Category Archives: Downtown Las Vegas

Derek Stevens Land Buy Opens Up Possibilities for Downtown Vegas

While Vegas-watchers had their eye on a classic neon sign, Vegas Vickie, coming down on Fremont Street, they missed news of much greater significance.

Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new resort on its way to the former Las Vegas Club site (referred to as “18 Fremont”), recently closed a land deal that opens the door for dramatic changes to downtown Las Vegas.

Stevens purchased a site known as P/Q, part of Symphony Park. Here’s a look at the parcel from a perspective you know you’re only going to get on this blog.

PQ site Derek Stevens

Pretty much the first dirt lot that’s ever made us giddy. Just keep reading.

Symphony Park is a rather nebulous name for a district downtown Las Vegas has long had high hopes for. Symphony Park home to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Discovery Children’s Museum and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The roughly 6.4-acre site sits behind the Plaza casino, not far from another parcel Stevens purchased in October 2016. That parcel sits between the Plaza and Main Street Station casino. Vegas-watchers missed that sale, too. Hey, we do what we can.

Here’s another look.

The more you know about the latest land purchase, the more intriguing the possibilities become.

Here’s a useful map to help sort out what’s where. At left, the latest acquisition. The land in the center, next to Plaza, will be used for parking for the new resort at 18 Fremont. The new casino at 18 Fremont will be connected to the parking structure by a bridge.

Derek Stevens land purchases

Remember how we kept calling the purchase next to Plaza casino “strategic”? We’re not just randomly typing words, you know.

Derek Stevens has shown he has a vision for his business ventures and downtown Las Vegas, so it’s not surprising these purchases aren’t random.

For now, the new parcel will serve as a “laydown” yard during the construction of 18 Fremont, a place for construction materials to be delivered and set out before being used in the resort. The lot next to the Plaza would seem to be a good staging area, but it’s expected a parking structure will be built simultaneously to the new resort, so the P/Q parcel will serve that purpose.

Several trailers are already in place at P/Q, and those will be offices for the companies doing demolition and construction on the 18 Fremont project.

18 Fremont laydown yard

Stick with us and we’ll help you impress your friends with terms like “laydown yard.”

But, wait, there’s more.

It’s interesting to note the site purchased by Derek Stevens is the only parcel in Symphony Park zoned for gaming.

That’s worth repeating. The land recently recently purchased by the owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new casino resort at 18 Fremont is zoned for gaming.

If you’re thinking that’s the point in our story that gets us giddy, you’d be right.

While plans for the land, beyond its utilitarian use during the construction of the 18 Fremont project, haven’t been specified, there’s no denying it’s a strategic move and one that could very well mean much, much bigger plans are in the works.

But, wait, there’s more.

In all the plans for Symphony Park, a 61-acre district that stalled during the economic downturn, the parcel abutting the P/Q lot has been slated for a sports arena or, most recently, soccer stadium.

Plans for a stadium have not taken off, but if such a stadium came to pass, it would mean Derek Stevens, his brother and business partner Greg Stevens, and their company, are in the best possible position to take advantage of that development and any resulting boom in business.

downtown arena

Let’s just say the Stevens would probably not be disappointed if someone built a stadium 15 feet away from their newly-purchased site.

If you look closely at that map, you’ll see the P/Q site was previously supposed to be the Forest City Casino-Hotel. The best laid plans and all that.

But, wait, there’s more.

We’ve learned Stevens’ company has invested millions in lobbying efforts toward to the creation of a new off-ramp that will lead from the nearby U.S. 95 freeway directly into W. Ogden Ave.

Apparently, the lobbying has paid off because the off-ramp project is happening.

That’s right, the road that runs along the P/Q site, past the parking structure next to Plaza and right to the back door of the new 18 Fremont hotel and casino. You can see Ogden emerging from a tunnel to the left of the shaded area (the parcel owned by the Stevens), below.

Stevens parcel

Maybe we just like putting shaded areas on things.

Freeway off-ramps are powerful and transformative things, and have helped shape the economic futures of more than a few American cities.

All this from a land sale that’s flown largely under the radar. Until now. You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: Our day job is in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience, the marketing arm of a group of casinos, including The D and Golden Gate. Our opinions are our own.

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Downtown Grand Snafu Reaps Big Wins for Players

It’s a Las Vegas story almost too good to be true, but it happened, and it’s sure to become the stuff of casino legend.

Recently, an error in Downtown Grand’s loyalty club system resulted in thousands of dollars in unearned free play for customers and tens of thousands in losses for the downtown casino.

