Stratosphere Las Vegas

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Stratosphere Tower
Stratosphere Las Vegas logo.svg
Aerial view Casino Stratosphere LAS 09 2017 4912.jpg
Stratosphere Tower in 2017
General information
StatusOperating
TypeObservation tower
LocationLas Vegas, Nevada, United States
Address2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Coordinates36°08′51″N 115°09′19″W / 36.147386°N 115.155389°W / 36.147386; -115.155389Coordinates: 36°08′51″N 115°09′19″W / 36.147386°N 115.155389°W / 36.147386; -115.155389
GroundbreakingNovember 5, 1991
Construction startedFebruary 1992
OpenedApril 30, 1996[1][2]
CostUS$70 million
Height
Antenna spire1,149 ft (350.2 m)
Technical details
Lifts/elevators7 (4 high speed double deck elevators, 3 local elevators in the pod)
Design and construction
ArchitectNed Baldwin
DeveloperBob Stupak
Other information
No. of rooms2,427
Total gaming space80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2)
Signature attractions
Notable restaurants
  • Top of the World
  • Fellini's Ristorante
  • Roxy's Diner
  • Lucky's
Casino typeLand-based
OwnerGolden Entertainment
Previous namesVegas World
Renovated in2010[3]
Websitestratospherehotel.com

The Stratosphere Las Vegas (formerly Vegas World) is a hotel, casino and tower located on Las Vegas Boulevard just north of the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.

On February 1, 2019, Golden Entertainment, owners of Stratosphere, announced the resort will be rebranded to The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod.[4]

The property's signature attraction is the 1,149 ft (350.2 m) Stratosphere Tower, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States,[5] and the second-tallest in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. It is the tallest tower west of the Mississippi River[6] and also the tallest structure in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada.[1] The hotel is a separate building with 24 stories, 2,427 rooms and an 80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2) casino. The Stratosphere is owned and operated by Golden Entertainment, which acquired the resort and three other properties from American Casino & Entertainment Properties for $850 million.[7]

The Stratosphere is located within the city limits of Las Vegas, and is sometimes considered to be the northernmost resort on the Las Vegas Strip, which is not located within the city.[8][9] In March 2018, Golden Entertainment announced plans for $140 million renovation of the Stratosphere that will be unveiled in three phases.[10]

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

In 1974, Bob Stupak opened a small casino in Las Vegas known as Bob Stupak's World Famous Million-Dollar Historic Gambling Museum and Casino, located north of the Las Vegas Strip on land previously occupied by the Todkill/Bill Hayden Lincoln Mercury Dealership.[11] The casino burned down two months later,[12] and Stupak subsequently opened his Vegas World hotel and casino on the same property in 1979.[13]

Conception[edit]

The concept for the Stratosphere began as a plan by Stupak to construct a 1,012-foot (308.46 m) neon sign tower for Vegas World. In early October 1989, Stupak submitted plans to the city for the approval of the neon sign tower which would stand four times taller than the hotel. Later in the week, Stupak withdrew his plans to allow time for a revised version of the tower that would include an elevator leading up to an observation deck. Stupak, who wanted the tower to become a local landmark, said, "What I'm trying to do for Las Vegas is what the Eiffel Tower did for Paris, what the Empire State Building did for New York, what the Seattle Space Needle did for Seattle."[14][15] Stupak's plans received widespread opposition,[16] including from Las Vegas city staff, who drafted an ordinance that would have limited signs to 35 feet in height.[14] The Las Vegas City Council rejected the ordinance, considering it to be a poorly drawn measure aimed specifically at stopping Stupak's project.[15]

In February 1990, Stupak unveiled his revised plans for a $50 million, 1,012-foot observation tower with a top floor that would include a revolving restaurant and four penthouse suites.[17] In April 1990, the city council approved Stupak's tower, despite objections from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which stated that it was 200 feet (61 m) too tall.[18] Nellis Air Force Base also opposed the tower. Stupak later said that there were "all sorts of people out there opposed" to the tower, saying, "If it wasn't for the courage of the council, it would have never been built."[13]

