The overwhelming and universal appeal of the Fremont Street Experience is difficult to explain, but easy to understand. Visitors agree - you haven’t done Vegas until you’ve seen Fremont Street Experience. Whether it’s the lights, the people or the classic casinos, there’s no shortage of Vegas authenticities or nostalgia here. Established in 1905, Fremont Street is Vintage Vegas – where the legend began and the original Las Vegas started. As you stroll the mall, Vegas history – from the days of Bugsy Segal and Benny Binion – comes to life and harmoniously co-exists with the new spirit and energy of the town’s core, which has taken its cue from these pioneers.
On May 15, 1905, a railroad land auction held near what is now Fremont Street and Main Street, created the Las Vegas Township, and launched the development of a dynamic city whose essence would be defined throughout the century and beyond by free-spirited, free-wheeling entrepreneurs, speculators and characters of all varieties. All were dedicated to creating a new life in the desert, making money, and pushing the boundaries of entertainment, indulgence and American individualism.
One of this tourist mecca’s most famous and historic streets, Fremont Street has been the site of numerous “firsts” in Las Vegas:
» First paved street (1925).
» First Nevada gaming license – issued to the Northern Club at 15 E. Fremont St.
» First traffic light and first elevator (the Apache Hotel in 1932).
» The first high-rise (the Fremont Hotel in 1956).
» The Horseshoe was the first casino to install carpeting, while the Golden Nugget was the first structure
designed from the ground up to be a casino.
The milestones of Fremont Street continued with the $70 million Fremont Street Experience (1995), a seven-block open-air pedestrian mall featuring permanent performance stages, live entertainment and a graphic light show unparalleled for its time.
Another broad stride into the future has been taken with the installation of a $17 million digital video display system unlike any other in the world. The four-block long 90-foot canopy now features state-of-the-art LED technology that creates a myriad of eye-popping color combinations, while 12.5 million bulbs ramp up resolution to deliver superb picture quality and clarity. The new system, which also incorporates live-action video capabilities for a totally immersive experience, will debut June 14, 2004.
Famous for its fabulous neon, the Fremont Street Experience is also home to some of the most recognizable Las Vegas icons like “Vegas Vic,” which was erected atop the Pioneer Club in 1951. Many other vintage hotel and casino signs, which are part of the larger Neon Museum collection, now dot the pedestrian mall and the courtyard of the adjoining Neonopolis Center, a $100 million, 250,000-square-foot retail center anchored by a 14-screen Crown Theaters movie complex.
Neatly merging past and present, the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall created an entirely new environment for Fremont Street, while enhancing what the area
already offered – world-class gaming in a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. Installation of the canopy transformed Fremont Street into a “people place” offering a unique blend of urban theater featuring free nightly light and sound shows, a variety of restaurant dining and entertainment options, as well as specialty retail shopping.
A frequent backdrop for films and television and host to special events and concerts, Fremont Street Experience draws more than 16 million visitors annually to enjoy the light and sound shows, stroll the promenade, dance to live entertainment, sip exotic drinks, snack on shrimp cocktails and enjoy 63 restaurants and other hotel amenities.
Viva Vision, the LED display “canopy,” rising 90 feet in height and stretching 1,400 feet along the Fremont Street Experience promenade from Main Street to Fourth Street, forms a spectacular foyer for the existing resorts. Holding the canopy aloft are 16 columns, each weighing 26,000 pounds and capable of bearing 400,000 pounds, and 43,000 struts.
Stretching the length of nearly five football fields, Viva Vision serves as the showcase for the light and sound shows and the world’s largest graphic display system. A section comprising one fiftieth of the total canopy equals the size of the world’s current largest electric sign. Originally, nearly 2.1 million incandescent lights were housed in the canopy. With the completion of the $17 million investment, more than 12 million LED lamps illuminate the overhead canopy, creating a never-before-seen color spectrum. Within the canopy itself are 220 speakers capable of producing 550,000 watts of concert-quality sound.
Computers were previously housed in the canopy to generate animated images perfectly syncopated to sound. The new Viva Vision technology is run by 10 high-speed, state-of-the-art computers – operating the system from a dedicated control room – with 9,600 gigabytes of storage, providing greater control, reduced maintenance costs and increased storage capacity, allowing the system to store and rotate a larger selection of shows. An additional $2 million in ambient lighting within the Viva Vision canopy includes 180 computer-programmed high-intensity strobe lights, 64 variable color lighting fixtures capable of producing more than 300 colors, sixteen 7,000-watt skytrackers and eight robotic mirrors per block – each capable of being individually programmed to pan and tilt to reflect light during the show.
