

“The Tropicana kind of hit all these points in our history, ‘cause then it goes corporate and corporations have been in since,” said UNLV Associate Professor of History Michael Green. “The Trop is kind of a throwback in a way. Some of the original building is still back there.”

It began as a low-rise, and some of those original rooms still ring the pool and still house guests to this day.

In a city that relishes reinvention … the Tropicana is not standing still.

“The first immediate thing we started doing is upgrading the facility. We upgraded slot machines, we're upgrading our restaurants, we've got the Robert Irvine restaurant that's coming this summer,” Rosenthal said, referring to the celebrity chef who will put his own imprint on the resort.

At almost 1,500 rooms, the Tropicana is much smaller than its competition on the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard.

“But when you compare it to our neighbors with three or five thousand rooms, it does have more of a boutique feel. We’ve got a casino that’s warm and comfortable. You can get your arms around it,” Rosenthal said.

The size is just right for Sharon Kenehan, staying at Tropicana from Toronto.

“I like it because of the history. The peacefulness. It's not crowded,” Kenehan said.

But crowded enough ... and headed into its seventh decade … on one of the busiest corners in the world.

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