Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas
The Fremont Street Experience (FSE) is a pedestrian mall and attraction in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. The FSE occupies the westernmost 5 blocks of Fremont Street, including the area known for years as "Glitter Gulch," and portions of some other adjacent streets.
The attraction is a barrel vault canopy, 90 ft high at the peak and four blocks, or approximately 1500 ft, in length.
While Las Vegas is known for never turning the outside casino lights off, each show begins by turning off the lights on all of the buildings, including the casinos, under the canopy. Before each show, one bidirectional street that crosses the Experience is blocked off for safety reasons.
Concerts, usually free, are also held on two sound stages. The venue has become a major tourist attraction for downtown Las Vegas, and is also the location of the Neon Museum at the Fremont Street Experience and the city's annual New Year's Eve party, complete with fireworks on the display screen.
Fremont Street is rich in history. It held many Las Vegas "firsts," including first hotel (the Hotel Nevada in 1906, present day Golden Gate), first telephone (1907), first paved street (1925), first Nevada gaming license — issued to the Northern Club at 15 E. Fremont St, first traffic light, first elevator (the Apache Hotel in 1932), and the first high-rise (the Fremont Hotel in 1956). The Horseshoe was the first casino to install carpeting, while the Golden Nugget was the first structure designed from the ground up to be a casino.
For many years, the western end of Fremont Street was the area most commonly portrayed whenever producers wanted to display the lights of Las Vegas. The large number of neon signs earned the area the nickname "Glitter Gulch."
The Fremont Street Experience was conceived in the 1990s as a way to draw more people to the ailing downtown gambling area, which had been losing business to the casinos and resorts of the Strip. FSE, LLC is a cooperative venture, owned and operated by a group of downtown hotel/casino companies (comprising 10 hotel/casinos) as a separate corporation, responsible for financing, developing, and managing the Fremont Street Experience.
Commissioned to revive downtown Las Vegas’ historic Glitter Gulch, which was experiencing a downward revenue trend, The Jerde Partnership designed an “urban theater” that transformed five downtrodden city blocks into a dynamic covered walkway. The result is Fremont Street Experience, a $70-million investment that not only reversed the area’s downward revenue trend, but spurred revenue growth that outpaced the $2.3 billion invested at the same time in “mega resorts” along the Strip. Today, Fremont Street Experience remains downtown Las Vegas’ biggest draw, attracting more than 60 percent of visitors.
Since the 1940s, Fremont Street had been the heart of Las Vegas, popularly known as “the street of light.” In the 1980s Fremont Street fell out of favor as developers built up the Strip with huge casino resorts, focusing financial growth and continued expansion there rather than the historic downtown. The flight of retail and office tenants into the suburbs contributed to Fremont Street’s decline. Owners of Fremont Street’s casinos and hotels, led by Steve Wynn, joined forces in 1992, creating Fremont Street Experience Limited Liability Co., LLC. After unsuccessful attempts to revitalize the downtown core, with proposals including a new office tower and a new casino, the developer brought in The Jerde Partnership to reactivate the area. Jerde’s successful design offered a solution that salvaged stakeholders’ $1.5 billion combined investment and helped preserve 22,000 jobs.
Permanent stages were added in the early 2000s, eliminating the need to bring in temporary stages for every event. The sound system was upgraded in June 2001.
On June 14, 2004, a $17 million upgrade was unveiled that would feature a 12.5-million LED display and more color combinations than the original display, which was composed of incandescent lighting.
The LED display "canopy", runs along the Fremont Street Experience promenade from Main Street to Fourth Street. Holding the canopy aloft are 16 columns, each weighing 26,000 pounds and can hold up 400,000 pounds, and 43,000 struts.
A section comprising one fiftieth of the total canopy equals the size of the world’s current largest electric sign. Originally, nearly 2.1 million incandescent lights were housed in the canopy. With the completion of the $17 million upgrade, more than 12 million LED lamps illuminate the overhead canopy. The new LED upgrade was designed and engineered by LG Electronics, who is also the primary corporate sponsor of the canopy. Within the canopy itself are 220 speakers powered by 550,000 watts of amplification.
Light and sound shows
Light & Sound Shows are presented nightly beginning at dusk. The number of nightly shows was increased during the 2004 upgrade. Some of the most popular shows include the "Lucky Vegas" show which pays tribute to some of the most well known Vegas icons. "Smoke, Speed and Spinning Wheels" gives visitors an inside look at the sport of race car driving. "Area 51" is a show that pits humans against a swarm of alien invaders. "American Freedom" serves as tribute to the United States while "The Drop" takes visitors on a journey that begins with one drop of water.
Created when Fremont Street was closed permanently to vehicular traffic in September 1994. When the light and sound shows are not being presented, music is played throughout the mall.
The parking plaza
The parking plaza is located at the eastern end of Fremont Street. It is a 1,430-space parking structure built to accommodate an increase in visitors to downtown.
Neonopolis, forming the east end of the pedestrian mall, where Las Vegas Boulevard South meets Fremont Street.
The initial display contained about 2.1 million lightbulbs controlled by 32 computers located in kiosks on the mall. The sound system, using speakers suspended over the mall, was rated at 350,000 watts. Strobe lights were added at some point to provide additional entertainment options on Disco Nights.
Displaying images that looked "real" took some innovation. New techniques were developed to make these curved, low-resolution images viewable from the ground. One adjustment was to move images slowly across the display to prevent blurring.
The 2001 upgrade to the sound system raised the power to 555,000 watts.
The 2004 upgrade features a 12.5-million LED display and more color combinations than the original display. The old control system was replaced by a central control room using 10 computers.
FSE casino/hotel companies
- Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel
- Boyd Gaming Corporation:
- Fremont Hotel and Casino
- California Hotel and Casino
- Main Street Station
- Fitzgerald's Casino Hotel
- Four Queens Hotel & Casino
- Golden Gate Hotel and Casino
- Golden Nugget Las Vegas
- Las Vegas Club Hotel & Casino
- Lady Luck Hotel Casino (closed) (associate member)
- Fremont East
- Vegas Vic
- Fremont Street Experience web site
- About Fremont Street Experience
- Video review of the Fremont Street Experience as a Travel Destination
- Video of The Fremont Street Experience
- Fremont Street Experience Timeline