Sun City is southern Africa’s most luxurious and best-known resort; indeed its very name has become synonymous with good living, excitement and fine entertainment. Situated some 187 kilometres west of Johannesburg, Sun City has four fine hotels, a Vacation Club and a wide variety of sport, recreation, live entertainment and gaming. It is one of the few resorts in the world with two 18-hole championship golf courses. The resort also boasts southern Africa’s finest convention facilities. The Lost City at Sun City is an R830-million African fantasy world featuring a man-made forest and massive wavepool. The Palace of the Lost City is one of the finest hotels in the world.
Sun City was founded by South African leisure tycoon Sol Kerzner. In the mid-1970’s he had the idea of building a luxury casino resort in the heart of the African bush. Work started on July 15, 1978 and the complex opened on December 7, 1979.
At the time its central features were the 340-room Sun City Hotel and the Gary Player-designed championship golf course. The golf course is now the most famous – and the busiest – in Africa. Other elements were a 55 metre swimming pool, a man-made lake for watersports, tennis courts and a casino with hundreds of slot machines and 50 gaming tables. The cost of the original complex was R30-million; today capital investment amounts to more than R1, 18 billion, R830-million of which was spent on The Lost City.
Adjoining Sun City is the Pilanesberg National Park, a 55 000 hectare game reserve which opened a day after the resort welcomed its first visitors. One week later the curtain went up at the Extravaganza Theatre and Southern Africa was introduced to fast-paced show-girl musicals. The first artist to perform in the theatre was Cliff Richard.
Sun City was such an overwhelming success that expansion was immediate. Exactly a year after Sun City opened the 284-room Sun City Cabanas were offering family-oriented accommodation.
Since Sun City’s inception, major sporting events have been regularly staged there. Perhaps the most famous is the Nedbank Dollar Golf Challenge, originally the Million Dollar Golf Challenge, which was founded in 1980. It was one of the world’s richest and most exclusive events. Specially invited top golfers competed for a first prize of US$1-million. Seve Ballesteros, David Frost, Nick Price and Bernhard Langer are among the golfing superstars who have won the Million Dollar Challenge, plus in more recent years Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have won it as the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
In mid-1981 Sun City built the R30-million Entertainment Centre. Under a single vast roof were restaurants, cinemas, gaming floors, conference rooms and a 6 000-seat
Superbowl with a state-of-the-art sound system. Frank Sinatra opened the Superbowl on July 24, 1981. Superstars such as Rod Stewart, Elton John, Wet Wet Wet, Joe Cocker performed there and several world boxing titles have been won in the Superbowl as well as numerous world beauty pageants.
In 1992 the former Entertainment Centre doubled in size with the addition of The Hall of Treasures, which is part of The Lost City. The exterior seems as if it has been sculpted from living rock, covered in carvings of African animals. Dominating the exterior of the building is a huge sphinx-like carved leopard. The Hall of Treasures used to feature state-of-the-art gaming machines and the most modern video games and stimulators, along with fun-fair style side-shows offering high quality prizes. It is now part of the extensive offerings for conferences and special functions.
There is also an enticing array of cinemas, restaurants and shops, both next to the Hall of Treasures and in the redesigned Entertainment Centre.
December 1984 saw the opening of the luxury 241-room Cascades hotel. The Cascades, which cost R50-million to build, is set in four hectares of lush tropical gardens. There are 7 740 square metres of water features, including 12 waterfalls and cataracts. The abundance of bird life in the gardens has become one of Sun City’s leading attractions.
In January 1986 southern Africa’s first monorail – the Skytrain – began operating. Its coaches can each carry 100 passengers and they run between Sun City car park and the Entertainment Centre.
Sun City was famous for the huge jackpots paid out by its slot machines. The Resort’s most famous jackpot was the Dream Machine which was launched in 1987 and then became linked to numerous other resorts once they began operating. The jackpot had a starting value of R1 million.
The elite International Room is an elegant gaming club, which is a private and luxurious casino facility at Sun City. Entrance is limited to top table game players who like to play for high stakes.
