With the Star Trek Convention “trekking” into the Rio Thursday, August 9 Las Vegas will be bombarded with trekkers outfitted in their best Captain Kirk and Spock costumes. And as there are bound to be thousands of Star Trek fans taking the inter galactic journey to the Rio next week (it’s the largest Star Trek Convention in the World,) it’s nothing compared to the Trekkers that would have descended upon the Strip on a regular basis if the city had gone through with the proposal to build a full-scale Star Trek USS Enterprise.
It may seem like the farthest thing from a Las Vegas attraction, but there were indeed plans to build a replica USS Enterprise complete with restaurant, rides, tours and live entertainment. Sounds exciting enough, right? So what happened? Apparently the $150 million project lost out to the “Freemont Experience.”
At the time of the idea, the Las Vegas Strip was pulling tourism away from downtown and the only way for the area to reclaim its epicenter status was to come up with something huge and truly unique to the area – enter full-scale Star Trek USS Enterprise.
But as big as the idea was, the hurdles to get it approved were even bigger and at the end of the day there was one man who stood in the way of the project “taking off:” Paramount CEO Stanley Jaffe. While the President of Paramount Studios, the Paramount Licensing group, the Las Vegas mayor at the time, Jan Jones, and the redevelopment committee were all a go for the project, Jaffe was not excited. In fact he said something along the lines of “In the movie business, when we produce a big movie and it’s a flop – we take some bad press for a few weeks or a few months, but then it goes away. The next movie comes out and everyone forgets. But THIS – this is different. If this doesn’t work – if this is not a success – it’s there, forever….” So instead of risking it being a flop, Paramount never allowed it to happen.
But that wasn’t the end of the Star Trek dreams in Las Vegas. In 1998 Star Trek: The Experience opened at the Las Vegas Hilton. The experience was a museum filled with numerous Star Trek items and featured several video display devices and a timeline of Star Trek events. Trekkers could even come in contact with the alien races from the series including the Borg, Klingongs and Ferengi. Unfortunately there may have been some truth to Jaffe’s “flop” comments because in 2008 the attraction closed due to a decline in admissions.
Today, there’s no trace of Star Trek: The Experience or of Star Trek at all except for a few remains visible in the Las Vegas Hilton casino. Chin up, there’s still the largest Star Trek gathering in the world next week for a three-day convention with practically all the stars of Star Trek in attendance.
Alas, there is still hope for the Trekkers still wanting to glance at a full-scale USS Enterprise. Over at BuildTheEnterprise.org, they are planning to build a functional USS Enterprise in space. No joke, whether successful or not, they’ve got a plan and seem dedicated. Will we see an actual Enterprise “Over the next 20 years?” Trekkers can only hope.
Stay tuned for more details on the Star Trek Convention and if you want to see where the Star Trek USS Enterprise would have been make sure you check out “Freemont Street Experience.”