Meet the new frontier…

A sixty year-old Las Vegas institution came tumbling down last night. Or did it? First, read the story from my buddies at KLAS:

The New Frontier casino-hotel was imploded early Tuesday morning after a booming fireworks display, putting an end to the second property to open on the Las Vegas Strip.

The 16-story hotel tower was felled with over 1,000 pounds of explosives before a group of reporters and bystanders to make way for a multibillion-dollar resort bearing The Plaza brand, which is set to open in 2011.
The New Frontier earned historical notations by becoming the Strip’s first theme casino and hosting Elvis Presley’s debut in the city. The low-key gambling hall, which opened as the Last Frontier in 1942 with a cowboy village theme and later embraced the space age before returning to its Wild West roots, had become known for bikini bull riding, cheap hotel rooms and $5 craps before it closed its doors for good in July.
The Last Frontier was the second hotel-casino to open on the Strip, and over its 65 years it played host to such entertainers as Ronald Reagan, Wayne Newton and Siegfried & Roy. Presley performed for the first time in Las Vegas at the resort in 1956. Billionaire Howard Hughes once owned it, and Wynn’s purchase of a minority stake in the 1960s in exchange for heading up the slot and keno departments sparked his career as a casino magnate.
Las Vegas Now – The New Frontier is History

Now that you’ve read the story, here’s my good-natured quibbling. I excerpted out the parts of the story having to do with history–most of which were repeated ad infinitum during the run-up to the demolition–and while they are generally correct, they’re not totally correct. For example, the “New Frontier,” in its current incarnation, only dates to 1998, when Phil Ruffin bought the “Frontier.” And that was, in fact, the third frontier.

It’s even more confusing than it sounds, sort of like learning craps, but I’ll try to sort it out.

In 1942, the Last Frontier opens. It’s the first truly themed casino on the Strip (and only the 2nd casino built there), with a Western theme.

In 1955, the Last Frontier closes and, nearby, the New Frontier opens. This is a space-age themed casino resort with a distinctive pylon-shaped sign. Opening 11 years before the first televised voyage of the Federation Starship Enterprise, it never really caught on.

In 1967 (coincidentally, 1 year after Kirk and company began their five-year mission), the New Frontier closed, and the adjectiveless Frontier opened. This was essentially the property that closed in July. Sometime in the late 1980s/early 1990s, they added the 16-story hotel tower that got imploded last night.

So it’s not really the same property that opened in 1942–it’s actually a different building with a slightly different name,. But, as the historically-minded of us know, this is a relatively small slight perpetrated upon historical accuracy.

My other, bigger concern is something that was completely obvious to everyone watching: they didn’t implode the entire New Frontier. The funniest part was watching a reporter do a live shot with the entire low-rise portion of the casino in the background–he said several times that “the New Frontier is gone.” But as anyone could see, most of it was still there–it was just the “new” hotel tower that got aced.

When they imploded the Stardust tower a few months ago, they had already knocked down all of the lowrise buildings. Check out my “Stardust Deconstructed” photo gallery to see visual proof. So they were justified in billing that as the demise of the Stardust, because the last standing part of that casino did in fact fall.

Since there are still major parts of the Frontier still up, it’s hard to say that this is really “the end of the Frontier.” There’s a lot of demolition work ahead of them.

Which begs the question: why implode now? Why not wait, like Boyd did with the Stardust, until all of the preliminary demolition was already finished? Then you’ve got a lot of open spaces to move around your haulaway equipment and trucks. I’m not an engineer so I don’t know if there are good reasons to implode the tower first, but all things being equal I think something’s going on here.

Is it possible that the implosion was a publicity stunt designed to bolster investor interest in the project? Did the fact that it coincided with G2E mean anything? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but they should be asked.

Spread the love