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Video Vault | Convention Center's 55th anniversary

Reported by: Tom Hawley
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Updated: 4/09 8:53 am

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) — One of the driving forces of our local economy is the Las Vegas Convention Center, which first opened its doors 55 years ago on April 12, 1959.

"A new image on the horizon is the futuristic Las Vegas Convention Center," announced a promotion film produced in 1964 by the Las Vegas News Bureau.

But in 1957, the first ceremonial shovel of dirt was turned by County Commissioner Bud Albright. By 1958, the skeleton of what would become a defining feature for the next three decades — the rotunda — could be seen.

"An architectural triumph," describes the News Bureau film, "which provides a dramatic setting for important functions."

There were plenty of diverse functions that lived up to the hype. In addition to trade shows, there were concerts, including the Beatles in 1964. Sporting events included the classic Muhammad Ali vs. Floyd Patterson match of 1965. And many UNLV Runnin' Rebel fans have fond memories of a great basketball atmosphere until 1983 when the team moved to the Thomas & Mack Center.

There have been many presidential visits, including appearances by John F. Kennedy in 1963 and candidate Richard M. Nixon in 1967.

Out front, what had been a modern sign on Paradise seemed outdated in 1987, and News 3 covered the replacement technology.

"Now, an office on Desert Inn is the control center for the images," said reporter Laura Stephenson as pictures of News 3 anchors scrolled through in the background. "And at the controls is a graphic animator."

The following year, plans were made to get rid of the rotunda and handle even more business with something similar to what is seen today.

"We can have a convention moving in, a convention moving out, and we can be holding a convention in the facility," explained Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority Director of Marketing Rossi Ralenkotter.

These days the Las Vegas Convention Center and related facilities draw about 5 million visitors a year.

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