In October 1991, the city gave approval to the tower's base and shaft, while the pod atop the tower had yet to be approved. At the time, Stupak was trying to obtain financing for the now-$100 million project, and was also under investigation by gaming officials over allegations that he used deceptive advertising to lure customers to Vegas World.[19] The project was now planned to include the "world's first indoor African lion's park,"[19] consisting of a jungle habitat to be located at the tower base.[20][21]

Groundbreaking for the project, known as the Stratosphere Tower, took place on November 5, 1991.[20] The start of actual construction had yet to be announced for the tower, which was still opposed by the FAA.[20][22] Originally, Stupak had envisioned an 1,800-foot tower, although the ultimate height was reduced to 1,149 ft (350 m) because of concerns from the FAA about possible interference with flights from the nearby McCarran International Airport.[2][23] The tower was designed by architect Ned Baldwin, who also worked on the CN Tower in Toronto.[24][25]

Construction[edit]

CN Tower, Toronto
Willis Tower (formerly Sears), Chicago
• Stratosphere, Las Vegas
Space Needle, Seattle

Construction of the $32 million tower began in February 1992, on property adjacent to Vegas World.[26] The tower was built directly north of the Las Vegas Strip[8] and south of downtown Las Vegas,[13] in an area known as Meadows Village, a crime-ridden neighborhood nicknamed Naked City.[27] Shortly before its opening, a Stratosphere spokesman said, "We hope Stratosphere will be the catalyst that spurs redevelopment" in the area, while acknowledging, "We plunked down a half-billion-dollar project in the middle of one of the worst neighborhoods."[27]

On August 29, 1993, around midnight, hundreds of customers at Vegas World were evacuated when the half-finished tower caught on fire, during which no injuries occurred.[26][28] The Stratosphere had been planned to open in August 1994, although the fire was expected to delay construction by eight weeks. Stupak said that the tower's first phase would still be ready in time with an accelerated construction schedule.[29] A large crane located atop the tower, used for construction, was also damaged in the fire.[28][30] The following month, high winds prevented the scheduled dismantling of the crane, a process that was expected to take two days. At that time, the cause of the fire remained unknown.[30] Following the fire,[31] Stupak had trouble financing the completion of the tower.[13]

To continue construction,[31] Grand Casinos announced plans in November 1993 to purchase 33 percent of the Stratosphere and Vegas World by acquiring shares in Stupak's Stratosphere Corporation.[32] Grand Casinos, owned by Stupak's poker friend Lyle Berman, ultimately purchased a 43 stake in the resort.[31] Vegas World closed on February 1, 1995, for remodeling in order to be integrated into the Stratosphere resort.[33] Vegas World's two hotel towers,[34] consisting of 932 rooms,[35] were renovated to become part of the Stratosphere.[34]

In 1994, crews erected a crane – taller than the earlier one – that would allow them to continue work on the rising tower. The 75-ton crane stood 400 feet tall and was installed over the course of four days. Removal of the crane began in October 1995, with the use of a second crane. The dismantling of the crane was one of the most significant challenges for the people working on the tower. The unique design of the tower pod and its limit space required construction crews to carefully plan the installation of the second crane, which weighed 30 tons. The second crane would lower pieces of the original crane to the ground, and would then be used to lift a seven-ton derrick into place, allowing workers to carry down sections of the second crane. The derrick would then be disassembled by hand, and workers would use a construction elevator to bring down the pieces. The complex and risky process was expected to take nearly two months.[36]

Years before the Stratosphere's opening, a three-block neighborhood of houses in Meadows Village was demolished to help make room for the resort's 4,500-space parking garage.[27] In 1994,[37] officials from the Stratosphere project – located north of the Aztec Inn motel-casino[38] – entered an agreement with the city's Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency to have the Aztec Inn's parking lot condemned through eminent domain and turned over to the Stratosphere.[37][39] The agreement was opposed by the Aztec Inn,[37] and in 1995 was ruled by a judge to be unconstitutional.[39][37] By April 1996, the Aztec Inn settled with the Stratosphere and agreed to sell its parking lot.[37] Separately, the Stratosphere agreed to provide free rent and relocation expenses to approximately 140 residents in a nearby area of Meadows Village that was cleared for an eventual expansion of the resort.[40][41][42][27]

