Fremont Street Experience To Boost Downtown Las Vegas Economy

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Fremont Street Experience To Boost Downtown Las Vegas Economy

The Fremont Street Experience, a redevelopment project that has transformed downtown Las Vegas into a resort destination and must-see attraction that will benefit all of Southern Nevada.

The preservation of downtown is essential to the economic health of the City of Las Vegas. More than $70 million in taxes -- including $6.4 million in room tax revenues collected during fiscal year 1994-95-- are affected by the prosperity of hotels and casinos along Fremont Street.

Downtown Las Vegas represents a $1.5 billion investment, 14,000 hotel rooms, 500,000 square feet of casino space and 41 restaurants. Over the past few years, however, the area has seen a steady decrease in gross gaming revenues and a gradual decline in its infrastructure. The opening in late 1993 of three major megaresorts drained gaming revenues from downtown to the Las Vegas Strip, and dramatically lowered downtown's percentage share of hotel rooms in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, by drawing a majority of the estimated 30 million people who will visit Las Vegas in 1995, the Strip has experienced a phenomenal economic and building boom. Analysts say the new megaresorts generate about 50 percent of all gaming revenues for Southern Nevada.

The Fremont Street Experience won't be the panacea that cures all ills of downtown Las Vegas. However, the resulting increase in business to the area created by the project's must-see attraction--the Light and Sound Show with its 2.1 million lights and booming, symphonic sound--will be the revitalization catalyst needed by the area to preserve the existing 22,000 jobs in the downtown core.

"The development of the Fremont Street Experience as a 'must-see attraction' clearly allows downtown Las Vegas to position itself comparably with the new developments along the Las Vegas Strip," said Donald D. Snyder, president of the Fremont Street Experience Company. "The Fremont Street Experience will allow the downtown properties to expand their customer base and allow the market to elevate itself to a higher level."

Snyder said the revitalization brought to downtown Las Vegas by the Fremont Street Experience will be the starting point for continued investment in the area's smaller businesses, which depend on customer traffic primarily generated by the hotel-casinos in the Fremont corridor. New development would also mean an increase in jobs.

"Downtown has contributed $13 million in funds to the redevelopment agency," Snyder said. "The prosperity of downtown's hotel-casinos will mean the preservation of future redevelopment funds to revitalize all of downtown."

In eager anticipation of an expected influx of visitors who will make the Fremont Street Experience a "must see" on their list of things to do in Las Vegas, downtown hotels have embarked on an unprecedented round of expansions and improvements

In early September, Binion's Horseshoe won Las Vegas City Council approval for a $70 million, 36-story tower that will add 660 new rooms to the hotel's current 373 rooms. Approval of the plans follows the recent completion of pedestrian walkways linking the Horseshoe's three parking garages. The hotel also has opened a new baccarat pit and high-limit blackjack area at a cost of $250,000.

The Las Vegas Club recently broke ground on a new 15-story tower which will nearly double the hotel's room inventory from 224 to 409. When finished, the $30 million expansion will add 185 oversize rooms with sitting areas, five deluxe Jacuzzi suites, three new restaurants, a sports bar, gift shops, an additional 18,000-square feet of casino space, and meeting and convention space for 400. The parking structure is being remodeled and the hotel lobby- registration area will move into the new lower level as early as December. The entire project is scheduled for completion in September 1996.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald's is planning a three-phase expansion that will culminate with a 650-room tower, new restaurants, an enlarged casino and an upgraded facade on Fremont Street.

The Four Queens has completed a $5 million facelift and is planning more improvements, and Sam Boyd's Fremont will open a new race and sports book and remodel its exterior facade. In addition, Boyd Gaming Corp. is planning to reopen the vacant Main Street Station, with construction beginning in November on a new parking structure south of the hotel.

Last December, Sam Boyd's California completed a major expansion, adding 146 rooms to its existing 650 rooms. In August, the Golden Nugget completed renovations to all its suites and will finish upgrades to rooms in its north tower in January 1996. A decorative treatment also was installed on walkways fronting the Golden Nugget on Fremont and First streets and Casino Center Boulevard.

Jackie Gaughan's Plaza recently added a 1950's style diner called the "Plaza Diner," and has begun a $200,000 renovation on the former Center Stage restaurant, the only downtown restaurant offering a full view of the Fremont Street Experience space frame.

In addition, the Plaza completed $3.5 million in room upgrades in December 1994, installed new carpet throughout the hotel at a cost of $8.5 million, modernized its elevators and renovated the casino, and will soon begin improvements to the exterior facade.

Meanwhile, the El Cortez has renovated all 200 of its tower rooms and soon will begin upgrading the hotel's 107 original rooms, and will add more casino space and lay new carpet throughout the property in October.

The Golden Gate, founded in 1906 and the oldest hotel in Las Vegas, has completed a series of room and casino facelifts that have resulted in a turn-of- the-century, old San Francisco atmosphere. Beginning in spring 1996, the Golden Gate will refurbish the hotel's exterior with window awnings and planter boxes, and a hedge on the roof that will be visible from street level. Also, preliminary plans are on the drawing board for 30 new rooms that will be added to the current inventory of 106 rooms.

"Almost every downtown property is spending money on remodeling, renovations and expansions," Snyder said. "Overall, approximately $200 million is currently being invested by the downtown properties to coincide with the opening of the Fremont Street Experience. Another positive aspect of the project is the anticipated reopening of the vacant Main Street Station by Boyd Gaming Corporation."

Other downtown Las Vegas projects include the 350,000-square-foot Clark County Administration complex, a new federal courthouse planned on the former site of the proposed Minami Tower, and plans unveiled by Polyphase Corp. of Texas for $300 million domed stadium with a capacity of nearly 80,000 on the former Union Pacific Railroad property west of downtown.

Also, the Fremont Street Experience can be linked to more than $20 million in road improvements, including new underpasses at Ogden Avenue and Bonneville Avenue that attach the former Union Pacific land with the rest of downtown.

Even downtown businesses such as law offices and accounting firms, which exist independently of the hotel-casinos, will benefit from a revitalized area.

The Fremont Street Experience is being designed as a major competitor for the Las Vegas tourist dollar by making downtown Las Vegas a destination within itself. The project's ultimate goal is to increase occupancy, room inventory and diversify the customer base in the downtown Las Vegas hotel- casinos.

From a social standpoint, revitalization brought about by the Fremont Street Experience is extremely critical to the community. A downtown Las Vegas in the mist of economic problems affects the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding communities, such as West Las Vegas.

"Cities which have successfully completed the bricks and mortar of redevelopment gain the economic resources to effectively deal with vital social concerns," Snyder said. "Downtown revitalization brought about by the Fremont Street Experience is in the best interest of all of us who are concerned about the economic and social growth of Las Vegas."

Downtown Las Vegas is following a course which has proven successful in other cities across the country. Through a single redevelopment project, cities like San Diego, Boston, Denver and Santa Monica have provided the necessary catalyst for revitalization in their downtown areas.

Fremont Street Experience
Information provided by the Fremont Street Experience - Las Vegas (1995)