Fremont Street Experience

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The FSE with the neon lights on

The Fremont Street Experience (FSE) is a pedestrian mall and attraction in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. The FSE occupies the westernmost 5 blocks of Fremont Street, including the area known for years as "Glitter Gulch," and portions of some other adjacent streets.

The attraction is a barrel vault canopy, 90 ft (27 m) high at the peak and four blocks, or approximately 1,500 ft (460 m), in length.

While Las Vegas is known for never turning the outside casino lights off, each show begins by turning off the lights on all of the buildings, including the casinos, under the canopy. Before each show, one bidirectional street that crosses the Experience is blocked off for safety reasons.

Concerts, usually free, are also held on two sound stages. The venue has become a major tourist attraction for downtown Las Vegas, and is also the location of the Neon Museum at the Fremont Street Experience and the city's annual New Year's Eve party, complete with fireworks on the display screen.

History[edit]

Fremont Street in 1983

Fremont Street had Las Vegas' first hotel (the Hotel Nevada in 1906, present day Golden Gate), first telephone (1907),[1] first paved street (1925), first Nevada gaming license — issued to the Northern Club at 15 E. Fremont St, first traffic light, first elevator (the Apache Hotel in 1932), and the first high-rise (the Fremont Hotel in 1956). The Horseshoe was the first casino to install carpeting, while the Golden Nugget was the first structure designed from the ground up to be a casino.[2]

For many years, the western end of Fremont Street was the area most commonly portrayed whenever producers wanted to display the lights of Las Vegas. The large number of neon signs earned the area the nickname "Glitter Gulch."

By 1992 80% of the Las Vegas casino market, however, was on the Strip. Downtown Las Vegas hotels and casinos sought to build an attraction that would lure more visitors to their businesses. After Paramount Pictures head Stanley Jaffe refused to approve a proposal to build a life-sized Starship Enterprise, the Fremont Street Experience was chosen as the project.[3] FSE, LLC is a cooperative venture, owned and operated by a group of downtown hotel/casino companies (comprising 10 hotel/casinos) as a separate corporation, responsible for financing, developing, and managing the Fremont Street Experience.

It was the second Las Vegas project of architect Jon Jerde, whose firm was paid approximately $900,000 by the City of Las Vegas to create a show concept for the downtown area.{City of Las Vegas Public Records 1991-92} Jerde's design included a floating sky parade which was to be suspended from the canopy. The concept was accepted by the Fremont Street Experience as well as the City of Las Vegas. Ultimately Jon Jerde's sky parade concept was scrapped, but the architectural design for the canopy was carried through. {City of Las Vegas Public Records 1994}

The local Architect of Record, the firm of Mary Kozlowski Architect, Inc., cited the following as problems with Jon Jerde's sky parade concept:

  1. Perspective: The view of the parade from below made the concept unworkable — to properly view the project would require that visitors stand at a raised elevation such as a third or fourth floor vantage point.
  2. Wind: The addition of the canopy over Fremont Street would create a wind tunnel causing a dangerous condition for people on the floats who would be trapped. Also the potential for harmonic motion as the floats swung back and forth in the wind potentially resulting in massive structural failure of the canopy and fatalities.
  3. Sand: The combination of desert sand and the mechanical systems of the sky parade would make the attraction difficult to maintain.

A new concept for the show was necessary quickly as funds were already available and the overall schedule was set. The concept for the show as it now exists was conceived by architect Mary Kozlowski who had grown up in Las Vegas and knew and loved Fremont Street. It was a light show on the underside of the canopy — the world's largest and most spectacular. Peter Smith, vice-president of Atlandia Design, recognized the beauty and practicality of the concept. Jon Jerde, FSE and the City of Las Vegas embraced the show concept.{City of Las Vegas Public Records 1994}

Kozlowski's concept was to use a combination of four colored light bulbs per "light" which allowed a full spectrum of colors. The Young Electric Sign Company assisted in creating the test panels and in the final installation. After the Fremont Street Experience opened, the light bulbs were checked nightly to ensure that all were functioning properly. To accomplish this massive undertaking, the length of the canopy was divided into panels. Each panel was checked by separately turning on each of the four colored light bulbs. A maintenance worker on a lift would then replace any bulbs that were out. The most expensive bulb cost nearly $15 to replace.