Stratosphere pod during construction (September 1995)

After a 1995 motorcycle accident that left Stupak in a coma for 12 days, he said that the controversy and "all the complaining" about the tower stopped: "There were people who didn't like the tower, this and that, but after the accident, it was like nobody had anything negative to say about it."[13] As construction of the resort neared completion, one of the rides being planned for the resort was a giant ape that would carry riders up and down on one of the tower's columns.[43] The ride was delayed in 1996,[44] and ultimately cancelled.

In March 1996, the Nevada Gaming Control Board approved Stupak, the chairman of Stratosphere Corporation, for a gaming license, along with other company individuals. Stupak owned 17 percent of Stratosphere Corporation, while Grand Casinos owned 43 percent. Stupak was one of nine directors in the company, and would not oversee daily operations of the company.[45] The resort was expected to employ a total of 3,000 people, and began hiring for the remaining 2,400 employees in March 1996, a month before the opening. At the time, Stupak said he may resign his chairman position as soon as a month after the resort's opening, in order to pursue other projects.[46]

Shortly before its opening, several daredevils had expressed an interest in performing stunts from the top of the tower, but they were declined for safety reasons.[47] Smoke in the tower's pod restaurant forced an evacuation of workers on April 25, 1996, days before the opening. The smoke originated from the pod's fifth-floor kitchen, one floor above the restaurant, due to a faulty ventilator in the air-flow duct system. The pod contained four tanks with 32,000 gallons of water for firefighters in the event of a fire, but they were not needed.[48]

Stratosphere Las Vegas (1996–present)[edit]

A film crew followed Stupak all day leading up to the opening.[13] More than 8,000 VIP guests visited the resort for a premiere party on the night of April 29, 1996, hours before its midnight opening. Stupak attended the event with singer Phyllis McGuire. Other attendees included Nevada governor Bob Miller and Las Vegas mayor Jan Laverty Jones.[31][49][50] Media from around the world also attended the event,[13] which was broadcast live by CNBC as well as television stations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.[31] A six-minute fireworks show, costing $50,000, began at 10:30 p.m.[31][49] Doors in the tower's pod had been left partially open to accommodate television camera cables, and smoke from the fireworks filled the pod and set off fire alarms, resulting in the shutdown of elevators and stranding hundreds of VIP guests.[51][52]

The $550 million complex featured 354,000 sq ft (32,900 m2),[16] including 140,000 sq ft (13,000 m2) of entertainment and shopping space.[53] A 97,000 sq ft (9,000 m2) casino was part of the resort's first phase, which also included 1,500 hotel rooms. The hotel portion was expected to open on May 7, 1996.[16] An additional 1,000 hotel rooms were expected to be finished in November 1996.[54]

The Stratosphere pod and needle at night.

The resort had 3,100 employees.[31] The casino featured 2,600 slot machines, and was decorated with a world's fair theme and bright colors.[53] The casino was divided into three sections, each with their own international theme.[55] The hotel included a bronze statue of Stupak, which he disliked and never approved, saying, "They spent $100,000 more for that statue than I spent to open my first place in 1974."[13] Another statue, in the center of the casino, featured a couple riding a dolphin set upon a bronze globe.[53]

The tower cost $70 million to construct.[27] The tower's pod contains 12 stories and has one and a half miles of criss-crossed fiber-optic cable with lights which alternate between eight different colors.[56] A 149-foot needle[53] located on top of the pod consists of a five-square-foot steel-beam frame with an internal ladder. Atop the needle frame are two four-inch beams which are laid out horizontally to form an "X".[47] The observation deck rises 872 feet.[57] The pod included two concrete-banded bunker floors, located beneath its three wedding chapels, for use in the event of an emergency.[53] Stupak's critics did not believe he would be able to complete the tower, in part because of his controversial promotional tactics at Vegas World.[16][49]