In 1990 construction began on the most ambitious endeavour in Sun City’s history – The Lost City. This African fantasy world is based on the theme of a lost civilization rediscovered in the densely jungled Valley of Waves. As visitors wander through the jungle they discover remnants of an ancient city and a wealth of leisure activities. The jungle is the largest ever made by man, consisting of more then 1,2 million trees and plants. At its heart is a man-made rain forest. Watercourses thread through the jungle, ranging from gentle streams to rushing torrents.
The Valley of Waves is the world’s most advanced water-park, with restaurants, bars, pools, theme rides and The Roaring Lagoon.
The centre-piece of The Lost City is The Palace, a 335-room hotel which cost R400-million to build. The dramatic fantasy architecture of the building is decorated with wildlife sculptures. Each room is spacious and individually furnished to the very highest standards. Service and facilities match the quality of the building.
In 1993 The Lost City Golf Course was opened at Sun City. The 18-hole, par 72 courses utilizes the natural beauty of the Pilanesberg Mountains surrounding Sun City. Crocodiles watch players from a pool on the 13th hole. Gary Player, who designed the course said: “No other 18 holes in the world surpass the Lost City course for sheer variety”.
Since the opening of The Lost City complex at Sun City in December 1992, visitors have been streaming to Sun City at a rate of nearly three million a year. Sun International’s development programme has been focused on the refurbishment of the Sun City Hotels, Vacation Club facilities and broadening the variety of entertainment, cultural and sports offerings. The Sun City Hotel has been upgraded several times, the Cascades recently underwent an extensive room upgrade and the Cabanas extended in the number of rooms to 380.
THE LOST CITY
A long time ago, there was a city of incredible wealth and beauty. Only a legend until recently, The Lost City has been rediscovered at Sun City. It has been restored as closely as possible to its former glory. The Ancient Ones, a nomadic tribe from the Northern Africa, settled in this secluded valley shaped by an ancient volcanic crater- the Valley of the Sun.
Over centuries, their city grew in size and wealth and new structures were built on the foundations of the old. Eventually, these people possessed the wealth and knowledge to erect a regal city and a magnificent palace for their benevolent King and his family.
The Palace was built on an island within a sacred lake at the top of the hanging valley. The design mingled the shapes of spires, domes and arches remembered from a long-ago past with a thousand patterns of the natural world of the Valley of the Sun. the Ancient Ones fashioned an enchanted city, a man-created world more rich and splendid than any ever known.
Great timber and bronze gates were shaped to protect the city. Noble leopards became sculptured sentinels, crouching on towers and at the Royal Palace entry. The Monkey Spring Fountain paid homage to the tree-dwelling monkeys who quenched the thirst of the people of the Valley during a long drought, by bringing them fruit and berries from the treetops.
No part of the wilderness was forgotten-palm fronds; leaves of the resin tree, blossoms of the protea and the Kwazulu Natal plum were immortalized in stone. All the marvels of the jungle-elephant, lion, leopard, kudu, birds and beasts, even the serpentine vines and the clouds of the African sky-were depicted in mosaics and on vaulted ceilings, in mouldings and on the flame-topped towers rising from the palace-like beacons.
For many years, the Ancient Ones, along with the royal family, lived a peaceful and happy life in the glorious city in the Valley of the Sun. Then one day, the winds screamed, the sky blackened and the jungle took on a dark and secretive look. The earth beneath the beautiful city began to shake with thunderous power; the mighty force hurled walls and buildings as if they were pebbles tossed from the hands of an angry giant. The people ran in terror to escape the tremors and the tumbling buildings.
The royal family were borne to safety on the backs of the alert kudus, who felt the warning vibrations deep in the ground before the full power of the earthquake struck the city. The citizens of the Valley of the Sun, who were saved by the miracle of the Sun Lion Gong, fled the city-never to return.
The Lost City
Only the King and his family returned to witness the destruction. They found the village in ruins and the mineshafts collapsed. The very topography of the earth had been altered; eternal springs spouted from the mountainside. The earthquake had created a miracle of cascades, waterways and an ever-flowing river which wound in circles, defying the laws of gravity. To the further amazement of the royal family, The Palace, anchored deep into the bedrock, island in The Lake of Secrets, had survived in all its glory.