On September 7, 1994, a five-block section of Fremont Street was closed to automobile traffic for good, and groundbreaking was held on September 16. After that, the digging up of the street and the installation of the support poles continued into December. On February 15, 1995, the space frames were brought in and the roof began to take shape. The last piece was installed in July 1995.

Fremont Street light canopy during the day

The official public preview was held in conjunction with the Nevada Symphony. The light show was opened a bit later on December 14, 1995. The first New Year's party was held on December 31, 1995.

The Neon Museum at the Fremont Street Experience opened in November 1996 with the Hacienda Horse & Rider sign being lit at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street. The museum features signs from old casinos and other businesses displayed outdoors. For many years, the Young Electric Sign Company stored many of these signs in their bone yard. The signs were slowly being destroyed by exposure to the elements. The museum is slowly restoring the signs and placing them around the FSE.

Permanent stages were added in the early 2000s, eliminating the need to bring in temporary stages for every event. The sound system was upgraded in June 2001.

On June 14, 2004, a $17 million upgrade was unveiled that would feature a 12.5-million LED display and more color combinations than the original display, which was composed of incandescent lighting.

The initial $70 million investment and the continued improvements have resulted in successful and ongoing downtown redevelopment. The City of Las Vegas and the downtown casinos have benefited as more than 60% of visitors to Downtown are lured by the Fremont Street Experience overhead light show and stage shows and stay to enjoy the attractions of some of the most famous casinos in the world.

Major features[edit]

Viva Vision[edit]

The LED display "canopy", runs along the Fremont Street Experience promenade from Main Street to Fourth Street. Holding the canopy aloft are 16 columns, each weighing 26,000 pounds and can hold up 400,000 pounds, and 43,000 struts.

A section comprising one fiftieth of the total canopy equals the size of the world’s current largest electric sign. Originally, nearly 2.1 million incandescent lights were housed in the canopy. With the completion of the $17 million upgrade, more than 12 million LED lamps illuminate the overhead canopy. The new LED upgrade was designed and engineered by LG Electronics, who is also the primary corporate sponsor of the canopy. Within the canopy itself are 220 speakers powered by 550,000 watts of amplification.

Light and sound shows[edit]

Light & Sound Shows are presented nightly beginning at dusk. The number of nightly shows was increased during the 2004 upgrade. Some of the most popular shows include the "Lucky Vegas" show which pays tribute to some of the most well known Vegas icons. "Smoke, Speed and Spinning Wheels" gives visitors an inside look at the sport of race car driving. "Area 51" is a show that pits humans against a swarm of alien invaders. "American Freedom" serves as tribute to the United States while "The Drop" takes visitors on a journey that begins with one drop of water.

Pedestrian mall[edit]

Created when Fremont Street was closed permanently to vehicular traffic in September 1994. When the light and sound shows are not being presented, music is played throughout the mall.

The parking plaza[edit]

The parking plaza is located at the eastern end of Fremont Street. It is a 1,430-space parking structure built to accommodate an increase in visitors to downtown.

Neonopolis[edit]

Neonopolis, forming the east end of the pedestrian mall, where Las Vegas Boulevard South meets Fremont Street.

Technical details[edit]

Fremont Street by night

The initial display contained about 2.1 million lightbulbs controlled by 32 computers located in kiosks on the mall. The sound system, using speakers suspended over the mall, was rated at 350,000 watts. Strobe lights were added at some point to provide additional entertainment options on Disco Nights.

Displaying images that looked "real" took some innovation. New techniques were developed to make these curved, low-resolution images viewable from the ground. One adjustment was to move images slowly across the display to prevent blurring.

The 2001 upgrade to the sound system raised the power to 555,000 watts.

The 2004 upgrade features a 12.5-million LED display and more color combinations than the original display. The old control system was replaced by a central control room using 10 computers.

Getting there[edit]

The city's SDX and Deuce buses stop here.[4]

FSE casino/hotel companies[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cable company offers land line phone service". Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  2. ^ "Facts About the Fremont Street Experience". Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  3. ^ "NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: THE "STAR TREK" ATTRACTION THAT ALMOST CAME TO LIFE in 1992.". The Goddard Group Blog. The Goddard Group. 2012-04-05. Retrieved April 7, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Maps, Schedules & Detours". RTCSNV.com. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 

Coordinates: 36°10′15″N 115°08′39″W / 36.17083°N 115.14417°W / 36.17083; -115.14417