Twenty Years Later, Las Vegas’ Starship Enterprise That Almost Was

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Monday, April 9, 2012
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1992 Downtown Las Vegas proposal that was nearly built. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

1992 Downtown Las Vegas proposal that was nearly built. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

The above might be the most spectacular project to (n)ever happen. In 1992, The Fremont Street Experience, by the Jerde Partnership, became the project that was built to save downtown Las Vegas, at a time when the boom of casinos along “The Strip” was siphoning business from the city’s core. But no one knew—until now—that apparently the real winner of that project’s competition was Gary Goddard and his team, who claim to have proposed to build a full-scale Starship Enterprise in downtown Las Vegas. The spectacular mirage-city in the Nevada desert is the only place where a project this amazing could ever (not) happen.

Comparison of Starship Enterprise to other world monuments. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

Comparison of Starship Enterprise to other world monuments. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

“My concept was to do something so large and so epic, it would fire the imaginations of people around the world,” Goddard said on the Goddard Group blog. “It would create a new ‘8th Wonder of the World’ … that would take its place alongside other ‘must see’ monuments in the world. You would be able to see this from the airplanes as they came for landing at the Vegas airport. It’s that big.”

1992 Downtown Las Vegas proposal that was nearly built. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

1992 Downtown Las Vegas proposal that was nearly built. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

The main structural challenge was the enormous cantilevered disc at the ship’s bow. With many of Disney’s best engineers (imagineers?) working to make it happen, the $150 million project was set to include key rooms, chambers, decks, and corridors from the actual ship, as well as ride elements and restaurants. There were no casinos or hotel rooms in the program because the existing downtown establishments were paying for the new building. They already provided these services and didn’t want to pay for a new competitor.  Goddard envisioned the Starship Enterprise becoming “an attraction of such magnitude that it would draw people from the strip, a destination attraction” that would “re-establish the downtown core as the center of the action in Las Vegas.”

1992 Downtown Las Vegas proposal that was nearly built. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

1992 Downtown Las Vegas proposal that was nearly built. (Courtesy Goddard Group)

The original plans went along for nearly five months, and everyone was excited about the idea, until one executive from Paramount Pictures decided to kill the project. He did not want to be the guy who commissioned a “flop.” In movies, he said, a flop goes away after a couple of months.  If the building “flopped,” it would be there “forever.”

What did get built, The Fremont Street Experience, is no slouch. Billed as “Vintage Las Vegas” due to the rich history of the street, it now includes a pedestrian mall with a street-scale, video-enhanced canopy called the urban theatre, which is the worlds largest electric sign. Also part of the revitalized district are the Neon Museum and Neonopolis, a Vegas-style shopping mall.

The Fremont Street Experience. (Flickr/twodolla)

The Fremont Street Experience. (Flickr/twodolla)

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One Response to “Twenty Years Later, Las Vegas’ Starship Enterprise That Almost Was”

  1. A.D. Hopkins says:

    Neonopolis is an unmitigated flop, and to build it they invoked eminent domain and tore down successful businesses to build it. The Fremont Street Experience succeeds, sort of, with subsidies of public funds which supposed to support parks, and which were supposed to be temporary but have become permanent. The light show on the “worlld’s largest electric sign” insults the intelligence of morons, let alone ordinary people. The most accurate review I ever heard from a spectator: “It’s free and it’s still a gyp.”

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