Thursday, March 31, 2011

LVW Col: The Sahara Strands The Stratosphere

Here's my latest LVW column. My full chat with Frank Riolo, CEO of the Stratosphere, will be available as a podcast next week. Enjoy. -sf

With the Sahara closing,
the Stratosphere faces an identity crisis

Decay Alley was coming back into view as Frank Riolo and I concluded lunch last week on the 106th floor of the Stratosphere, aka the Top of the World restaurant. The dining room takes about an hour to make a full revolution, and we were almost back where we had started. We took a break from our chatter and gazed down sadly, quietly, almost mournfully.

Once upon a time, you’d assume that Decay Alley referred to the tower’s Downtown-wardly vista that encompasses dodgy Naked City and the least glamorous segments of Las Vegas Boulevard. But the blight in those areas is so commonplace and expected as to be unremarkable. That variety of downtrodden urbanism is perpetual and not unique to this city.

The view Riolo and I took as we finished up is something you just don’t see anywhere else. Below us were several blocks of economic misery on an epic scale: a gleaming, abandoned, 60-story Fontainebleau; the weathered, see-through frame of a stalled 4,000-room Echelon; gigantic blank rectangles of land where great promises of development go indefinitely unfulfilled. And now, as of just a few days earlier, the latest addition to this hit parade stood to our bottom left: the doomed Sahara, slated to shutter in May.

“Nobody likes to look out and see abandoned buildings and empty plots of land,” said a pensive Riolo, the CEO for Stratosphere owner American Casino & Entertainment Properties LLC. “It’s not good for anyone.”

It’s a wonder he doesn’t occasionally feel compelled to fling himself off his tower.

Read the rest as LasVegasWeekly.Com