Although the resort is located north of the Las Vegas Strip, it advertised itself as being on the Strip, with the slogan, "We define the top of the Strip."[8] The Stratosphere was projected to attract at least 5.5 million visitors in its first year.[57] Around the time of its opening, financial analysts were optimistic of the resort's future.[16] Revenue for the first five weeks was lower than expected. Stratosphere Corporation attributed the low results to the resort being partly unfinished, and said it would borrow $48.5 million from Grand Casinos to finance enhancements to the property, including the completion of the 1,000 additional rooms, and the opening of unfinished retail shops.[58] The resort continued to suffer financially.[13][59]

Ownership changes and renovations[edit]

Looking up from the base of the Stratosphere Tower, with the X-Scream ride hanging over the edge in 2009

Stupak, who had already made plans to move on to other projects,[49] resigned as chairman less than three months after the opening, leaving Berman in charge. Stupak's statue was subsequently removed from the property.[13] The resort's second phase was halted in August 1996, due to financial problems;[60] the additional hotel building consisted of an unfinished, 15-story structure of concrete and rebar.[61] Berman intended to make the resort profitable, but ultimately declared bankruptcy in January 1997.[13] Stupak had previously called Berman "the best casino operator in the world,"[45] but later said about Grand Casinos' operation of the resort, "They just weren't up to it."[13] Carl Icahn planned to purchase the bankrupt resort. In mid-1997, Stupak made a plan to regain control of the Stratosphere by producing a half-hour video criticizing Grand Casinos' board members. Stupak also considered developing a bankruptcy plan of his own to compete against Icahn and Grand Casinos. Ultimately, Stupak's video never aired on local television as scheduled,[13] and Icahn gained control of the property in 1998.[62] In the years after Icahn took over, Stupak sometimes visited the Stratosphere's Top of the World restaurant but was otherwise disinterested in the resort. In 2001, Stupak stated that he felt prouder when he opened his earlier casinos on the site in 1974 and 1979. Stupak stated his biggest disappointment with the Stratosphere was not being able to have it built to his initially planned 1,800-foot height.[13]

The second hotel tower, with 24 stories, was topped off on November 2, 2000.[62] The $65 million project included 1,002 rooms, a 67,000 sq ft (6,200 m2) pool and recreation area, and a coffee shop. Excluding the new tower, the hotel had 1,444 rooms. The new project was meant to improve business at the casino and its retail mall, the Tower Shops.[63] A major addition was completed in June 2001 for $1 billion that included finishing the second hotel tower.

In the early 2000s, the company attempted to get approval for a roller coaster that would run from several hundred feet up the tower and, in the last proposal, across Las Vegas Boulevard. Part of that last proposal included an entry monument on the ride over Las Vegas Boulevard welcoming people to the City of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas City Council did not approve the project due to objections from the neighbors over possible noise from the enclosed cars on the proposed ride.[citation needed] Five people have committed suicide by jumping from the tower's observation area, between 2000 and 2007.[64][65][66][67][68][69]

In January 2010, American Casino & Entertainment Properties announced a new thrill ride for the top of the tower: SkyJump, a controlled-descent, bungee jumping–like ride that would allow riders to plummet 855 feet (261 m) attached to a high-speed descent wire. It opened on April 20, 2010.[70]

KOAS-FM1 and KVGS-FM1 transmitting antenna atop the Stratosphere, 2010.

Radio stations KOAS 105.7 (FM) and KVGS 107.9 (FM) have on-channel FM boosters broadcasting from an antenna at the top of the tower's structure. Licensed as KOAS-FM1 and KVGS-FM1, they are the only radio stations with transmitters at the tower. However, the signals being transmitted from this structure are relatively low-power and only cover the immediate Las Vegas area on a "fill in" or "booster" basis. Both of these stations have their main transmitter sites located elsewhere, and those transmitter sites are what give these stations more widespread regional coverage.

