John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort
|John Ascuaga's Nugget|
|Location||Sparks, Nevada, U.S.|
|Address||1100 Nugget Avenue|
|Opening date||March 17, 1955
59 years ago
|Number of rooms||1,600|
|Total gaming space||85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2)|
|Signature attractions||Rose Ballroom
|Notable restaurants||The Steakhouse Grill
|Owner||Global Gaming & Hospitality|
|Previous names||Dick Graves' Nugget|
|Renovated in||1984, East Tower
1996, West Tower
2008, East Tower
John Ascuaga's Nugget is a hotel and casino in Sparks, Nevada, just east of Reno. The main portion of the casino consists of two 29-story towers nestled between Interstate 80 and the Union Pacific rail yard. There are additional attached buildings underneath and across I-80 from the towers. It is located in Downtown Sparks at Victorian Square.
Dick Graves' Nugget first opened in 1955 in Reno on March 17. Jim Kelly opened the Nugget in Carson City. In 1960, John Ascuaga (born 1925), then general manager, bought the Nugget. Ascuaga had little money when he purchased the small venue so he paid via loan, which he paid back in full within the number of years granted. Ascuaga earned money from the success of his business, which led him to expand, over and over again, throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The Celebrity Showroom, first known as the Circus Room, was constructed in the 1960s and played host to Liberace, Sergio Franchi, The Osmond Brothers, Robert Goulet and others. Construction began shortly thereafter and was completed December 26, 1984. Ascuaga deemed it one more Christmas present to the community and also deemed it an "exclamation point in the sky".
The Nugget's primary attraction from 1962 to the late 1990s was Bertha the Elephant and her baby, Tina, who entertained in the Circus Room many a time. They were also attractions at the annual Nevada Day parade in Carson City. Bertha died in the late 1990s.
In 1995, John Ascuaga announced that a second tower would be built, costing $75 million. Ascuaga designed it with local architect Peter Wilday, whose works include the Atlantis and the Peppermill. The tower opened along with a new restaurant and hotel lobby on December 26, 1996. That was the last major expansion done by the Nugget. In 1997, Ascuaga's daughter Michonne took over as CEO, running the hotel and casino along with her brother Stephen. The two said at the time they would keep the business in the family and continue to make re-investments. They also said there was no need for more hotel rooms. The hotel hosts events such as the annual Nugget Rib Cook Off held in September where cookers come from all over the country on July 4 to Star-Spangled Sparks, the largest fireworks show in Northern Nevada after New Year's Eve in Downtown Reno.
Sale to Global Gaming and Hospitality
On October 10, 2013, the Ascuaga family announced it had reached an agreement with Las Vegas based Global Gaming And Hospitality to sell the 1600 room property. A sale price was not disclosed, arguably the last lone family run casino/resort in the industry, of which had no sister properties or outside backing, the Ascuagas affirm they were not in a position to improve their property. Global Gaming CEO Cartlon Geer, who has roots to Northern Nevada, will become the new CEO and President. He confirmed that with the help of partner Husky Finance, they will begin in 2014 $50 million worth of improvements and remodeling to the property.
The sale closed December 16, 2013. The Ascuagas remained on board in advisory roles through the transition and after the sale was completed.
- "John Ascuaga". Nevada Business Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
- Schreiber, Colleen (September 18, 1997). "Hard work and family key to John Ascuaga’s Nugget". Livestock Weekly. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
- "John Ascuaga". University of Nevada. Basque oral history project. 1992. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
- "John Ascuaga doesn't look back". Reno Gazette-Journal. October 10, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
- Bertha the Elephant Source: Reno Gazette Journal
- "John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino sale finalized". KRNV-DT. Retrieved 2014-06-07.