“You know what would be phenomenal?” Oscar Goodman bellows as we stride from City Hall down Las Vegas Boulevard to a menorah lighting on Fremont Street.
This is the guy who got the performing arts center and Cleveland Clinic to sprout from a toxic train yard, moved the notion of a mob museum from appalling to brilliant and, most recently, poached Zappos from Henderson to occupy a city hall that didn’t need replacing but will be replaced nonetheless.
Yes, sir. Tell me. What would be phenomenal?
“See, what I’d like to do when I’m not the mayor anymore and can invest out here, I’d love to buy this property over here and put in that ‘giant eye’ Ferris Wheel that they have in London over there,” he gushes, pointing at an empty lot on the east side of the road.
“You want a Ferris wheel Downtown?” I answer, disappointment disguised as deadpan.
“It’d be phenomenal.”
To which I resist the urge to retort: “What is the obsession Vegas has with building a fucking Ferris wheel?” Caesars Entertainment chief Gary Loveman hankers for one, too, near Flamingo Road, but Wall Street won’t give him the money. Several have been considered for parcels around the Strip through the years, but you know what attraction no Vegas tourist has ever told me he misses here? A fucking Ferris wheel.
Welcome to the Era of the Next Little Thing. With Cosmo open and big ambitions dashed by economic reality, a mayoral Ferris wheel with views of the Spaghetti Bowl is just one of the small-fry notions we get to anticipate. Whatever’s to come will be small and even the biggest cheerleaders will have to feign excitement.
That said, you know what would be phenomenal? A Starbucks on the Strip. Not inside a resort. That we have. On the Strip, as in right out there.
Phil Ruffin agrees. In coming months, he tells me, he’ll carve off a piece of the Treasure Island lagoon and modify the pirate show to open the most famous franchise in caffeine on the sidewalk. Also, he wants a margarita bar, but that’s ho-hum.
Still, it’s why I love Ruffin, he of ideas so simple it’s shocking nobody thought of them before. Can you imagine all the cool kids stumbling out of Tao or Lavo across the street and seeing a neon version of that cloven-handed mermaidish lady blinking at them?
Steve Wynn’s got his Next Little Thing planned. His Next Big Things are all in Asia, see, which is why he’s so bored and frustrated with Vegas right now.
“You know what we are working on adding, the next thing at the Wynn?” he asks.
For some reason, these people think I like guessing games. And I always bite, so maybe I do.
“A 100,000-square-foot exhibit center,” he says.
“What I’m going to do is turn the 18th tee into a dogleg … One side of it would be looking up the 18th hole and the other side would be looking at the back of our house where you come in off of Koval Lane.”
Isn’t there enough of that, given Wynn borders the Sands and Las Vegas convention centers?
“We specialize in very definitive, high-end exhibits, and we know who the people are who would use this hall because we have talked with them already. If there is a citywide convention, some of the higher-end exhibitors would be with us. And there are other shows that use 100,000 feet of space and want to have 2,500, 3,000 rooms. We are not trying to displace the Sands or the Las Vegas convention bureau, we are trying to expand on a business that we already understand.”
Shovels will be in the ground by May, he says.
Yeah, it’s a snooze, although the potential for more Wynn v. Adelson drama is always fun.
Hey, maybe he’ll even build a fucking Ferris wheel. Then—and only then, evidently—Vegas will be perfect.