Here’s how it went down.

On Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, guests using their player’s cards noticed something strange when they accessed their Downtown Grand Rewards loyalty club accounts.

Rather than the typical free play offered by the casino, customers realized they were being given hundreds of additional dollars in free play for no apparent reason.

Ultimately, a system glitch resulted in each slot player receiving nearly a thousand dollars in free play ($970, to be exact), irrespective of their previous level of play. Or, to put it into the parlance of casino management, “Aieeee.”

Downtown Grand $1,000 rebate

They weren’t kidding.

Word of the snafu spread quickly, with customers alerting friends and relatives by phone and text so they, too, could take advantage of the administrative fluke.

While casino free play has no cash value, players are allowed to keep winnings resulting from the use of free slot play.

Downtown Grand’s incident (most likely caused by human error, according to casino insiders) resulted in players cashing out for substantial sums as a result of the gaff.

There’s no way to know how many players took advantage of Downtown Grand’s mistake or how long the glitch was in effect before casino management rectified it, but it’s safe to say the casino took a hit for tens of thousands of dollars.

One customer inquired about the abnormally generous free play and a Downtown Grand employee claimed a similar aberration had transpired a week prior, but players had mistakenly received free play in the $100 range.

Downtown Grand

We totally got a photo release from this guy and his suspenders, so no worries.

While magical for gamblers, errors like the one at Downtown Grand can do serious damage to a casino’s bottom line. Casino computer systems are sophisticated, but remain vulnerable to human fallibility.

The good news is Downtown Grand seems to have found its footing in recent months. We’ve heard the resort’s room bookings are strong and there are plans to add more room inventory soon.

The resort has also announced it will transform a nearby parking structure into The Quad (don’t get us started about the name), an entertainment district featuring a tavern, concert venue and fitness center. Read more.

Downtown Grand The Quad

Yay, new.

Here’s a better look at the plans for The Quad at Downtown Grand.

So, here’s the question: If you realized you were getting a thousand dollars in free play you hadn’t earned, what would you do? Would you keep playing or report the error to casino officials?

Let us know. We’re a Las Vegas blog, so we won’t judge. Probably.

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Details Emerge of Las Vegas Club, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch Demolition, Plus Vegas Vickie’s Fate

There’s a lot going on at the Las Vegas Club site in downtown Las Vegas, and we’ve got all the skinny about the upcoming demolition set to clear the way for a new hotel-casino.

Demolition of a one block site at Fremont Street and Main, informally called “18 Fremont,” will begin on or around July 15, 2017.

All the structures on the block will be taken down to ground level, including the closed Las Vegas Club casino and its two hotel towers, Mermaids casino and Girls of Glitter Gulch strip club.

At one time, it was believed the older of the two Las Vegas Club hotel towers would be imploded, but it’s now been decided no implosion will take place.

Las Vegas Club

If you’re a fan of things being “blowed up real good,” sorry. The Las Vegas Club hotel towers are coming down with a whimper, not a bang.

Demolition in mid-July will begin with a small office structure once used as the management offices of Granite Gaming, owners of Mermaids and Glitter Gulch. Removal of that building, along with a couple of smaller buildings (one a power house, another an “annex”), will make way for some heavy duty demolition equipment to set up shop in the middle of the block.

One of the cranes which will be moved into the site is said to be the largest demolition crane of its kind in the world.

Next, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch will bite the dust.

Mermaids casino

This makes Mermaids prettier than it actually was, trust us.

The owners of the property, Derek and Greg Stevens, along with their team, have devoted an extraordinary amount of time creating an inventory of the signage on all the structures involved in the demolition.

Vegas Vickie, for example, will be removed from the Glitter Gulch facade on June 12, 2017.

It’s estimated the Stevens will invest $11,000 just to remove the iconic sign. There are questions as to whether Vegas Vickie can even be removed intact given her deteriorated condition.

Vegas Vickie

It’s unclear whether Vegas Vickie’s removal will necessitate a divorce from Vegas Vic. They were married in 1994. Not kidding.

Vegas Vickie will ultimately be restored and put on display. Exactly where Vickie will end up hasn’t been decided, but early word is that it will most certainly remain in downtown Las Vegas and is expected to be even more accessible for photo ops.

In the meantime, she’ll be packed up and kept in storage until details of a new location can be sorted out.

It’s estimated the cost of restoring Vegas Vickie could be as much as $100,000. Talk about high maintenance.