The Light & Sound Shows are presented nightly beginning at dusk. Conceived as a ballet of computer-generated animation and sound, the light and sound shows have evolved into the world’s largest pixel matrix for a single display supporting text, graphics, and sophisticated animation. Already known for its impressive scale and the varied multisensory experience it provides visitors, the Viva Vision canopy now contains even brighter, sharper and more vibrant images for an unparalleled multidimensional presentation with enhanced visual impact.
Additional shows are in development, and two will premiere during the debut of the new digital video technology on June 14, 2004. More new shows will premiere throughout 2004.
The Pedestrian Mall was created when Fremont Street was closed permanently to vehicular traffic in September of 1994. A “Cruise Through History” marking this significant event was held to commemorate the groundbreaking. The asphalt was replaced by landscaping and patterned paving, forming winding paths that invite visitors to stroll through this unique venue.
When the light and sound shows are not being presented, concert-quality music is played continuously throughout the mall.
Crews of security and maintenance personnel staff the mall, creating a managed environment that helps make each visit to the Fremont Street Experience more enjoyable.
The Parking Plaza at the eastern end of Fremont Street is a 1,430-space parking structure built to accommodate an increase in visitors to downtown.
The Marketplace on Fremont Street offers a unique shopping experience for guests visiting the Fremont Street Experience. A variety of retail carts, innovative in design and content, exist throughout the entire mall area.
The Neon Museum consists of historical neon signs, restored and re-lit, which will eventually be placed throughout the Fremont Street Experience, celebrating the rich history of Las Vegas. The first sign, the “Hacienda Horse & Rider” was installed at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street, greeting guests as they travel downtown. Additional neon signs from the earliest chapters of Las Vegas’ storied past, make a visit to the Fremont Street Experience a “walk through history.”
Neonopolis, forming the east end of the pedestrian mall, where Las Vegas Boulevard South meets Fremont Street, is a $100 million open-air restaurant, shop and entertainment complex with a 14-screen Crown Theaters movie theater.
Jon Jerde, an acclaimed architect whose other works include Las Vegas’ Bellagio, San Diego‘s Horton Plaza, “Metropolis” in New York’s Times Square, Universal Studios’ (Calif.) CityWalk and Japan’s award-winning RiverWalk Kitakyushu, was recently honored with the prestigious 2004 “Stars of Design” Award, for his significant achievements in the field of urban design.
Cost and Financing:
The original project (completed in 1995) was a $70 million investment between The Fremont Street Experience Company, LLC – comprised of a collection of downtown hotel/casino operators – and the City of Las Vegas.
Sources of capital investment were as follows:
» Major Downtown Hotel/Casinos $21.4 million
» Room Taxes $21.0 million
- Downtown hotels special room tax ($13 million)
- LVCVA ($ 8 million)
» Redevelopment Agency $22.4 million
» City of Las Vegas $ 5.2 million
Funding sources for $17 million Viva Vision technology investment, including financing and interest, are as follows:
» Fremont Street Experience $ 10,013,193
- Corporate Sponsorship ($2,250,000)
- Member Assessments ($7,763,193)
» Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority $ 7,000,000
Fremont Street Experience Limited Liability Company:
Comprised of eight downtown hotel/casino companies (representing 10 properties), the Fremont Street Experience Limited Liability Company is a private entity responsible for financing, developing and managing the Fremont Street Experience. Member properties include: Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel & Casino; Boyd Gaming (Fremont Hotel & Casino, California Hotel, Main Street Station Casino, Brewery & Hotel); Fitzgerald’s Casino/Hotel; Four Queens Hotel & Casino; Golden Gate Hotel & Casino; Golden Nugget Las Vegas; Lady Luck Hotel Casino (associate member); and Las Vegas Club Hotel Casino.
Original Design Team (1995):
Atlandia Design – Owner’s Representative
The Jerde Partnership – Project Designer
Marnell Carrao Associates – Construction Manager
Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) – Design, development and maintenance of the original graphic display system
Lifescapes International, Inc. – Landscape Architects & Designers
Viva Vision Technology Team (2004):
LG Electronics/LG CNS Co., Ltd. – Technical design and development of the digital video system
Newton Technologies, Inc. – Component development and fabrication
Casino Lighting & Sign (formerly Mikohn Lighting & Sign) – Installation and maintenance
The Export-Import Bank of Korea – Financial liaison