Friday, Feb. 6, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Neonopolis has taken networking to a whole new level.
Rohit Joshi, the owner’s representative for Neonopolis, welcomed Telemundo to the downtown Las Vegas property last week and announced he has a signed contract to house the Star Trek Experience.
What makes the deal so unusual is that Telemundo is owned by NBC, while rival network CBS owns the rights to the Star Trek brand.
In this world of multinational corporations with diverse assets, it’s certainly not inconceivable that subsidiaries of these rivals could share space.
Still, having two high-profile brands of direct competitors in the same venue raised some eyebrows. Scott Adams, redevelopment manager for Las Vegas, decided late last year to gauge the level of interest in the separate projects firsthand and came away convinced.
“I went to New York with Joshi the first week of December to meet with NBC and CBS to validate their interest in Neonopolis,” Adams said. “Clearly NBC has plans for Telemundo here and with the new movie coming out, CBS expressed a real interest in seeing the Star Trek Experience reopen here. I brought up the connection to the other network in both meetings and no one seemed too concerned about it.”
The latest installment in the Star Trek series is slated to be released in May.
It features new actors playing the familiar roles of Kirk, Spock and others from the original series as Star Fleet neophytes. A trailer for the movie that premiered during the Super Bowl offered a glimpse of the Star Trek on steroids that is expected to capture a whole new generation of Trekkies.
There has been speculation about the Star Trek Experience moving to the $100 million facility at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, but the signed contract makes the project almost a certainty. The city has even amended its parking agreement with Neonopolis to allow additional spaces for the new attraction.
The city owns the garage beneath Neonopolis and Wirrulla Hayward, the company Joshi represents, owns the structure itself.
“CBS is very excited to bring the Star Trek Experience here,” Joshi said. “We have the potential to bring almost half of what the canopy draws downtown with one tenant.”
The Fremont Street Experience, which includes the Viva Vision light show displayed on the canopy above Fremont Street, brings an estimated 18 million visitors downtown annually. Joshi said the Star Trek Experience could draw an additional 7 million visitors each year.
With the projected admission of $20 to $25 per person, it is easy to see why Joshi and CBS are so enthusiastic.
The first phase of the new Star Trek Experience is scheduled to launch in the spring.
Telemundo set up its new Las Vegas office in Neonopolis last month. The Spanish-language network has leased 17,500 square feet of space on the third floor of the complex for a broadcast studio.
Celia Chavez, general manager of the network’s operations in Las Vegas and Denver, said Telemundo is excited about the new location.
“There is a lot of energy and passion here with all that is happening at Neonopolis,” Chavez said. “This is a unique broadcasting opportunity that we hope this will help take our brand to the next level.”
The Telemundo office will employ 24 people initially, including a sales team and a news bureau. There is also the potential for increased remote broadcasts for the network as well as its parent company, NBC.
“There is a lot of synergy with our brand and (NBC),” Chavez said. “We are still in the installation stages here, but we are always open to new ideas.”
The other new tenants at Neonopolis, the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art and the Southern Nevada Center for the Arts, have also settled in. The art museum is displaying the Revealing Women Redux exhibit, which includes sculptures by Roberta Baskin Shefrin and the paintings of Susanne Forestieri, as well as the museum’s own Barbizon School collection.
The initial response from the community at our location here has been great,” said Joe Palermo, a well-known local artist and the museum’s executive director.
The space next door to the art museum has blossomed from an empty food court into a working artist’s showcase. More than 50 artists from around the world have filled the 30 spaces available (some have doubled up) with paintings, sculptures, jewelry and just about every other form of art imaginable.
“This has really been a collaborative effort,” said Carl Corcoran, president of the Southern Nevada Center for the Arts. “A lot of people have had a hand in getting this going.”
Artists of note at the center include Palermo, Michael Griesgraber, A.D. Cook and Ruel James, whose work is in the collections of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg and Burt Reynolds.
The remnants of the former food court that previously occupied the space are the neon lights overhead that now serve to enhance the artistic experience.
Neonopolis lost a high-profile tenant recently when Jillian’s closed its doors, but even that setback has not dampened the enthusiasm at the project. Joshi said several prospective tenants have expressed an interest in the site, including a national restaurant chain.
Despite some big crowds for teen-oriented events, Jillian’s has struggled to generate the kind of consistent business needed to fill the cavernous venue, which took up portions of two floors at the site.
“They tried very hard to make a go of it, but there was just no brand there anymore,” Joshi said. “Branding is critical to success now.”
Del Prado Jewelers maintains its space at Neonopolis as does the Galaxy Theatres, and Joshi says the other vacant spaces will also be filled with what he called “blow-your-mind brand name” tenants.
The upscale nightclub Wet and several restaurants have pushed opening dates to the spring to cash in on the buzz generated by the Star Trek Experience’s opening.
“We will probably open them before Star Trek to give them a few weeks head start,” Joshi said.
The Star Trek Experience is slated to open May 8, the same date as the movie’s premiere. The experience will be introduced in phases, with the simpler (and less costly) components, such as the food and beverage, retail and museum to be rolled out first. The entire experience, including rides and an IMAX 4D component should be completed by next year.
Possible tie-ins to the May movie opening include merchandise sales and a Las Vegas red carpet premiere, complete with cast members.