Beginning in 2010, the Stratosphere renovated several areas of the property. As part of a $20 million renovation plan, improvements were made to many hotel rooms, the casino, and the main entrance area. Improvements and upgrades have also been made in the Top of the World Restaurant and Level 107 lounge.[3][71][72][73][74]

In June 2017, Golden Entertainment agreed to purchase American Casino & Entertainment Properties.[75] Golden Entertainment's $850 million purchase of the company, including the Stratosphere, was completed in October 2017.[7]

In March 2018, Golden Entertainment announced plans for a $140 million renovation of the Stratosphere that will be completed over three phases.[76] The renovations, including four new restaurants, were designed to retain customers who usually only visited the pod area.[77] On February 1, 2019, plans were announced to rename the resort as The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod.[4][78][79] For years, "The Strat" had been used by local residents as a nickname.[80] The transition to The STRAT began with two commercials aired locally two days later during Super Bowl LIII.[79][77] The name change would become official after the resort finished its next phase of renovations, which was to be announced at a later date.[77] Two areas for live entertainment – one on the casino floor and one in the former space of a lounge – were being added in June 2019,[9] as well as a new slot machine lounge.[81] A glass walkway looking down 109 floors was expected to be complete by late 2020, along with the modernization and refurbishment of approximately 1,000 rooms.[9] The renovation was intended to help the property compete against nearby rivals, including upcoming resorts – The Drew and Resorts World – as well as the renovated Sahara.[81]

Attractions and entertainment[edit]

View from the top of the Stratosphere Tower in 2008

The top of the tower has two observation decks, a revolving restaurant known as "Top of the World", and four thrill rides.

An indoor observation deck is located on the 108th floor, and includes food and beverage outlets, while stairs lead up to the outdoor deck on the 109th floor. Both decks provide wraparound views of the Las Vegas Valley. The indoor deck was remodeled and unveiled in July 2019.[82]

Rides[edit]

Rides at the Stratosphere include:

  • Big Shot at 1,081 ft (329 m) was the highest thrill ride in the world until the Sky Drop opened on the Canton Tower at 1,591 ft (485 m).
  • Insanity, opened in 2005, at 900 ft (270 m) is the third highest thrill ride in the world; it dangles riders over the edge of the tower and then spins in a circular pattern at approximately forty miles per hour.[83] In a 2005 incident, riders were left dangling several hundred feet above the Las Vegas Strip for nearly an hour and a half when Insanity shut down; it was programmed to cease operation if a fault or problem is detected by the ride's control system.[84]
  • SkyJump Las Vegas, a controlled-descent, Bungee-jumping-like ride that allows riders to plummet 855 ft (261 m) attached to a high-speed descent wire.[70] SkyJump opened on April 20, 2010.[85]
  • X-Scream at 866 ft (264 m) is the fourth highest thrill ride in the world.

A previous ride, the High Roller, closed on December 30, 2005, and was dismantled.[86] At 909 ft (277 m)[87] it was the second highest ride in the world and the highest roller coaster.[86]

Tower Shops[edit]

The Tower Shops is a mall on the second level. The elevators that lead up to the observation decks are only accessible in the mall.[88] DeBartolo Realty Corporation, which owned a 50-percent interest in the Tower Shops, was acquired by Simon Property Group in March 1996, forming Simon DeBartolo Group.[61] The Tower Shops were a joint venture between Simon DeBartolo Group and Gordon Group, under the name Strato-Retail.[89] The Stratosphere leased the retail space to Strato-Retail, which then subleased it to retail tenants.[90]

When the Stratosphere opened in April 1996, its retail area was still largely under construction and consisted only of vendor carts spread across three areas with their own theme: Chinese, French, and Manhattan.[53] The mall was built by Missouri construction company McCarthy, which was finishing the first phase in May 1996.[88] The next phase of the Tower Shops was halted in August 1996,[60][91] leaving the mall with 69,000 sq ft (6,400 m2) of retail space.[92][89] The second phase, scheduled for completion in December 1996, would have increased the mall to 160,000 sq ft (15,000 m2).[93] The second phase would have included a Rainforest Cafe as its main anchor tenant.[61][89] A Kids Quest child-care center was also planned as part of the second phase.[94][61] As of February 1997, the mall had 32 of 45 stores opened, with the remainder expected to be open by the end of the second quarter. The mall had approximately 300 employees.[92] As of October 1997, there were 36 stores, including a clothing store owned by Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones,[95] who also owned shares in Grand Casinos.[96] Approximately 85 percent of the retail space was occupied, and 98 percent was leased.[96]

