Joe Downtown: Fremont game changers include Slotzilla, Container Park and new Downtown Grand
It used to be that a restaurant opening downtown was big news. The area was seen as a wasteland for so long that the debut of any new businesses or venture was seen as almost miraculous.
Businesses are opening left and right and multimillion-dollar projects have transformed the area.
The Fremont Street Experience electric canopy went up in 1995, and Neonopolis opened in 2002. More recently, the Mob Museum, Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Neon Museum and new City Hall opened, while the Downtown Project snapped up $200 million worth of property for redevelopment.
What's the next big thing on tap? There are several contenders:
Life is Beautiful
The music, food, art and learning festival has been in the works for more than a year and is only two weeks away. It is expected to draw 50,000 people.
Events will spread over 15 city blocks, which will serve as the backdrop for music stages, a culinary village, an art zone and a speakers bureau. Organizers say the festival will be the biggest Las Vegas has hosted.
The goal is to help boost the downtown community and bring awareness to all its offerings.
Life is Beautiful runs Oct. 26 and 27.
Container Park, which will house dozens of restaurants, bars and shops, is expected to open up a new part of East Fremont Street and cast the area in a different light.
It is scheduled to open in mid-November, although the opening date has changed many times.
With an oversized, fire-shooting praying mantis at its entrance and a playground for children in its center, developers hope the mall will draw people past downtown's unofficial line of demarcation at 6th and Fremont streets. That, in turn, they hope, will spark redevelopment further east on Fremont and encourage a faster progression.
The former Lady Luck is slated to open Nov. 12 with a new name and a $100 million facelift.
The Grand will take a novel approach for a casino, offering people a chance to patronize its many bars and restaurants without having to weave past dozens of slot machines and gaming tables.
Owners also plan to hire 800 employees, which is likely to have a huge impact on the downtown economy.
Slotzilla is so tall at 108 feet, it's rumored that you can see it from Henderson.
When it opens this year, the towering slot machine attraction will spit out zipline riders under the Fremont Street Experience canopy. They'll travel 35 mph for the length of several football fields.
The longest of two rides will run 1,750 feet. The shorter ride will run 800 feet and cost $20.
This space for speakers, set to open Nov. 10, will take over a former 7-Eleven bought by the Downtown Project.
And it won’t be just an intellectuals' haunt. It also will house a bar, coffee shop and newsstand.
It also will be a big step in the right direction for redevelopment in the Fremont East neighborhood.
Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.