There are dozens of other signs in and around Las Vegas Club, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch, including another classic sign, a neon beauty which reads Golden Goose.

Golden Goose casino

Golden Goose opened as the State Cafe. Then it was was Buckley’s Casino, and later the Mecca Casino. Oh, like you’re going to remember all this.

Many of the signs will be salvaged prior to the demolition, and Derek Stevens has said some signs and other fixtures in and on the buildings will be given away in casino promotions. Listen to our recent podcast to hear more.

We’ve learned exclusively the giveaways will begin in August 2017, and players will have a chance to win letters from the various “Las Vegas Club” signs at the site. There are 24 letters up for grabs.

Las Vegas Club sign

Dibs on a “V.” Because Vital Vegas. Please try and keep up.

The demolition will continue around the site, with the Las Vegas Club’s street level casino next on the chopping block.

Then, it’s on to a parking structure on the northeast side of the site.

Finally, the older of the two hotel towers (14 stories) will be taken down, then the newer tower (15 stories) will meet its end. The buildings won’t be taken down floor by floor, but in “columns.”

Here’s a look at the various phases of the demolition project at 18 Fremont.

18 Fremont demolition

Here’s the plan. 1. Granite Gaming office. 2. Mermaids and Glitter Gulch. 3. Las Vegas Club casino. 4. Parking structure. 5. Old tower. 6. New tower.

By the way, the band names on the rooftops are remnants of a video used to promote the Life is Beautiful music festival back in 2015.

That’s Fremont Street Experience in the upper right of the photo, where we work in digital marketing as our day job. The D and Golden Gate, part of the Fremont Street Experience, are owned by the Stevens.

If all goes as planned, demolition at the 18 Fremont site will be completed in November 2017.

In an intriguing twist, it’s been announced slot play will return to Las Vegas Club and Mermaids for eight hours each on June 27-28, 2017.

A quirky (and costly) gaming rule requires that slot play be made available to the public for at least eight hours every two years. Yes, it’s a deeply stupid rule, but hey, this blog loves it some quirky. Check out our visit to another temporary casino, Moulin Rouge.

temporary casino

Yeah, not exactly your typical flashy Las Vegas casino. The worst part: No cocktail service.

One of the stranger aspects of the whole temporary casino nonsense is casino owners don’t keep the money played on the machines. The whole operation is set up by a vendor, United Coin Machine.

So, that should provide some idea of what’s going down at the former Las Vegas Club at 18 Fremont. The official name of the new resort has yet to be announced, but trust us, we’re doing a lot of poking around.

The Las Vegas Club opened in 1930 and had the second neon sign in all of Las Vegas (the first at a casino). The Las Vegas Club closed at midnight on August 19, 2015. Glitter Gulch closed on June 27, 2016. Mermaids closed on June 27, 2016.

There’s lots of new and shiny on the way, but first there’s some serious house cleaning to do.

Expect more photos, drone footage and security breaches in the months to come. Allegedly.

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Neon Museum Rolls Out Signs for Expanded Boneyard

The Las Vegas Neon Museum has begun taking vintage signs out of storage to display them in a new part of its Neon Boneyard.

The Neon Museum recently demolished an adjacent building, expanding its relatively small footprint. The additional space is just .27 acres, but that’s a lot when measured in classic Las Vegas signs.

One of the signs is a truck-sized monster from the demolished Stardust.

Neon Museum Stardust

We miss you even more than our own youth and virility, Stardust.

The Neon Museum’s expansion will also feature a sign from the Riviera.

Neon Museum Riviera sign

Riviera closed on May 4, 2015, to make way for a super sexy parking lot.

It’s also expected the new space will have signs from the Las Vegas Club, Spearmint Rhino, Longhorn Casino, Opera House Gambling Club.

While we’ve never heard of the Polynesian casino, its sign is apparently one of the signs already on-site.

Neon Museum

We are blog, not a historian.

With a little digging, we found out more about the Polynesian. The Polynesian was one of the many incarnations of what is now the Hooters resort. Prior to becoming the Polynesian, it was the Howard Johnson Hotel, Paradise, 20th Century, Treasury and the Pacifica. It later became the Hotel San Remo.

We can’t wait to see what the Neon Museum has in store. We got a little riled up when we saw random Googie stars lying around the site.

Neon Museum Googie stars

Googie architecture and design flourished from the 1940s to the 1960s, at which time hippies ruined everything.

Fans of the Neon Museum will be happy to hear they’ll be bringing some vintage neon to The Strip for the first time. The Neon Museum is partnering with Fashion Show Mall, and will install a sign from the Red Barn at the shopping complex in June.