During the ensuing years, the royal family lived in the Valley of the Sun, and managed to maintain their Palace as best as they could. When they died, the Palace was too deserted and left to the forces and whims of nature. The memory of the greatness of the city and the lives of its people faded and with passing time, only whispered legends recalled The Lost City. Through centuries, the thought of this city with this palace and treasures tantalized the imaginations of explorers. But the secret place known as The Lost City eluded first one adventurer and then another. Almost three hundred centuries after the great earthquake in the last decade of the 20th century, an expedition came upon this sacred locale. The leader of the expedition saw the crumbled towers, the heaps of stone and pieces of carvings in the still majestic Palace and the remains of the surrounding villages, a legacy of untold value, silvered with age. He dedicated himself to restoring The Lost City to its original splendour.
Today -once again- a bridge joins the Lost City and The Palace, luminous and perfect above the mirror-sheen of water. In The Lost City of the Valley of the Sun, a primal, endless river flows. And here the spirit-guardian of the Ancient Ones- the leopard, the elephant, the kudu- decree that happiness shall be the destiny of every adventurer who treads upon this magical land.
The Sun City Hotel, built at Sun International’s flagship resort, Sun City in 1979, has been rebranded: Soho.
This rebrand encapsulates the essence of the renowned Soho destinations located in London and New York – known for their popularity with the in crowd, eclectic vibe and non-stop action.
Sun City’s other hotels – the Cabanas opened in 1980, Cascades in 1983 and The Palace of the Lost City in 1992 – each have strong identities and are independent brands under the Sun City banner.
The new brand launches the ‘always on’ Soho hotel, boasting the iconic casino that started it all alongside a host of food and beverage outlets, revitalised bars and nightclubs.
The Sun City Theatre inside Soho has been transformed to make space for the millennial bar called Vibes and the nightclub Encore, a modern dance venue. The Revue Bar offers adult entertainment for discerning guests, while the Privé Salon welcomes high-rolling gaming guests.
Said Sun International’s Group GM, Hospitality Marketing, Liam Oddie: “he Sun City Hotel needed its own individual brand, one that reflects its changes. Soho is the destination within the resort that is ‘always on’; where the sun never sets and any-time is playtime.
The Soho name and rebrand was inspired by these changes as well as the architectural octagon design of the hotel, with the geometric shape symbolising totality and balance, ultimately reflecting the encompassing experience. This design was then extended to the revised brand elements where the octagon informs the brands architecture and style.
Soho hotels transformation forms part of Sun City’s reimagining and ushers in the resorts new slogan, a world within a City.
A major part of the refurbishment is the Entertainment Centre, now Sun Central, offering a plethora of entertainment possibilities. The experiential zone hosts fast food, bars and themed food venues which enhance the family environment within Sun Central. Cinemas, retail outlets, the Superbowl, a dedicated children’s area, a 10-pin bowling arcade are all there to ensure an interactive guest experience.
Housed within the Sun Central building is the Sun City Convention Centre. In the same area is the permanent interactive exhibition, Hall of Fame, where guests will be able to interact with their sporting and other hero’s – taking on Ernie Els on a virtual green or pitting one’s tennis skills against Serena Williams.
Sun City still offers a myriad of outdoor activities to enchant, one of the most popular is the Valley of Waves which now boasts two new slides and a gastro pub, The Brew Monkey, providing sustenance during breaks.
“We’re excited to share all these changes with our guests and unveil a rebrand that captures the evolution of Sun City,” concludes Oddie.
Sun City’s four hotels and the entertainment zones have or are in the process of being revamped in a five year, R1-billion upgrade which will be complete in 2017.
Sun City started life as the iconic complex for South Africans and tourists alike, and up to that point, nothing like it had ever been seen in South Africa – or since. Says Group GM Brand and Communications Michael Farr: “We have seen many changes to the complex since 1979 when the resort was built, notably the construction of The Palace, but there have been significant upgrades to the complex over the years. Our aim is to keep refreshing all our offerings at the complex to make sure we stay current with the needs and aspirations of our guests. Sun City remains really popular with locals, visitors and convention delegates.
“Once this refurbishment is complete, we are confident there will be nothing in South Africa to compare to it.
