In 1994, Sol Kerzner purchased a languishing Resorts International from entertainer/entrepreneur Merv Griffin. This once-popular jet-set playground on Paradise Island had seen better days, but from the start Kerzner saw its potential. Struck by the beauty of the location, on a lush tropical island with a pristine two-mile white sand beach, Kerzner vowed to build the most engaging and astounding resort the world had ever seen, a place where dreams would be made real and all who experienced it would fall under its mystical spell … whilst having a whole lot of fun in the process.
At that time, tourism, the largest sector of The Bahamas’ economy, had been on the decline, unemployment rates were in the double-digits, and the country’s tourism infrastructure had been steadily eroding for years. But that was all to change quickly as, within eight months, Kerzner had transformed almost the entire island into a tropical paradise.
From 1994 to 1998, Sol Kerzner created the mythical city of Atlantis from the ground up -- or, more accurately, from the seabed to the skies. More than $800 million was spent to bring to life the myth and legend of the lost city of Atlantis. The original scope and scale of the project was mind-boggling: the world’s largest open-air marine environment of 11 million gallons, home to 50,000 sea creatures representing 200 species; new lagoons and countless waterfalls; a spectacular Mayan Temple Waterslide complex; 6 swimming areas and a $15 million Marina – itself an engineering marvel -- that would attract the sleek international mega-yacht set.
In 1998, the 1,200-room Royal Towers opened - a major architectural achievement of arches, domes and spires, flanked by soaring towers that appear to have arisen from the sea -- based on the myth that inspired them. Millions of dollars were spent commissioning museum-quality art from renowned artists from Europe, Africa, The Bahamas and the United States. The Caribbean’s largest casino was built in the Royal Towers, and contains millions of dollars in art. The most notable of which are Temple of the Moon and Temple of the Sun by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, insured for $1 million apiece. Upon opening, the casino also offered a gaming industry first: a wall of windows - bringing light and the outdoors in.
Following a decade of success, Atlantis, Paradise Island continued its growth as Kerzner International embarked on a third phase of development with its approximately $1 billion expansion in 2007. Adding to Atlantis’ existing 2,317 rooms and the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, the Phase III expansion includes: the luxurious 600-room resort within the resort, The Cove Atlantis; a 497-key condo-hotel, The Reef Atlantis; a 14-acre dolphin habitat and education center, Dolphin Cay; a 63-acre addition to the waterscape, now called Aquaventure and a total of 140 acres; Aura, a nightclub from the operators of Hakkasan Group; approximately 100,000 additional square feet of new conference facilities and a total of over 500,000 indoor and outdoor space creating the largest conference space in the Caribbean; and the 30,000 square-foot flagship Mandara Spa.