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Sahara Hotel and Casino entrance

The Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is to close indefinitely on May 16, 2011, signalling the end of the Speed: The Ride rollercoaster.

Speed: The Ride is built into the NASCAR Cafe that forms part of the Sahara, and features a unique design that may restrict its resale value. The Sahara's owners, SBE Entertainment, have yet to announce plans for the attraction and it is not known whether they will seek to find a new home for it.

The Sahara is the oldest resort on the Las Vegas Strip, having opened in 1952. Featuring a Moroccan theme, it was taken over by the current owners in 2007 but was badly impacted by the global economic downturn. It becomes the latest casualty at northern end of the Strip, which has seen two planned resorts mothballed and four others still stuck at the planning stage.

SBE Entertainment's CEO, Sam Nazarian, said of the resort: "We are working with our partners to assess a variety of options for the property, including a complete renovation and repositioning." This suggests that the hotel and casino could eventually return in a new form when economic conditions improve.

Speed: The Ride debuted in 2000, becoming a major visual element of the Sahara. The LIM Shuttle Loop Coaster begins in the NASCAR Cafe, where it is launched up to a speed of 70 miles per hour. It then drops into a below-ground loop, before rising up through the resort's sign and plummeting back through the course in reverse.

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