“Performance at Sun City has been affected by the visa restrictions introduced last year which choked off a lot of business from regions that were growing, disruption while the resort is undergoing renovation and a general decline in economic conditions in particular with corporates cutting back on conferences. The visa problem is now easing but it will take some time and we expect that with the new conference facilities open in 2017 we will win back much of this business. We are also growing a new line of business in VIP gaming, which brings international gaming tourists to the resort.
“Recently, however, we have seen an upturn in our occupancy rates. Sun City saw unprecedented growth in visitors from China and Hong Kong during the 2015/16 festive season as the weaker rand appeared to help counteract the negative impact from new visa regulations. The Palace hotel accounted for 126 of the 133 rooms sold to Hong Kong guests and more than a quarter of the 383 rooms sold to Chinese visitors over December.”
In January this year, the company started a massive upgrade of the Entertainment Centre, focusing on a complete facilities upgrade to attract convention business throughout the week. Sun International has invested heavily in this upgrade to recapture its place as the premier convention venue in the country, which they are confident they will do.
“The temporary closure of the Entertainment Centre may be a bit disruptive but we really have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure our guests have a great time, including the creation of the Sun Sky Village where we will be hosting all our normal conference business. We expect to reopen the Entertainment Centre by November 2016.”
The 382 luxury self-catering apartments at the Sun Vacation Club have already been upgraded and are selling well. This, according to the company, is the engine to fund the other major developments at the resort. The 380 bedrooms at the Cabanas have also been refurbished, along with refreshing the public areas and the pool bar, and relocating the children’s play areas. The entrance and reception area have been remodelled for a more contemporary and modern feel, with a balconied foyer overlooking the hotel’s newly rejuvenated restaurant.
The Sun City Hotel has also been repositioned to provide an “always on”, Vegas-style party zone, with soon to open night clubs, burlesque clubs and restaurants. The new Legends upmarket restaurant showcases memorabilia of celebrities who have stayed at Sun City over the years. This new 190-seater restaurant with an open action kitchen now has an entertainment stage too.
At the Cascades hotel, the Luma Bar and Lounge was added in 2013, while Bocado restaurant has replaced the old Santorini restaurant and offers Mediterranean cuisine for guests.
A new ultra-high end VIP casino has opened at The Palace – The Palace Villa and Salon. The upmarket Plume and Tusk Bar & Lounge have also been refurbished. The Grill Room has also been upgraded with a new lakeside terrace.
Sun City has also boosted its entertainment offering for teenagers and adventurers with the launch of an adventure hub, Adrenalin Extreme, with a range of outdoor activities. The Valley of Waves water park has been extended with new rides – with more to come – while a new microbrewery-themed gastro pub, The Brew Monkey, has also been opened, along with a new fresh fast food eatery, Food Factory. Kamp Kwena, which has been a firm favourite for children for decades at Sun City, will also have a complete refresh.
Sun Park is a new multipurpose facility with an indoor events venue and outdoor space for hosting lifestyle events, music festivals and product launches.
“This is a very significant upgrade and the feedback so far has been exceptional. We have committed about R1-billion to making sure this icon of South African hospitality continues to offer everything leisure and business travellers could possibly want. The Sun City brand is an extremely strong one and there are few South Africans – and tourists to South Africa – who haven’t heard of Sun City and the kind of experiences that can be enjoyed at the complex. We’re really delighted with the improvements and innovations at Sun City and our guests are really enjoying them too.
“Our approach from inception has been to differentiate our hotels, resorts and casinos in architecture, service, experience, location and the mix of entertainment and activities. Creating lasting memories for our guests and customers is a core part of our DNA. We’ve created some the world’s most iconic hotels ranging from The Royal Livingstone Hotel at Victoria Falls, to The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City and The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town. The creative architecture of these properties and the blending of their designs with their local environment make each property unique.”
Sun City’s upgrade of the Valley of Waves has entered top gear with the opening of The Brew Monkey within a few days of the launch of the new fast food arena, Food Factory. Located above Food Factory, The Brew Monkey is a gastro pub with a decidedly rustic microbrewery feel. The restaurant offers spectacular views over the tidal pool, with a choice of sitting indoors or outdoors on the deck. The Brew Monkey is open from 12h00 to 22h30 daily and is subject to seasonal times. Valley of Waves entry fees apply during the day but after 18h00, guests can enter the Valley of Waves at no charge to visit the restaurant.