The signs at Fashion Show Mall will be swapped out every few months.

Red Barn neon sign

At one time, the Red Barn sign was on display at Fremont Street Experience. It left after becoming annoyed by those idiots beating on plastic buckets.

While we’re on the subject, the Red Barn opened in the late 1950s as an antique store at 1317 Tropicana Avenue. In the early ’60s, it was converted it into a bar. The bar became a favorite spot for the gay community in Las Vegas. The Red Barn closed in 1988.

You can learn more about the Neon Museum at the official site, and the museum’s expanded space should be completed and ready for viewing later this year.

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14 Sips of New, Cool and WTF in Downtown Las Vegas

Things move fast in Las Vegas, so we’ve carelessly slapped together a list of 14 new things happening in downtown Las Vegas to keep you in the loop.

Why 14 things? Well, it was originally 20, but in Sin City, the house always takes its vig. Or something.

1. Golden Gate Expansion

The expansion of the Golden Gate into the former La Bayou space is moving at a brisk pace. Note: Every great list of Las Vegas things begins with a security breach.

Golden Gate expansion

Golden Gate is doing a lot with a little. La Bayou was a mere 25 feet wide and 130 feet deep.

It’s expected the new structure will be completed in August 2017 and will feature 100 new slot machines. Here’s an inside look at the expansion construction.

2. Pop-Up BBQ

Across Fremont Street from the Golden Gate, a new BBQ truck has taken up residence in a spot where two shops used to be. Find it between the closed Mermaids and Glitter Gulch strip club.

The shops were purchased by Derek and Greg Stevens for $13.5 million and the space will eventually be part of a new resort, currently referred to as 18 Fremont.

BBQ truck

There are only about four things on the menu. That means less time waffling, more time carnivoring.

It seems the BBQ truck idea is catching on, and the pop-up restaurant will be in place as demolition of the closed Las Vegas Club begins in Q3. Derek Stevens talks about his new resort on our podcast, so have a listen.

downtown Las Vegas

Fun fact: If some of the accessories look familiar, it’s because they’re from the closed Mermaids casino, right next door.

3. Pizza Rock Menus

Just when we thought Pizza Rock couldn’t get any better, it busts out some awesome new menus. Real album covers with real albums inside double as menus. Glorious.

Pizza Rock

Millennial translation: “Albums” were made of vinyl and people used them to listen to music back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

4. Fear the Walking Dead: Survival Attraction

Demolition and construction have begun on a new attraction at Fremont Street Experience. The new walk-through attraction, inspired by “Fear the Walking Dead,” will be a mixture of escape room, maze and interactive motion ride. Here’s a look at the space.

Fear the Walking Dead Survival

Given the zombie theme, think how much money they’d save by just leaving it like this and adding zombies.

The “Fear the Walking Dead: Survival” attraction will be near the base of the SlotZilla zip line tower and is expected to open in July 2017.

downtown Las Vegas

We actually work at Fremont Street Experience as our day job. If you can’t security breach at your own place of employment, where can you security breach?

5. SlotZilla Video Screens

The SlotZilla zip line tower got an upgrade to its video screens. The largest screen is 23 feet wide. Three others simulate the reels of a (wait for it) slot machine.

SlotZilla

Yes, we rode it, and we are not a heights person. Thank you, comedy-hypnotist Marc Savard.

Here’s a look at all the dudes it took to install the largest screen.

SlotZilla zip line

You should probably consider something a little smaller for your man cave.

6. Hennessey’s Pint Glass

The seemingly endless process of rebranding the “World’s Largest Pint Glass” at Hennessey’s Tavern continues. The glass will eventually transform into a mug touting Not Your Grandfather’s Root Beer, including the addition of a massive handle.

Hennessey's pint glass

This is the back of the pint glass. The front side is 85 feet tall. That’s a lot of head.

7. Inspire Bar Windows

A small tweak to the exterior of the street-level bar at Inspire Theater has opened up the space and lets guests experience the sights and sounds and occasional fragrances of Fremont Street.

Inspire lounge

It’s actually “Inspire Bar, Lounge and Theatre.” Yes, with the fancy spelling of “theatre.”

The bar is quite welcoming, and yes, they have Captain Morgan spiced rum, the best thing since the advent of sex on giant Ferris wheels. Allegedly.

Inspire bar

Inspire is at the corner of Fremont Street, Las Vegas Blvd. and Hipster Avenue.

