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January 20, 2019

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Las Vegas History:

Visit the Vegas that never happened: A look back at projects that fizzled

Dream City Rendering

Courtesy

The Starship Enterprise, 1992, is a proposed mega-attraction designed by Landmark Entertainment Group with a life-sized ship as long as the Eiffel Tower, in permanent dry dock on Fremont Street.

After waking up in your suite at the Titanic, a giant resort shaped like infamous ocean liner, you take a cab to the space-themed Moon hotel-casino on your way to an afternoon of motocross riding and wakeboarding at Vegas Extreme amusement park.

Along the way you pass Parabounce Vegas, where people are playing an airborne version of bumper cars in which they bounce off of each other while strapped to huge helium balloons. Those who float high enough can catch a glimpse of a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge outside a San Francisco-themed casino.

Welcome to the Vegas that never happened.

The city's history is peppered with attractions that existed only on paper and vanished not long after being floated. Here are some of them:

    • A Garden Tower view rendering of 'Vegas Extreme,'  a newly proposed extreme sports attraction for the Strip. The rendering was designed by M-Rad, of Los Angeles.

      Vegas Extreme

      Australian entrepreneur Josh Kearney's $50 million amusement park would have featured a white sand beach, wave machines and a 7-acre lake for jet skiing, wakeboarding and more. Kearney also envisioned a dirt track for motorcycling and BMX cycling, and 60 hotel rooms made of repurposed shipping containers. An on-site organic vegetable garden would have supplied food to patrons.

      Eighty percent of the park's energy needs would have been provided by solar panels and wind turbines.

      "I'm a big dreamer," Kearney said when announcing the project in 2013.

      The project remains in dream phase.

    • The proposed London Resort and Casino would have sat on the old El Rancho property, which is now the site of the Fontainebleau on the north Strip.

      City-themed

      Had things gone differently, the Fontainebleau site would have housed a resort kind of like New York New York but based on London. The developers, Turnberry Associates, envisioned replicas of Big Ben and the Tower Bridge as part of a 44-story 2,047-room hotel.

      South of the site, casino developer Phil Ruffin proposed replacing the New Frontier, which he owned at the time, with a San Francisco-themed resort called City by the Bay. The New Frontier is gone, having been imploded, but the site is still empty.

    • Desert Kingdom, 1993: Destined for the site now home to the Wynn, this resort concept had African and Java-inspired elements and a riverboat ride under the casino.

      Desert Kingdom

      Proposed in the early 1990s, Desert Kingdom was a $750 million theme part, casino and hotel complex featuring a 3,500-room hotel, a 135,000-square-foot casino south of the old Desert Inn.

    • An artist's rendering of the Skyvue complex near Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip.

      SkyVue

      The race was on: Which observation wheel would be finished first? Construction crews broke ground on both the High Roller wheel in the Linq complex and the SkyVue project across from Mandalay Bay began in 2011. But after workers completed the support arms for SkyVue, the project stalled while the High Roller took off. SkyVue is still two concrete sticks poking out of the ground, and scaffolding has been removed.

    • An artist's rendering of the proposed Titanic hotel-casino which was announced by former Las Vegas casino owner Bob Stupak at a press conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 8, 1999. The proposed $1.2 billion project is planned for the Las Vegas Strip and would feature 1,200 rooms and an "iceberg" housing an 1,800 seat theater.

      Titanic

      In 1999, two years the movie "Titanic" was released, Las Vegas businessman Bob Stupak announced he was raising money to build a Titanic-themed resort. Stupak's version would have been more than 400 feet high, more that twice the height of the ship, and would have cost $1.2 billion. Stupak, who had turned Vegas World into a moneymaker and conceived the Stratosphere, sought rezoning of property near Las Vegas Boulevard and Park Paseo, just south of Charleston Boulevard, for the project. But neighbors didn't like it, and the Las Vegas City Council denied Stupak's request for rezoning.

    • The Starship Enterprise, 1992, is a proposed mega-attraction designed by Landmark Entertainment Group with a life-sized ship as long as the Eiffel Tower, in permanent dry dock on Fremont Street.

