Stratosphere Las Vegas
Stratosphere Tower in 2017
|Location||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Groundbreaking||November 5, 1991|
|Construction started||February 1992|
|Opened||April 30, 1996|
|Antenna spire||1,149 ft (350.2 m)|
|Lifts/elevators||7 (4 high speed double deck elevators, 3 local elevators in the pod)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Skidmore, Owings & Merrill|
Stratosphere Las Vegas
|Location||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Address||2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South|
|Opening date||April 30, 1996|
|No. of rooms||2,427|
|Total gaming space||80,000 sq ft (7,400 m2)|
|Permanent shows||Frankie Moreno|
|Previous names||Vegas World|
On February 1, 2019, Golden Entertainment, owners of Stratosphere, announced the resort will be rebranded to The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod.
The property's signature attraction is the 1,149 ft (350.2 m) Stratosphere Tower, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States, 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 and also the tallest structure in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada. 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.
While the traditional definition of the Strip excludes the Stratosphere, it is often included in travel guides as a Strip attraction. Using this alternate definition, the Stratosphere is the northernmost of the major Strip resorts, and is the only Strip hotel actually located within the City of Las Vegas. In March 2018, Golden Entertainment announced plans for $140 million renovation of the Stratosphere that will be unveiled in three phases.
- 1 History
- 2 Attractions and entertainment
- 3 Dining
- 4 Gaming
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 Gallery
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
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. The casino burned down two months later, and Stupak subsequently opened his Vegas World hotel and casino on the same property in 1979.
Conception and construction
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." Stupak's plans received widespread opposition, including from Las Vegas city staff, who drafted an ordinance that would have limited signs to 35 feet in height. The Las Vegas City Council rejected the ordinance, considering it to be a poorly drawn measure aimed specifically at stopping Stupak's project.
Stupak contacted an engineering firm in Texas whose expertise was in designing radio transmission towers. They produced a series of possible configurations based on computer "stretch-outs" of their standard skeletal tower designs. When Stupak showed these to CEO Lou Papais of Ad Art, Inc., Stockton, California, he and his Executive Art Director, Chuck Barnard, agreed the designs were unsatisfactory and Barnard produced the concept for the 1149 ft. tower. Ad Art design associate, Jack Dubois, then created a giant color rendering of the tower which Stupak used to secure financial backing for construction. Architect Ned Baldwin, creator of the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was brought in and assembled a team of local engineers and architects to flesh out the design and move the project to completion.
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. 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. 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."
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. The project was now planned to include the "world's first indoor African lion's park," consisting of a jungle habitat to be located at the tower base.
Groundbreaking for the project, known as the Stratosphere Tower, took place on November 5, 1991. The start of actual construction had yet to be announced for the tower, which was still opposed by the FAA. 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. Construction of the $32 million tower began in February 1992, on property adjacent to Vegas World. The tower was built directly north of the Las Vegas Strip and south of downtown Las Vegas, in an area known as Meadows Village, a crime-ridden neighborhood nicknamed Naked City. 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."
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. 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. A large crane located atop the tower, used for construction, was also damaged in the fire. 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. Following the fire, Stupak had trouble financing the completion of the tower.
To continue construction, Grand Casinos announced plans to purchase 33 percent of the Stratosphere and Vegas World by acquiring shares in Stupak's Stratosphere Corporation. Grand Casinos, owned by Stupak's poker friend Lyle Berman, ultimately purchased a 43 stake in the resort. Vegas World closed on February 1, 1995, for remodeling in order to be integrated into the Stratosphere resort. Vegas World's two hotel towers, consisting of 932 rooms, were renovated to become part of the Stratosphere.
Years before its 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. In 1994, officials from the Stratosphere project – located north of the Aztec Inn motel-casino – 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. The agreement was opposed by the Aztec Inn, and in 1995 was ruled by a judge to be unconstitutional. By April 1996, the Aztec Inn settled with the Stratosphere and agreed to sell its parking lot. 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.
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." 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. The ride was delayed in 1996, 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. 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.
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. 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.
