Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wynn Pays $75K To Demo Frontier Sign


I just came in from my tour of Encore with Steve Wynn and I much, much, much more on that later, once I sort out what won't fit in my Wynn profile slated to run on Monday, opening day, in a national publication. But I do have this intriguing bit of news to break: Wynn went in halfsies with the ELAD gang on the $150,000 cost to demolish the old Frontier sign in time for Monday's Encore opening. He also said he bought 200 trees from Nellis Air Force Base and is having them moved and planted in a line along the sidewalk in front of the empty lot where the Frontier used to be. Don't ask me why Nellis was having a tree sale, but I hope the guvmint got a good price. Wynn couldn't remember what he paid.

Why would he have to do all that? Well, Wynn is big on controlling what his guests can see, at least on the lower levels at the restaurants and such. That's what the 180-foot mountain outside the Wynn Las Vegas was all about. "A carnival is great," Wynn once told me, "but you only get to control your section of the midway." Burned in his memory remains a birthday party he once had at Picasso at Bellagio after the new Aladdin (now Planet Ho) was opened across the street. "That damn sign was blinking and blinking in the window and there wasn't a thing we could do about it," he told me in 2005.

But your question probably really was, "Why would he have to pay to remove the sign on someone else's land?" Well, he didn't say it in so many words, but clearly the Elad people are in no hurry to remove it or do much of anything on the land for which they paid $35 million from Phil Ruffin last year. They imploded the Frontier in November and spent gobs of money in court successfully defending their rights to use the Plaza name for the proposed $5 billion resort modeled after the Plaza New York which they own, but the project's timetable continues to be pushed back thanks to the lousy credit market.

So Wynn decided to take control and get 'er done. His hatred for the Frontier of old and anything associated with it is legendary; he famously once told me it was "the single biggest toilet in Las Vegas" and that having empty space across the street was better than that thing. Yet today he also found satisfaction and poetry in being the one to take it down since he was part of the group of owners of the property that first erected the sign as it looks now in 1967. Here's an extensive history of the sign from UNLV's Center for Gaming Research. "I put that sign up and I tore it down," Wynn chuckled today.

The sign, though, was not preserved for the Neon Museum. Wynn said it fell apart in the tear-down. That's sad.

Of course, Wynn's moved on. While I was away, the Encore marquee sign was unveiled. It's here:


It's cute. Nothing terribly flashy. But at least it's not this:


That is so strangely tacky for the otherwise picture-perfect CityCenter folks. It's a beautiful, elegant building. Why does it need its name slapped on it? There had to be a more attractive way to do this.

[UPDATE: Since posting this, it's been noted that the Sun did this piece on the Frontier sign last week. I've checked, though; nobody's reported the dollar figures, the 200 trees or the part about the sign not going to the Neon Museum.]

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, love the blog and show but the Vegas Gang Podcast talked about Wynn paying to have the Frontier sign removed on their 12/11 show so it isn't really 'news to break'.

THE STRIP PODCAST GUYS said...

Ooh, i haven't had a chance to listen yet. Did they have the dollar figures or the business about the trees?

Anonymous said...

No just the bit about the sign.

THE STRIP PODCAST GUYS said...

I added an update. the Vegas Gang got their chatter from the LV Sun. See the bottom of the post, and thanks for the heads up. I was traveling and didn't keep up with the local press too well.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you can't elaborate, but what was your general feeling. Were you really impressed or blown away by anything you saw at Encore. Or is it just another hotel. You have to give us something.

MrsVJW said...

For a guy who has such appreciation for fine art, I'm disappointed that Wynn doesn't hold the same regard for some of the great, wonderful old-school signs of Vegas. Any insight on what exactly went wrong with bringing it down? The hubby actually works in the sign industry and he's dying to know exactly how it fell apart. I'd have to think any reputable sign guy (or gal) would know how to deal with an old sign like that.

Anonymous said...

The reason the sign fell apart is because no one was notified it was coming down. Not even a courtesy call to the bone yard or YESCO or anything. I know of at least 3 people who were busy collecting photographs and information on the sign going up so that it could be properly dismantled and partially preserved. But instead, Steve Wynn decided to be a jerk and not notify anyone. He has absolutely no respect for this city's culture or history. He may have been a part of it, but he's still a poison to any efforts of us peasants below him to have any historical identification or nostalgia. He's a horrible man.

MrsVJW said...

I kinda feared that, Anonymous.... hubby and I are far-away supporters of the boneyard and the hubby wishes he worked for YESCO... to appreciate who are where you are now, you have to be willing to give credence to the past. Paying for a "rush job", and he's been around Vegas... he knows sign guys... trust me... to not preserve the past is just wrong.

I know he's all about the high rollers... but from this point on, I will never spend a dollar that goes to his empire. It's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second!!! It wasn't his sign. It wasn't his property. It was an eyesore he wanted removed. He shouldn't have even had to do this in the first place. He's got nothing but worthless neighbors who make him do everything. Steve Wynn has brought far more to Vegas than he's taken away. For god's sake, it's a fucking sign. If it weren't for Steve Wynn, there'd be absolutely nothing positive happening in the Vegas economy right now.

Sarah Keskes said...

Really? That entire paragraph is a paragraph of ignorance. Ha. My boyfriend and I are young, in our early 20's. We may not dwell on the past, but we have an appreciation for it, and can also smell a rat and see the big picture. We will not spend any money at any of his properties, nor do we plan on ever stepping foot there. As trivial as it sounds, that's the way we feel and what we shall do to make ourselves feel better. There's MUCH more to this city than what Steve Wynn has contributed, and you should do your research before you make yourself look like an ass on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Well said Sarah. There's much more to this city and it's economy than what that arrogant fuck has contributed. Who puts a hole in a Picasso, seriously. I've lived here for 40 years now, and have had to deal with his arrogant attitude and watched him get away with thinking he can buy the world. I, for one, hope I live long enough to dance on his grave.

Anonymous said...

So what, other than the 5000 employees Wynn has hired for his new resort, is going right in the Vegas economy, I wonder. God, so much Wynn hate. How strange. And all because he broke a sign.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's the only reason all this hate for him is around town. I agree that he has done many many things for this economy and that all the jobs he provides are good, but I also agree that he has no respect for the city. "Breaking the sign" is just what's tipped everyone off, and is a prime example of his lack of appreciation, concern, or care for the general public or the citizens of this city. How would you like it if someone came along and destroyed a teddy bear from your childhood, or how would you like watching your childhood playground being bulldozed. That's the way a lot of people feel. Sure he cares about the tourist and the money, but as far as locals go, he's just a pain.

Anonymous said...

Norm ran a story, I think it was Sunday, with the dollar figure, and other items, such as Wynn wanting to pay for fabric covering over the Echelon skeleton. I think the sign was too big for the space the Boneyard has left. Surely there is a smaller side sign that got saved?

Jeff in OKC

Anonymous said...

Wynn cut off all his part time, "steady extra" people. Nice to see this money going to good use.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't just a sign. It was the last piece of classic Las Vegas left. The last of the roadside pylon signs that could be seen for miles and miles in the desert, before Vegas grew. Yes it had to come down, but absolutely not in this way. It should have been carefully dismantled and the main marquee and upper arch with the F should have been saved. No questions asked.