Friday, April 8, 2011

Las Vegas Part 1 - The Rumor Mill is Churning

Editor's Note:  Please join me in welcoming Kevin to NewsPlusNotes!  His focus on the blog will be the West Coast and its many parks and attractions.  I look forward to seeing what kind of goodies he will cook up for us! - Mike

As I sat down to write my very first post, a commercial came on TV for the new Aria resort in Las Vegas. I found it ironic because; one, this was the first Vegas commercial I've seen on TV in years and it happened to be the subject of this post, and two, the content of the commercial couldn't be farther from the truth. Check out the commercial below.

Now, the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that they advertised Aria with a couple alone throughout the whole resort. As Vegas comes off of a 7 year building boom and for the first time in almost 2 decades there isn't a single active construction project on the strip, you may think that making Vegas appear deserted would be bad for business.

I'm not an expert on how many visitors it takes to turn a profit in a Vegas casino, but on my recent trip to the "City of Sin" it would have been hard for anyone to notice that a recession of historic proportions is still going on in the US. The streets were packed with people, the casino tables rarely had free seats, shows were sold out and the nightclubs had massive lines. The crowds were so huge I almost felt like I was at Disneyland for New Years Eve.

This brings me to the first subject of my multi-part Vegas update. If we really are seeing an increase in Vegas visitors, when will the construction cranes start moving in on the strip again? Well they may already be on their way.

As we all heard earlier this year, the historic Sahara Hotel and Casino will be shutting its doors on May 16, 2011. The biggest disappointment to the coaster community is the loss of Speed: The Ride, arguably the best thrill ride in Vegas. Rumors have swirled from the ride being melted down to being up for sale.

The biggest rumor around the strip now, and coming to me from a very trust worthy source, is that the ride has been sold to none other than -drum roll please -Six Flags. This isn’t a huge shock if you think about it. Six Flags hasn’t been quiet about its recent financial struggles, and the opportunity to purchase a ride like Speed for significantly less than it would be new is perfect for the theme park operator.

Now I’m still classifying this as a rumor, but it’s exciting to hear the buzz leaning toward the ride being reused elsewhere rather than serving its final ride on May 16, never to thrill again. An argument can be made for almost all of Six Flags’ parks and who deserves the ride more - but I won’t speculate just yet on who will get it, as it is far too early to say.

The price tag of the coaster seems to be on par with other rumors I’ve heard at $5 million. That is not a bad re-sale price at all and SBE, the parent company that owns the Sahara, must be fairly pleased with that kind of money coming in on the sale of an 11 year old coaster. The sale of the coaster also says a lot about the future of the Sahara itself.

SBE has been pretty mum on the future of the property, acting as though they have no plans for its future. The sale of Speed, well before it’s even closed, shows that they are actively looking to clear space at the Sahara. How much space you ask? Well, the word most of my insiders on the strip seem to be hearing is that Vegas may be seeing its first implosion since the Frontier when down in a cloud of dust on November 13, 2007. And SBE doesn’t intend to just have an empty lot; they are looking to build the next big Strip resort and bring some life down to the North end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Until SBE decides to break its silence, however, we must continue to play the waiting game to find out what will happen with the property, as well as the fate of that towering 200 ft. Premiere coaster. It’s definitely not bad news to here that the current construction pause on the Strip may be at an end sooner than we all expected. I’m sure everyone will join me in crossing their fingers in hoping that the recession’s presence in Vegas and at similar attractions is soon at an end.

Next week, look for the part 2 of my ongoing Vegas “saga” where I’ll be updating you on the newest hotels on the strip, and how much this famous street has changed over that past 7 years.