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Daredevil motorcycle jumps. Heavyweight bouts. World-class tennis and Formula One racing. The rich, 50-plus-year history at Caesars Palace has included many amazing sporting feats and events.
Opened Aug. 5, 1966, by hotelier Jay Sarno, the opulent hotel was Vegas’s first themed resort, launching with approximately 700 rooms among 14 stories. Today, Caesars Palace spans 85 acres in the heart of the Strip, with six hotel towers, including the world’s first Nobu Hotel, and nearly 4,000 rooms, including 300-plus suites.
Entertainment and excitement have always been at the heart of Caesars Palace. It’s played host to musical acts such as Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Celine Dion and Elton John. It’s been featured in movies such as “The Hangover,” “Rain Man,” “Iron Man,” “The Electric Horseman,” “Dream Girls” and “The Big Short.”
And, when it comes to feats of skill and strength, Caesars Palace has been the site of some of America’s most dramatic stunts, fights, matches and races. Here’s a look at four memorable moments:
Dec. 31, 1967: Evel Knievel Famously Fails at Jumping the Hotel’s Fountains
Before the stunt-biker gained widespread fame, he attempted to jump his motorcycle 141 feet over Caesars Palace’s signature fountains. Dressed in what would become his trademark red, white and blue jumpsuit, the daredevil was unsuccessful, sustaining multiple injuries. “Everything seemed to come apart,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1968. “I couldn’t hang on to the motorcycle. I kept smashing over and over and over and over and over, and I kept saying to myself, ‘Stay conscious, stay conscious.’ But, hey, I made the fountains!” (See a special recreation of Evel Knievel’s jumps on HISTORY, Sunday, July 8 at 8E/5P. Find out more, now.)
Oct. 2, 1980: Muhammad Ali Gets Knocked Out by Larry Holmes
“The Greatest,” who hadn’t fought in two years, took on Holmes at Caesars Palace—the first Vegas hotel to host “mega-fights”—in what would end in a devastating loss. “Ali checked into Caesars Palace just before noon and by 1 p.m. was in his familiar white trunks with the black stripe, dancing in the ring before several hundred spectators who had each paid $3 to watch him work out,” the Las Vegas Sun reported. “Midway through what had been an uncharacteristically quiet Ali workout, the old Ali charm kicked in. Ali suddenly blurted out a warning to spectators not to waste their money betting on Holmes. ‘Holmes will run out of gas, and I’ll kick his ass! Get your tickets now!’ he said with such a high level of confidence that left many with the opinion that Ali truly believed he was going to overcome Father Time and actually win the world title for the fourth time.”
1981-1982: The Grounds are Transformed into the Caesars Palace Grand Prix
A temporary race track was set up in the resort’s parking lot to host Formula One championship races. “It was hyped more than any other race in recent memory, according to journalists who flocked to Caesars in the days leading up to the event,” Nevada Public Radio reported. “NBC went all out, airing a promo featuring melodramatic slow-mo footage of the drivers over Neil Diamond’s ‘Coming to America.’ They even hired Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret Thatcher and a motorsport enthusiast in his own right, as a pit-lane reporter.”
April 24, 1983: Jimmy Connors Wins His Fourth Alan King–Caesars Palace Tennis Classic
The tennis legend defeated Mark Edmonson to cement his fourth title during this tournament, held annually at Caesars Palace from 1973 to1985. In his first win in1976, the No. 1-ranked Connors soundly trounced Ken Rosewall 6-1, 6-3 in the 97-degree heat. “You could feel the heat coming up through your shoes,” Rosewall told the Las Vegas Sun. But the heat didn’t scare off celebrities including Sonny Bono, Chevy Chase and Kirstie Alley, from attending the tournaments over the years, according to the Sun. “It was like a prizefight, like Mike Tyson was out there,” former Vegas tennis pro Marty Hennessy told the newspaper. “It was right on the Strip, and they had after-parties that people just died to be a part of, with all the pros and celebrities tied in.”
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