Cal-Neva Casino, of Frank Sinatra Fame, Returning to Glory Days


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Cal-Neva hotel-casino, so named because it straddles the California-Nevada state line, is closing starting Monday to undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation. Anticipated reopening is scheduled for 12 December 2014. The casino attached to the hotel shut its doors in 2010 due to declining business during a time of recession and hot competition from Las Vegas and Indian-gaming casinos.

Developers Criswell-Radovan acquired the resort in April and they have plans to breathe new life into the property, known mostly for the celebrities it drew in the 1960’s. “Our goal is to bring it back to its former glory and to make it what it was like in Sinatra’s day,” Robert Radovan, co-owner of Criswell-Radovan, stated.

The reference to Frank Sinatra is because the crooner owned the property during the early 1960’s. Then, at the height of its popularity, Sinatra and “Rat Pack” pals Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford visited the hotel as well as Marilyn Monroe and several of the Kennedy family. Monroe actually spent her last weekend at the hotel on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore before she died in her Los Angeles home in 1962 at the age of 36.

"There will be an elegant, clean, post-modern feel to it after we're done," said Radovan, who explained that the owners intend to maintain the historic vibe of the location while bringing amenities and equipment up to modern-day standards. If all works as planned, the December 2014 opening would fall on the birthday of the Chairman of the Board; he passed away in 1998, but this would have marked his 99th birthday.

Sinatra’s renovations during ownership were to add a celebrity showroom and a helicopter pad. The 10-story hotel currently has 219 rooms and five small cabins, and the casino stretches for 6,000 square feet. Prohibition-era tunnels were used in later decades to keep actors and other infamous personalities out of the public spotlight.

Rat Pack at the Cal-Neva

Plans are to raise the hotel to the 4+-star level by improving amenities, expanding bathrooms and capitalizing on views of Crystal Bay at Lake Tahoe. The casino also will be redesigned. Radovan promised improvements to the showroom and cabins and public tours of the tunnels—which will be preserved. Radovan further discussed plans for the showroom which he says has amazing acoustics and with new equipment could feature, “high-end concerts.” The developers plan to name the room after Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, who used to perform there with Martin and Davis.

About 60 employees will be out of work during the closing but Radovan says that current employees understand the makeover is necessary and after renovation, almost three times as many employees will likely be needed.

There are many rumors, mysteries and falsehoods of Cal-Neva's storied past and reliable sources can be hard to come by. The location actually had an original lodge that opened in 1926. That structure was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1937, which brings us to the present resort.

[Images via Tahoe Daily Tribune.]