Circus, Circus
500 North Sierra Street
est. 1978
Circus, Circus
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection


Jim & Jeanette
Grade 2

Lance Deal
Grade 2

In July 1977 construction began on the multimillion-dollar Circus Circus Hotel-Casino on the former site of the Grey Reid Department Store. The project was scheduled to be completed in May 1978 and to open with 102 hotel rooms. The Circus Circus Corporation had requested permission to build more hotel rooms, but because of sewer capacity limitations, they were forced to open with only 102.

The marketing concept of Circus Circus was to combine a casino with a carnival midway and free circus acts. It shattered the adults-only concept and triggered a new emphasis on family tourism in Reno. The building was capped by a pink-and-white "big top" and featured a huge free-standing sign featuring the casino's mascot-logo, Topsy the Clown.

The property opened on July 1, 1978-the same date the Sahara Reno and the Money Tree expansion opened. The first casino manager was Don Herbert, who returned to Las Vegas in November 1979 and was replaced by Loyal Borden, who was a shift manager when the property opened.

In June 1980 ground was broken for a twenty-one story, 625-room expansion. The project was expected to be completed in thirteen months, but it wasn't finished until late in September 1981. Upon completion of the expansion, the hotel had a total of 725 rooms.

Prior to the completion of the expansion program, a union election was held at the Circus Circus. Culinary Union No. 86 had waged a long campaign to organize the casino's food and beverage employees, and in October 1980 the union was certified at Circus Circus. It was the first successful union election for a sizable number of casino employees in Reno history.

Shortly after the results of the election were announced, Fred Sikorski, the general manager of the Circus Circus, resigned. He had been general manager since coming to Reno from Las Vegas in 1979. Sikorski was replaced by Rick Bannis.

In 1985 a twenty-eight-story sky tower was completed, bringing the total number of rooms to 1,625 and adding 17,000 square feet of gaming area.

In 1993 Circus Circus announced a joint venture program with the Eldorado Hotel-Casino to construct a lavish new luxury resort-hotel, the Silver Legacy, which opened in July 1995.

In 1994 Circus Circus purchased several city blocks around its existing property to make space for possible future expansion. Two years later, Circus Circus began construction of a new 1,800-space state-of-the-art parking facility on some of this property located just north of the main casino. The garage was completed in early 1997 and gave Circus Circus a total of 3,719 parking spaces.

Also in 1996-1997 Circus Circus began a $15-million renovation and refurbishing program to update the hotel rooms. However, by creating several luxury jacuzzi suites, it lowered the room count from 1,625 to 1,575. By 1998 Circus Circus had over seventeen hundred slot machines, more than sixty-five table games, and employed approximately two thousand people.

According to Dwayne Kling