Sahara Hotel and Casino entrance

The Speed: The Ride rollercoaster at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas has now closed permanently, ahead of its originally announced closing date.

The coaster was due to end operations on May 16, 2011, when the rest of the Sahara complex will close indefinitely. However, Fox 5 News has confirmed that ride completed its final circuit on Sunday, May 1. 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.

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. Despite this, Screamscape has reported rumors that the coaster could be snapped up by one of Las Vegas' other resorts. The most obvious candidate would be Circus Circus, which already houses the Adventuredome indoor amusement park, but the rumors are yet to be substantiated.

Speed: The Ride (shown in the video above) 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.

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.

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