SlotZilla: The Berlin Wall of Fremont Street?
Wed, Mar 13, 2013 (2:33 p.m.)
It seems only natural to walk back and forth between the Fremont Street Experience, our LED canopy-covered drag of old-school casinos, and Fremont East, the hip couple of blocks of bars and burgeoning Downtown culture. But it’s not easy anymore. In fact, it kinda sucks, and it’s SlotZilla’s fault.
Construction is under way on the first phase of this only-in-Vegas project, a 120-foot launching tower for an upgraded set of zip lines whooshing up and down Fremont Street. Right in front of Neonopolis, crews are digging 65 feet down to anchor supports, and they’ll build a landing pad in front of the Fremont Casino 850 feet to the west. This is the smaller portion of SlotZilla; the second phase will create 112-foot-high, 1,700-foot-long zip lines extending to another landing pad in front of Golden Gate. Fremont Street Experience will operate the attraction and expects to make a killing.
Like the illuminated canopy did in 1995, SlotZilla will change the dynamics of Fremont Street. It will block historic views of iconic casino signs, many of which are already obstructed. It might also become the physical manifestation of a distinct divide on the Downtown thoroughfare; casinos for tourists on one side and Fremont East for locals on the other. The cool kids are flocking to places such as Emergency Arts, Insert Coin(s) and Le Thai, but rarely venturing across Las Vegas Boulevard. And with a coming influx of Zappos employees, Downtown Project developments and potential new residents — people looking for services and a neighborhood, not casinos and tourist attractions — the Fremont divide will likely expand.
It’s impossible to predict the evolution of Fremont East and the surrounding area — there’s simply too much going on. And there are a handful of destinations — the Neon Museum and El Cortez, for example — that seem to capably straddle the chasm between old and new, providing something for everyone. But so far, it seems as if New Downtown isn’t sure how it feels about embracing Less New Downtown. SlotZilla might as well be the Great Wall of Fremont Street. Maybe we’ll have to build taller zip lines to fly over it.