8. Progress at The Vault

At long last, there’s activity at a new bar on Fremont East, The Vault. Previously, the space was home to a clothing store called Coterie. Not sure where things are on Fremont East? We did walking tour.

The Vault Fremont East

The Vault is located between the Griffin and Beauty Bar, which you have also never heard of.

Outside, not a security breach. Inside, security breach.

The Vault Fremont Street

The Vault could be the hottest new spot for gymnasts in Las Vegas, unless we’ve completely misread the meaning of “vault.”

9. Changes at Emergency Arts and Eureka

A mural-covered construction wall has come down at the Emergency Arts Building across the street from El Cortez. There’s a lot of activity inside the building’s bottom floor where a new restaurant, Eureka, is expected to open soon. The space used to be the Beat Coffeehouse. There will be a quiz.

Eureka Las Vegas

Eureka sure is taking its sweet time.

10. Stoned N Baked Closes

A tasty pizza shop inside the Downtown Container Park has closed. The owner says he sold the business, including the equipment and recipes, to the Downtown Project, with promises the shop would open again in some form.

Stoned N Baked

Recreational marijuana will be available for sale in Las Vegas on July 1, 2017. Missed it by that much.

11. ChillSpot Closes, Puffles On the Way

Also at the Container Park, a frozen pop store called ChillSpot (owned by the same folks as Stoned N Baked) has also closed. A new “gelato and waffles” shop, Puffles, will take over the space.

Puffles

Puffles cones use egg waffles which originated in Hong Kong, a city whose king once climbed the Empire State Building.

12. The Dome

In other Downtown Container Park news, The Dome has opened. The dome-shaped theater seats 25 people and offers five different shows (mostly music-driven and family fare) and one interactive shooting game.

The Dome Las Vegas

In “Logan’s Run,” people rose into the air and blew up as part of a ritual called Carrousel. Location: Dome.

13. Petting Zoo

You knew we’d get to the WTF, eventually. This one’s flown under the radar, but it seems there’s a petting zoo coming the the Downtown Project’s Learning Center space.

Friends of the Wild

We spend way too much time poking our nose into places we shouldn’t.

Friends of the Wild will be a “a non-profit educational animal facility,” and appears to be in the fundraising phase. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

Friends of the Wild

Las Vegas Zoo closed. Roos-N-More closed. Let’s get it right this time, please.

14. Bonanza Gift Shop Signs

Bonanza Gift Shop is sort of downtown. Well, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop” has finally gotten around to repairing its signs damaged by high winds in March 2017. And we’re using the word “repairing” very liberally here.

Bonanza Gift Shop

Being the world’s largest gift shop means there’s plenty of space to store all the WTF.

There are always new things going on in downtown Las Vegas. If you spot something new or notable, drop us a line.

Full disclosure: This blog’s day job is in the marketing department at Fremont Street Experience. Our opinions, especially the most idiotic, are entirely our own.

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Commissary Restaurant at Downtown Grand Closes, Converts to eSports Lounge

The long-struggling Commissary After Dark restaurant at the Downtown Grand resort has closed.

The space is still being used, however. The restaurant’s tables and chairs have been removed, and now the space has been reconfigured as the Downtown Underground eSports Lounge.

Commissary

Out with the underperforming restaurant, in with the millennials playing first person shooters.

The eSports lounge could once be found in the former high limit slot room in the casino at Downtown Grand.

Moving the eSports lounge across the street makes some sense given the fact eSports tends to draw a younger crowd, but only those 21 and older can be in a casino. The move to the former Commissary space means another, even younger, crop of video game competitors and enthusiasts can join in the fun.

The Downtown Underground eSports Lounge hosts events and tournaments Fridays and Saturdays, 4:00 p.m. to midnight.

Downtown Underground eSports

For better or worse, everybody in Vegas is jumping on the eSports bandwagon, but Downtown Grand was way ahead of the pack.

You can stay abreast of all things eSports at Downtown Grand on the official Facebook page of the Downtown Underground eSports Lounge.

Downtown Grand had big plans for Commissary After Dark when it opened, including using the space as a nightlife venue. In recent months, the restaurant had been reduced to serving coffee and snacks for a few hours each morning.

There are tons of great dining options in the immediate vicinity of the closed Commissary, including Freedom Beat inside Downtown Grand, the reliably excellent Triple George Grill and the incomparable, must-try Pizza Rock.

Who knows if eSports is going to be a thing for Las Vegas casinos. If it is, though, now it has a new place to be it. A thing, that is. Please try and keep up.

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