The first fifty years of Las Vegas was focused on a small street named “Fremont” named after explorer John Charles Fremont. This is where legalized gambling started at casinos named the Northern Club, Golden Gate, Gold Nugget, Binion’s Horseshoe, El Dorado Club and more. The lights from these gaming halls were so bright the western end of Fremont Street was referred to as “Glitter Gulch”. What followed was the golden age of Downtown Las Vegas. Numerous television shows and Hollywood movies wanted to be filmed with the neon lights of Las Vegas in the background.
The popularity of Las Vegas could not be contained on one downtown street so the gaming industry stretched its reach to the Las Vegas Strip. The Flamingo, Caesars Palace, Dunes, Stardust, Tropicana, Sands were more than just gambling halls; they were full entertainment centers. In short order the Las Vegas Strip was the place to see and be seen. By 1992, 80% of the gaming market was on the Strip. Downtown Las Vegas was dying and something needed to happen to allow Downtown to compete with the Las Vegas Strip.
Tourists to Southern Nevada are often surprised to learn that the Las Vegas Strip is not in the City of Las Vegas; the Strip is in Clark County, Nevada. Downtown is in the City of Las Vegas. That is why in the 1990’s the City of Las Vegas felt the need to do something to revitalize fading Downtown Las Vegas. One idea was to build a life size Starship Enterprise which never got off the ground. Another was a floating sky parade that was suspended from a canopy. This was also rejected due to exposure from the extreme desert elements. A new idea was desperately needed and would come from a local architect.
3) How did the Fremont Street Experience happen?
Architect Mary Kozlowski had grown up in Las Vegas and knew and loved Downtown Las Vegas, specifically Fremont Street. Her concept was a light show on the underside of a canopy covering the west end of Fremont Street. Not just any light show, but the world’s largest and most spectacular. In 1994 the City of Las Vegas accepted the concept and the Fremont Street Experience was born.
On September 7, 1994 construction began. Five blocks of Fremont Street were closed to automobile traffic forever. Construction continued until the show became open to the public on December 14, 1995. The total length of the lightshow is 1500 feet long; the highest point from the ground is 90 feet and has a total of 12.5 million synchronized LED modules. The City of Las Vegas would soon realize this vision was just what was needed and the Experience is often credited with the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas.
4) What is the Fremont Street Experience Today?
The Fremont Street Experience is known as a technological marvel. It has a state of the art light, music and animation display that pumps out a high level of energy for all those who look up in amazement at the fast moving images on the screen. Accompanying music is provided by a 550,000 watt concert quality sound system.
During the day the canopy creates an outdoor mall experience. Venders and entertainers line Fremont Street Experience from one end to the other. Musicians and dancers perform free concerts for the visiting tourists. A zip line has been added allowing people to float above the crowd from one end of the canopy to the other.
Once the sun goes down the outdoor mall changes to one big party. The screen lights up, the music blasts and the animation races from one end of the Experience to the other in the blink of an eye. Today the Fremont Street Experience is a noisy, bright and bold carnival atmosphere, full of entertainers, music and food. The venue is a guaranteed delight for tourists and locals alike who want to lose themselves in a playful and visually stimulating playground.