Brainchild of Retirement Industry Remembered in Las Vegas

The 'Golden Years' concept was created by Delbert E. Webb, better known as Del Webb. He was a visionary with a penchant for risk-taking that defined the realm of retirement residences. He inaugurated the first retirement residence in the world in 1960 at Sun City, Arizona.

Before his years in the retirement industry, he carved out a career in the Las Vegas gaming industry. A recent article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal reviewed Webb's life. His name can be spotted over the Vegas suburb of Summerlin. There's a middle school named for him in Henderson.

His early success began by winning military contracts during World War II, including the construction of an Arizona Relocation Center where more than 17,000 Japanese-Americans were housed. He proceeded into building a chain of motor hotels - Hiway Houses, and also developed the Del Webb's Towne House hotels.

Webb's entry into Las Vegas is well-documented. Mobster Bugsy Siegel hired him to build the Flamingo Hotel. Webb later owned his own casinos - the Sahara, the Thunderbird Hotel, the Lucky Club and The Mint in Las Vegas, and the Sahara Tahoe. He is credited with removing the Mob influence from the Vegas scene, bringing a business sensibility to a former criminal element.

Professor David Schwartz, director for gaming research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review-Jounal: "His real impact was he had the first corporate-owned casino in Las Vegas with the Sahara and The Mint. There's definitely a different level of scrutiny."

In 1945, Webb, along with partners, purchased the New York Yankees who won 10 World Series during his ownership years.

January 1, 1960 marked Sun City's opening when an estimated 100,000 people showed up, 10 times more than expected. Later that year, Time magazine covered the venture's success on its cover.

The Del Webb Corp. has built Sun City franchises in Summerlin and Henderson, Nevada. Ultimately, the company has merged into the Pulte family of home builders.

Webb's legacy continues through his legacy of support for health care centers, universities, food banks, foundations and other entities. He died in 1974.