      "Star Trek"

      Entertainment designer Gary Goddard revealed he submitted a proposal in 1992 to build a full-scale version of the USS Enterprise from "Star Trek" in downtown Las Vegas to help lure tourists away from the Strip. According to lore, downtown developers opted instead to build the Fremont Street Experience. The $150 million Enterprise project, which Goddard said he created as an entry for a contest about how to revitalize downtown, was to be about 1,000 feet long.

    • In 1975 Martin Stern Jr. proposed the Xanadu, an ultra luxury resort and casino, for the site now occupied by Excalibur.

      Xanadu

      Martin Stern Jr., who designed the International (now Westgate Las Vegas) and original MGM Grand (now Bally's), incorporated ideas that would prove visionary in his 1,730-room Xanadu resort project. It featured an open atrium, similar to the one at the Luxor, and the first parking garage at a Strip property.

      But the Xanadu, which was to be built on the site where the Excalibur now stands, fell apart because of a dispute over infrastructure. Officials wanted developers to pay for installation of a sewer line that developers didn't believe was needed.

    • Concept art for Parabounce Vegas, pictured here, showcases the 100,000-square-foot facility near the Strip that would allow visitors to power helium balloons hundreds of feet in the air. Stephen Meadows, the concept's inventor, hopes to debut Parabounce Vegas in 2011.

      Parabounce Vegas

      Imagine this: 20 people, strapped to 22-foot helium balloons, floating and soaring hundreds of feet in the air in a 100,000-square-foot “bubble dome.”

      Think of it as “3-D bumper cars,” said Stephen Meadows, who conceived the project.

      That was in 2010. Four years later, the project still hasn't gotten off of the ground.

    • Elvis and Ann-Margret heat up racing in a publicity photo for the 1964 film "Viva Las Vegas."

      Pop-culture flops

      Elvis may be part of Las Vegas' DNA, but a property themed on the Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love never came together. Plans called for a $3.1 billion resort just south of Planet Hollywood with a 2,269-room hotel and a 93,000-square-foot casino. But the recession hit, and the company that proposed the project declared bankruptcy in 2010.

      Similar projects that fizzled included casinos themed on the WWF, Playboy magazine, the "Addams Family" and "Beverly Hillbillies," and Harley-Davidson, which featured hotel towers designed to look like exhaust pipes.

    • The 1,500-foot-long canopy over downtown's Fremont Street Experience that serves as a giant video screen was unveiled in 1995 and upgraded in 2004.

      Las Venice

      Before his Bellagio fountains became an iconic attraction in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn had an idea for another water feature. This one was a $25 million plan to build a Venice-like series of canals downtown. Amid criticism about the project being an irresponsible use of water — even though the canals were to be filled with recycled wastewater — the plan died out. But Wynn, whose company owned the Golden Nugget at the time, didn't leave downtown dry in terms of ideas for attractions. He recruited Jon Jerde, the architect who designed the Fremont Street Experience light show canopy.

    • Moon

      As envisioned by Michael Henderson, a Canadian entrepreneur who co-founded a chain of Lasik eye surgery clinics, Moon was a 10,000-room, $5 billion monolith that would have featured a lunar-themed aquatic center, a shopping complex, a biosphere and moon buggy rides.

      Henderson pitched the idea in 2002. Jay Kornmayer, a national gaming lending expert and longtime commercial banking executive, had this to say about the project at the time: "I don't know if I understand the correlation (between) what he's spending and what he hopes to make — and I think the investment community is going to come to the same conclusion."

      Investors did just that, and Moon never happened.

    • Grandissimo

      The brainchild of Jay Sarno, who created Caesars Palace and Circus Circus, Grandissimo was a 6,000-room resort teeming with fountains and waterfalls — sort of like the Mirage, but years before its time. Sarno spent the last years of his life trying to raise money for the project, but the funding never materialized and the proposed resort died with him in 1984.

    • Crown Las Vegas

      Texas businessman Chris Milam had big dreams — build an 1,888-foot tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, on the vacant site adjacent to what is now SLS Las Vegas. The tower would have been the centerpiece of a $5 billion, 5,000-room resort. But the money never materialized, and Milam's character took a hit when the city of Henderson sued him for fraud over a stadium proposal he had pitched. As part of a settlement in the suit, the city banned Milam from working on future developments in Henderson.

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