By 1998, retailers in the Tower Shops were experiencing financial difficulties and lack of customer traffic, which the retailers blamed on the resort's unfinished facilities.[61] Strato-Retail filed suits against several of the mall's retailers, alleging non-payment of rent. Two retailers that were locked in for expensive, long-term leases filed suits against Strato-Retail.[61][90] As of March 1999, the Stratosphere planned to add a new escalator which the resort said would lead up to the casino's showroom. However, Strato-Retail sued Stratosphere Corporation, alleging that the escalator would hinder business to the Tower Shops by allowing visitors to bypass the mall on their way to the top of the observation tower. The resort denied that the escalator could be used to access the tower.[97] Strato-Retail won a permanent injunction against the escalator's construction.[98]

In 2000, Stratosphere Corporation purchased the mall from Strato-Retail for $12.5 million.[99][89][98] In 2004, the Tower Shops had 110,000 sq ft (10,000 m2) of retail space, which was approximately 90 leased. That year, the mall announced plans for an additional 80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2) of retail space.[100][101] The expansion would occupy undeveloped space that was meant for the Tower Shops' originally planned second phase.[100] At the time, the mall had approximately 50 stores and 15 retail carts.[102]

Performers[edit]

The casino has featured a number of performers, including bands and dancers. Frankie Moreno Live at Stratosphere had its final performance on December 20, 2014. Moreno and his 10-piece band began performing in the Stratosphere Theater on November 9, 2011 and achieved nearly 600 shows during his three-year tenure at the Stratosphere.

Playboy Playmate Claire Sinclair signed for a new show in 2013, and re-signed for 2015. David Perrico with the band Pop Evolution, signed in 2013 for a monthly show.[103][104][105][106][107]

Dining[edit]

  • Top of the World
  • McCall's Heartland Grill
  • Fellini's Ristorante
  • Roxy's Diner
  • The Buffet
  • Level 8 Pool Cafe
  • Tower Pizzeria
  • Starbucks
  • Level 107 Lounge

Gaming[edit]

Some of the casino games include slot machines and video poker. The Stratosphere has inherited some unusual variations on casino games from its predecessor. The 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) casino includes 50 table games, 1,500 slot and video poker machines, a poker room, and a race and sports book.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1999, scenes for the game show Real World/Road Rules Challenge 2000 were filmed involving contestants bungee jumping from the Stratosphere's tower.[108][109][110]
  • The Stratosphere was also used in 1999 for filming of the television series The Strip.[108]
  • The casino and tower are featured in the 2005 movie Domino, in which the owner gets robbed of $10 million and the top of the tower gets damaged in an explosion.[111]
  • The tower is the inspiration for the Vertigo Spire location/map featured in the 2006 video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas.[112]
  • In the History Channel's Life After People, the tower is destroyed by an earthquake in the 2009 episode "Sin City Meltdown".
  • The tower is the inspiration of the fictional Lucky 38 casino in the 2010 role-playing game Fallout: New Vegas.[113]
  • In the 2014 Syfy television series Dominion, the archangel Michael lived in the observation tower of the Stratosphere.[114]
  • A replica of the tower can be found in the 2014 racing game The Crew, in the northern part of Las Vegas.[115]
  • The hotel, casino and tower was featured at the beginning of the 2016 film Sharknado: The 4th Awakens.[116]
  • Gangstar Vegas,Video Game.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Smith, John L. (1997). No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas' Stratosphere Tower. Las Vegas: Huntington Press. ISBN 0-929712-18-8.

External links[edit]