Stratosphere Las Vegas (1996–present)
A film crew followed Stupak all day leading up to the opening. 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. Media from around the world also attended the event, which was broadcast live by CNBC as well as television stations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. A six-minute fireworks show, costing $50,000, began at 10:30 p.m. 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.
The $550 million complex featured 354,000 sq ft (32,900 m2), including 140,000 sq ft (13,000 m2) of entertainment and shopping space. 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. An additional 1,000 hotel rooms were expected to be finished in November 1996. A Kids Quest child-care center was also expected to open at the resort later in 1996, as part of the resort's second phase.
The resort had 3,100 employees. The casino featured 2,600 slot machines, and was decorated with a world's fair theme and bright colors. 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." Another statue, in the center of the casino, featured a couple riding a dolphin set upon a bronze globe. At its opening, the resort's 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.
The tower cost $70 million to construct. 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. A 149-foot needle located on top of the pod consists of a five-square-foot steel-beam frame with an internal ladder. Atop the frame are two four-inch beams which form an "X". The observation deck rises 872 feet. The pod included two concrete-banded bunker floors, located beneath its three wedding chapels, for use in the event of an emergency. 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.
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." The Stratosphere was projected to attract at least 5.5 million visitors in its first year. Around the time of its opening, financial analysts were optimistic of the resort's future. 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 retail shops.
The resort continued to suffer financially. Stupak, who had already made plans to move on to other projects, resigned as chairman less than three months after the opening, leaving Berman in charge. Stupak's statue was subsequently removed from the property. Berman intended to make the resort profitable, but ultimately declared bankruptcy in January 1997. Stupak had previously called Berman "the best casino operator in the world," but later said about Grand Casinos' operation of the resort, "They just weren't up to it." 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, and Icahn gained control of the property in 1998. 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.
The second hotel tower, with 24 stories, was topped off on November 2, 2000. 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. 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. Five people have committed suicide by jumping from the tower's observation area, between 2000 and 2007.
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.
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.
In June 2017, Golden Entertainment agreed to purchase American Casino & Entertainment Properties. Golden Entertainment's $850 million purchase of the company, including the Stratosphere, was completed in October 2017.
In March 2018, Golden Entertainment announced plans for a $140 million renovation of the Stratosphere that will be completed over three phases. The renovations, including four new restaurants, were designed to retain customers who usually only visited the pod area. On February 1, 2019, plans were announced to rename the resort as The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. For years, "The Strat" had been used by local residents as a nickname. The transition to The STRAT began with two commercials aired locally two days later during Super Bowl LIII. The name change would become official after the resort finished its next phase of renovations, which was to be announced at a later date.
Attractions and entertainment
- 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. 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.
- 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. SkyJump opened on April 20, 2010.
- X-Scream at 866 ft (264 m) is the fourth highest thrill ride in the world.
- The High Roller at 909 ft (277 m) was the second highest ride in the world and the highest roller coaster. It was closed on December 30, 2005, and was dismantled.
Stratosphere Tower Shops
The Tower Shops is a mall on the second level that connects the casino to the entrance of the tower. The Tower Shops consist of various shops as well as a comedy club and a photography gallery.
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.
- Top of the World
- McCall's Heartland Grill
- Fellini's Ristorante
- Roxy's Diner
- The Buffet
- Level 8 Pool Cafe
- Tower Pizzeria
- Level 107 Lounge
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
- In 1999, scenes for the game show Real World/Road Rules Challenge 2000 were filmed involving contestants bungee jumping from the Stratosphere's tower.
- The Stratosphere was also used in 1999 for filming of the television series The Strip.
- 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.
- The tower is the inspiration for the Vertigo Spire location/map featured in the 2006 video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas.
- 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.
- In the 2014 Syfy television series Dominion, the archangel Michael lived in the observation tower of the Stratosphere.
- A replica of the tower can be found in the 2014 racing game The Crew, in the northern part of Las Vegas.
- The hotel, casino and tower was featured at the beginning of the 2016 film Sharknado: The 4th Awakens.
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On Sunday, Feb. 3, the Stratosphere, Casino, Hotel & Tower began its transition to The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod […].
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