by Ron Endres - 4/27/2006
In this, the most modern of American cities, another casino implosion is just months away. Yes, the Stardust is next on the hit list. It's now on borrowed time.
We longtime Las Vegans are implosion hardened. We have witnessed the demolition of the Landmark, Hacienda, Dunes, Sands, Desert Inn, Castaways, Silver Slipper, El Rancho, Aladdin, Bourbon Street, Westward Ho and the Boardwalk. Yet, none will hit home like the Stardust. If ever there was a magical name for a Vegas casino, it was the Stardust.
It will, of course, be redeveloped. It sits on 63-acres of valuable land, and was long overdue for a facelift. But, now, the kicker! Boyd Gaming Corp. will call its replacement "Echelon Place".
At a cost of $4 billion, `the cost of competing on the Strip has gone up', it will be a multiple-hotel, retail, dining and convention resort with a total of 5,300 guest rooms. It is expected to open in 2010.
Boyd purchased "The Dust" in 1985. It is one of the company's 18 properties in six states. Not bad, considering the late founder, Sam Boyd, arrived in Las Vegas in 1941 with $80 to his name.
The Stardust opened its doors in 1958. In its early days it was more like the Mob's personal candy store as the skim was in. It was depicted in the 1995 movie "Casino".
The Stardust marquee will forever be etched in the minds of anyone who has ever set foot on "The Strip". My memories go way back to when "Lido de Paris" was the feature on that sign.
Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal opened the Stardust's world famous Race and Sportsbook in the mid 70s. His extraordinary vision set the standard for sports betting in Las Vegas. It became the prototype for Vegas bet shops during the 80s and 90s. The opening betting line on the major sporting events for three decades originated at the Stardust. The Sunday night ritual during the football season had a cast of characters that made it a spectacle like none other.
John Kelly, the longtime host of "The Stardust Line" daily radio show, stated that "through the years the Stardust played host to thousands of sports fans from every corner of the country and from all walks of life. It was a real possibility to see a well-healed doctor or millionaire lawyer chatting with a tough looking character who was one bet away from being dead broke. Their lives were worlds apart, but their goals were the same, `find an edge to win their next bet'."
Over the next five years, more than $30 billion in high-end development is expected on the Las Vegas Strip, which already has 43 casinos. An additional 40,000 new condo and hotel rooms are planned. There is currently a 132,000-room inventory for the entire city. Room rates are currently averaging $120 with a 91 percent occupancy rate.
Already under way is the biggest and most expensive construction project ever attempted on the Strip. The MGM Mirage Corporations "Project City Center" has a price tag of $6 billion. Located between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio on 66-acres, City Center is expected to open in 2009. There will be 4,000 construction workers employed. When completed, it will tower 40-60 stories above the Strip, and have 8,000 employees.
Some of the world's leading architects will re-create its walking neighborhood, 4,000 room resort, 500,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 2,800 luxury condo units. It will also feature many dining and entertainment venues.
While some projects won't get past the rumor stage, many of the older casinos are still ripe for the wrecking ball. Expect changes at the Riviera, Circus, Frontier, Imperial Palace and the Tropicana.
Other new names will include the Encore adjacent to Wynn, and the Palazzo next door to the Venetian. Also, Hooters has replaced the San Remo, and the Aladdin is about to be known as Planet Hollywood.
Should there be concerns about over building on the Strip? I thought the party was over when I moved here in 1979. So what do I know?
A favorite pastime of the "Sin City" locals will continue to be complaining. Whether it is about the terrible traffic, corrupt politicians, hot summers, how the casinos still run the town, and that there is no culture or history. But, the 40 million annual tourists seem to like the excitement of the ever-changing "New Vegas". And, all I will have left are my "Stardust Memories".