Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2019

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Tower tries to stretch Strip boundary north of Sahara

The headline in the Sept. 17, 1978, issue of the SUN reads: "Vegas World Extends 'Strip.'"

The article noted that: "Las Vegas Boulevard South, known to earlier Las Vegans as South Fifth Street and now throughout the civilized world as 'the fabulous Las Vegas Strip,' will be lengthened by 1,200 feet in early 1979."

But a good many Las Vegans would argue that the then-under-construction resort did not stretch the unofficial but traditional Strip borderline northward from Sahara Avenue.

The question now is: Does the far more elaborate Stratosphere Tower resort at the same location accomplish what Vegas World apparently did not?

"I don't see where there is any way you can say that we are not at the top of the Strip," said Andrew Blumen, vice president and general counsel for Stratosphere Corp.

"There is no doubt the Strip ends with us. And I'm sure Bob Stupak (former Vegas World owner and part owner of the Stratosphere) would say the same was true for Vegas World."

Right off the bat, the Stratosphere is attempting to establish its ties to the Strip fraternity with the slogan: "We define the top of the Strip."

Frank Wright, curator of the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society, said the city of Las Vegas-Clark County boundary line through the middle of Sahara Avenue "dates as far back as 1920 and perhaps further."

The local historian said the reason the Strip also ends at that point is that casino builders of the 1940s saw an opportunity to avoid city taxes and codes and to buy undeveloped county land more cheaply.

"The first hotel built in 1941 was the El Rancho Vegas (now a vacant lot on the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard several hundred yards south of Sahara) -- and the location was chosen deliberately to avoid city taxes," Wright said.

Attempts by the city to annex the land in 1946 -- the Last Frontier opened in 1942 and the Flamingo opened in December 1946, both considerably south of Sahara -- failed when 90 percent of the very few residents there protested.

"The Strip ending at Sahara became a matter of a psychological perception as well as a legal boundary," Wright said. "I would like to see the concept of the Strip extend northward because the additional development would be good for the community."

But perhaps more than perception was Stupak's rebel attitude that prevented people from accepting that the Strip indeed extended to his strange and tacky casino adorned with spaceship murals.

"You have to go back to the mid-1970s when Bob developed the Polish Maverick persona that cast himself as the outsider looking in," Blumen said. "Grand Casinos (the major shareholder in the Stratosphere) is the antithesis of that.

"We have a first-class project that people will consider on the same level as any Strip mega-resort."

Stupak, who survived a near-fatal March 1995 motorcycle accident, has since eschewed his rebellious image for that of a benevolent community leader -- a persona more in tune with that of the new resort.

Stratosphere spokeswoman Pat Marvel said another reason Sahara Avenue has perhaps been considered the far-north point of the Strip is "there never has been anything as cool as the Stratosphere" north of it.

Blumen also noted that the city approached the Stratosphere two years ago and asked that the company foot the bill for part of the Strip Beautification Project from Cincinnati Avenue north to Main Street -- a cost of $600,000.

The city will pay for the landscaping from Sahara north to Cincinnati, further creating the image that the Strip extends beyond Sahara.