“Excuse me. I’d just like to ask a question… What does Las Vegas need with a starship?”
April 11, 2012
Starship Enterprise and downtown Las Vegas Skyline; All renderings: Gary Goddard Entertainment Group
Did someone say the “Star Trek effect”? Struggling after its tourist base defected to the Strip in the early 1990s, downtown Las Vegas schemed for ideas to lure back visitors to its businesses, casinos, and hotels. Investors narrowed their list of regeneration proposals to two, the “Fremont Street Experience“, which would eventually be built, and a full-scale replica of the Starship Enterprise, to be anchored in the heart of the city. Had it been built, one wonders whether the structure could have recovered the displaced tourist economy–thus predating the Guggenheim Bilbao by five years in originating the (now debunked) idea that a signature building is capable of catalyzing urban renewal–or just stand empty, like the Brobdingnagian plaything it is? Twenty years hence, that question remains unanswered, yet only now has the man behind the project, Gary Goddard, spoken openly about its demise.
In a lengthy, impassioned blog post, Goddard discusses the difficulties he faced in trying to get the project built. As he tells it, the USS Enterprise actually came very close to being realized, only to be blocked at the last minute by Stan Jaffe, CEO of Paramount Studios, which owns the licensing for the Star Trek films. Goddard writes that he and his team had fought hard to win the project’s approval from the Mayor, the district’s redevelopment committee, and affiliated interest groups. Yet, the final decision lay with Jaffe, who took one look at the presentation boards before rejecting “one of the greatest ideas of all time.” As Goddard vividly recounts, “We were in the room. Financing was there. Land was there. Everyone involved wanted it to happen. And one person entered the room and killed it.” Tear.