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The Fremont Street Experience

By Chuckmonster on Monday, 22nd August 2005 5:43pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


In the early '90s, the Fremont Street casinos were sucking wind. Facing stiff competition from Strip theme resorts and Indian casinos, riverboat gambling halls and neighborhood slot saloons, the aging downtown casinos were flatlining. It was clear to Glitter Gulch gamers that they had to huddle to find a solution.

All of downtown's heavy hitters came together, including the Golden Nugget's Steve Wynn, Boyd Gaming's Bill Boyd and the Plaza's Jackie Gaughan, and they started brainstorming their answer to the Mirage volcano. At one point, Golden Gate owner Mark Brandenburg recalls, the leading idea was to build a full-size replica of the starship Enterprise -- 23 stories high and 600 feet long, complete with thrill ride, restaurants and convention facilities.

Another idea was the fabled "Las Venice," a network of canals meandering through the streets of downtown. Tourists would take boat rides along Fremont Street. This idea, too, gained some momentum, until somebody mentioned that tourists might end up watching homeless men bathing in the trickling Venetian waters.

Wynn, observing all this gnashing of teeth, decided to take matters into his own hands. He hired Jon Jerde, the designer of Horton Plaza in San Diego, to dream up a better idea to save Fremont Street. Jerde came up with closing the street to automobile traffic, building a metal canopy over five blocks of Fremont and offering a dazzling light show on the overhead apparatus.

The casino owners and the city of Las Vegas quickly ponied up $70 million to erect the canopy, buy thousands of light bulbs and build a giant parking garage to house the thousands of people who would flock to see this amazing spectacle every night.

They called it the Fremont Street Experience.



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