The menu boasts a selection of hunger-busting bar tins, light meals, gourmet burgers and snack boards. The Brew Monkey specialities include the Smoked Crispy Pork Belly gourmet sandwich and haute style signature Monkey Dogs including the Spicy German and Chicken Footlong.
The Brew Monkey boasts a selection of handpicked craft beers. There are 11 beers available on tap including Castle, Castle Lite, Hansa, Carling Black Label, Castle Milk Stout, Peroni, Black Jack Lager, Striped Horse Pilsner, CBC Amber Weiss, Citizen American Amber Ale and Savanna Dry. Service is European style so all drinks and food must be ordered at the bar to be delivered by the waitrons.
“The Brew Monkey takes beachside refreshment up a notch at the Valley of Waves. It is a place to kick back and relax while indulging in exciting craft beers and gastronomical burgers and gourmet sandwiches. Guests can also share tasty nibbles from tins instead of the usual pub type baskets,” says Bruce McKay, General Manager: Food & Beverage Operations at Sun City.
There are more changes on the cards for the Valley of Waves in the coming months, including more thrilling water rides. The previous food court at the Valley of Waves has also closed and will be converted in the coming months.
Upmarket sports bar unveiled in Sun City’s Soho – Vibes
As part of the multi million rand refurbishment of Sun City, a new, up market sports bar, Vibes, has been unveiled at the resort’s Soho hotel (formerly Sun City Hotel). Vibes is a vibrant, retro-styled space to socialize and play from sunset to sun rise, featuring a sports bar screening major fixtures; four private karaoke booths which can be booked per hour; fuse ball; pool and comedy shows on Wednesdays.
Chic and contemporary, with a retro feel, Vibes is a great fit within the hotel which has been repositioned as the resort’s ‘always on’ party zone. Encapsulating the essence of the renowned Soho destinations located in London and New York which are known for their eclectic vibe and non-stop action, Soho hotel also boasts an exclusive new dance venue, Encore, as well as new restaurants. Both Vibes and Encore are located within the previous Sun City Theatre, with Vibes leading seamlessly into the heart of Soho hotel’s party zone, Encore.
“Soho is where the sun never sets; where all night fun and action is a given. Vibes is all that; a place created with millennials and the young at heart in mind it is where you go when your night is just getting started,” says Andrew Irumba, Sun City Marketing Manager.
Strictly over 18’s, Vibes hosts live entertainment most nights of the week including bands and DJs on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays; quiz nights on Tuesdays; comedy shows on Wednesdays (R30 at the door on comedy nights) and karaoke on Thursdays. Entertainment kicks off at 21h00 every night.
Bring back the night at Sun City’s exclusive Encore
Sun City brings back the night with its exclusive and decidedly glamorous modern dance club, Encore. Open in time for the festive season, Encore is at the heart of the resort’s ‘always on’ party zone, Soho.
Encapsulating the essence of the renowned Soho destinations located in London and New York which are known for their eclectic vibe and non-stop action, Soho (formerly the Sun City Hotel) also boasts a vibrant bar and hot spot, Vibes, as well as new restaurants. Both Vibes and Encore are located within the previous Sun City Theatre, with Vibes leading seamlessly into the inner core, Encore.
“No expense has been spared in creating this exclusive and cosmopolitan venue. With its glamorous interior, exquisite glass dance floor, VIP area, state of the art sound and superlative DJ lineup, Encore can rival the country’s premier dance venues. This is where nights become day in spectacular style,” says Andrew Irumba, Marketing Manager for Sun City.
The age restriction for entry is 18 years old and there is strict dress code. Guests are required to dress to impress. Collared shirts and smart shoes are a must and no sandals or shorts are permitted. Entry, via Vibes, is R70 for residents, R100 for MVG’s and R150 for day visitors, IDs must be produced on request.
Encore is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 22h00 until 04h00. Top DJs are on the decks on both nights of the weekend, with a feature DJ kick starting the party from 22h00 and a resident DJ taking the reins from 02h00 to 04h00.
Encore launched on 30 November 2016 with Black Coffee on the decks to a capacity VIP entourage setting the benchmark for the club.