MGM Grand Hotel
2500 East Second Street - Sparks
1978 - 1986
MGM Grand
Photo from the Pam Goertler Collection




Richard & Bev Siri
Grade 2

Audrey Welshans
Grade 2

Audrey Welshans
Grade 1

Audrey Welshans
Grade 1

Audrey Welshans
Grade 1

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2

In October 1975 the MGM Corporation announced plans to build a one-thousand-room hotel in Reno. The tentative site was said to be a sixty-acre parcel two miles west of downtown Reno, adjacent to Interstate 80. MGM had purchased a lease option on the property, although Frank Rosenfelt, president of MGM, said that no final site selection had yet been made. Then, on November 7, MGM announced that it was looking at fifteen or twenty different parcels in the Reno area and that no definite decision had yet been made.

On November 18, MGM chose a lease site with an option to buy on 110 acres of land between Second and Mill Streets, east of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, and dropped its bid on the parcel west of town. Four days later, MGM announced that it was definitely going to build at the Second and Mill Street location.

Construction started on the hotel-casino early in 1976, and in July Barry Brunet, chairman of the board, and Jack Pieper, president of MGM Reno, were licensed by the Gaming Commission. The MGM management team took out a full-page in the Reno Gazette-Journal on December 25, 1977, to wish everyone a "Merry Christmas from MGM." Included in the ad were Barry Brunet, chairman of the board; Jack Pieper, president; Glen Neely, casino manager; Mike Clay, slot manager; and Gordon Fulton, keno manager.

On March 24, 1978, the Gaming Commission licensed the MGM for 141 table games, two thousand slot machines, and one jai alai game.

The MGM opened officially on May 3, 1978, at twelve noon. There were 1,900 invited guests, including celebrities from the entertainment world, politicians, gaming executives, and well-known personalities from all over the United States. An estimated 10,000 other people attended the opening. The invited guests dined in the Grand Ballroom and danced to the music of Harry James.

The hotel-casino was something never before seen in Reno. The building was twenty-six stories high and contained 1,015 hotel rooms. Construction cost $150 million. In addition to a gambling area the size of two football fields, there were two movie theaters, seven restaurants, the two-thousand-seat Ziegfield Theater with the largest stage in the world, five indoor tennis courts, a pro shop with a staff of two teaching professionals, three outdoor tennis courts, a fifty-lane bowling center open twenty-four hours a day, a race and sports book, and a jai alai fronton. The arcade level featured more than forty shops, a wedding chapel, and a branch of the First Interstate Bank of Nevada.

Dean Martin was the opening act in the Ziegfield Theater. The long-awaited extravaganza Hello, Hollywood, Hello opened on June 1, 1978, and played to full houses for years. In January 1979 Jack Pieper announced his resignation as president and general manager of the MGM Hotel-Casino. He was replaced by Barry Brunet, who had been with the MGM Corporation since 1958 and had been chairman of the board of the Reno MGM since 1976.

In November 1979 the Reno City Council approved MGM's plans for a twenty-seven-story, 982-room expansion tower. Construction began in 1980 and was concluded in 1981. Upon completion, the facility had 2,001 hotel rooms.

In March 1980 Glen Neely was promoted from casino manager to senior vice-president. The casino manager position was taken by Larry Sommerfield.

In April 1986 the Bally Manufacturing Corporation purchased the MGM Hotel-Casinos in Las Vegas and Reno for $587 million. In October 1990 Bally was unable to make the interest payments on the bonds used to finance the casino's purchase, and in November 1991 Bally filed for bankruptcy.

In May 1992 Harvey's Wagon Wheel, Inc., announced an agreement to buy Bally's Hotel-Casino for $70 million, but a few days later the Hilton Hotel Corporation offered to buy Bally's for $73 million. On June 15, 1992, Bally's was auctioned off in a bankruptcy sale held in Camden, New Jersey. The winning bid was $83 million from the Hilton Hotel Corporation. Hilton immediately vowed to spend more than $100 million upgrading the property and turning it into a themed-destination resort.

Currently the property is operating as the Reno Hilton.

According to Dwayne Kling