Secret history of the near-construction of a lifesized Starship Enterprise in downtown Las Vegas


Gary Goddard tells the story of the near-construction of a life-sized Starship Enterprise replica in downtown Las Vegas. Goddard successfully bid to build the attraction as part of the 1992 competition to revitalized Vegas's sagging downtown and bring back tourist traffic that had been sucked away by the strip, but the project was scuttled at the last minute when Stanley Jaffe, then CEO of Paramount, got cold feet. The Enterprise was scrapped and replaced by the "Fremont Street Experience," which stands there today.

The “big idea” was building the ship itself at full-scale. That was the main attraction. That being said, we also knew we would have to have some kind of “show” on board. So, conceptually, it was to be a “tour” of the ship, with all of the key rooms, chambers, decks, and corridors that we knew from the movie. There was to be the dining area for the ship’s crew (where you could dine in Star Fleet comfort), and other special features. There were also one or two interesting ride elements that we were considering including a high-speed travelator that would whisk you from deck to deck. But we were really just getting into the show aspects when everything came to a head. During this time, as we were working out the conceptual design and plan, a licensing contract was negotiated for Paramount Studios with the terms and conditions, including a substantial rights payment up front, and on-going revenue participation, all subject to the approval of the Studio Chairman, which “would not be a problem” if the project was approved. As you can see, from the designs we’ve shown here, we got pretty far down the road, with drawings, renderings, engineering studies, construction cost estimates – about $150,000,000 (in 1992 dollars) — we were ready to go. I had Greg Pro working on it, I had Dan Gozee (long time Disney Imagineering illustrator) on it, and we were really into the whole idea. Everyone was excited. This was going to be a world-class iconic project that would become an international sensation from the moment it was announced...

So with everyone in the room, I take Mr. Jaffe through the project. With the art, the plans, the overall concept. After my spirited “pitch” everyone was beaming – everyone except Mr. Jaffe. Mr. Jaffe thanked us for the effort, and he congratulated us on creating a bold concept and presentation, and then went into a speech that went something like this:

“You know, this is a major project. You’re going to put a full-scale ENTERPRISE up in the heart of Las Vegas. And on one hand that sounds exciting. But on another hand, it might not be a great idea for us – for Paramount.” Everyone in the room was stunned, most of all, me, because I could see where this was going. “In the movie business, when we produce a big movie and it’s a flop – we take some bad press for a few weeks or a few months, but then it goes away. The next movie comes out and everyone forgets. But THIS – this is different. If this doesn’t work – if this is not a success – it’s there, forever….” I remember thinking to myself “oh my god, this guy does NOT get it….” And he said “I don’t want to be the guy that approved this and then it’s a flop and sitting out there in Vegas forever.”

NOW IT CAN BE TOLD: THE “STAR TREK” ATTRACTION THAT ALMOST CAME TO LIFE in 1992. (via /.)

Discuss

85 Responses to “Secret history of the near-construction of a lifesized Starship Enterprise in downtown Las Vegas”

  1. PhosPhorious says:

    Kiteo, his eyes closed.  Shaka, when the walls fell.

  2. Ay, When the walls fell.

  3. oldtaku says:

    So sad. Sure this would have been hideously tacky by day and amazingly garish at night if that concept art is to be believed – but that’s what Vegas is FOR.

    • FourFeetOfCurl says:

      That’s what *The Strip* is for.  When I go to downtown Vegas, it’s to visit the old school casinos, smoke cigars, and play Blackjack.

      • oldtaku says:

         I realize you’re correct, and I’ve even been outside The Strip a few times, but honestly – for people outside Vegas it’s ALL The Strip.

  4. Bevatron Repairman says:

    And we will never get to see the high-stakes fizzbin tables!

  5. Rossi says:

    Concept art aside, this was 1992. It would have been 1701D and we would have gotten to hang out in 10 Forward (with a hell of a view out the big window), which I might have preferred to Quark’s Bar.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Nah, the 1701D was over twice as long as the 1701.  The concept art is clearly not the TNG version (the design of which is frankly not as iconic), plus the “relative sizing chart” near the bottom of the linked page shows an Enterprise whose overall length is approximately twice the height of the 111-meter Luxor hotel.  The 1701D was over 600 meters long and carried over twice the crew complement of the 1701.

      Uh… so my nerdier friends tell me.

  6. Mark Dow says:

    JAAAAAAFFE!

  7. jnordb says:

    It’s a shame. That might have even convinced me to visit Vegas. Might have.

  8. penguinchris says:

    No matter how tacky and inevitably decrepit this would end up being, it still would have been amazing. The concept art is awesome. And you know there would have been look-alikes of the hottest TNG characters, in uniform (Troi, Riker, …Data?)

    I’ve been to Vegas a few times (I lived in SoCal… I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t relatively close) but I’m sad that I missed Star Trek: The Experience. It sounds like that was reasonably cool.

    And “The Fremont Street Experience” sucks. I like the old-school casinos downtown (so long as you turn a blind eye to the decrepit desperation) and the old neon signs and everything, and the Fremont Street Experience video screen doesn’t fit in at all. Not that the Enterprise fits the aesthetic either, but it wouldn’t have obscured all of the cool old stuff like the video screen does.

  9. BBNinja says:

    Someone needs to find where this Jaffe guy lives, knock on his door and punch him in the face. >_<

  10. pjcamp says:

    Jesus Christ! Set phasers on “everything!”

    Still, I would be so totally up for the chorus girls and the Klingon lounge act.

  11. CastanhasDoPara says:

    You fools! Imagine the money that rabid trekkies would have spent to go, stay and live the fantasy all year round. Ef a bunch of Star Trek conventions I’m going to the Enterprise! Also can’t think of a better town to host such a monstrosity either.

    Conversely…

    You fools! If we had built that the Vulcan’s would have contacted us way ahead of schedule and we would probably all have flying cars, legal marijuana, universal health care free education up to the university level and let’s not forget transporters, damn that would be convenient as all hell. (Note: All but one of these could feasibly be had with out alien intervention, though in all likelihood that will be what will have to happen.)

    • VicqRuiz says:

      “Imagine the money that rabid trekkies would have spent to go”

      Where they would nitpick the color of the carpeting and the sound made by the sliding doors, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, until finally the whole staff quits, screaming “NO MORE GODDAMN TREKKIES FOR FUCK”S SAAAAAKEEE!!!

  12. “I don’t want to be the guy that approved this and then it’s a flop and sitting out there in Vegas forever.”

    Congratulations, Mr. Jaffe.  You are not that guy that approved a flop sitting out in Vegas forever.  Instead, you’re the Internet’s most hated person of April 9, 2012.

  13. lecti says:

    “I don’t want to be the guy that approved this” and became a guy without balls.

    • Bill Beaty says:

      Paramount basically gets its own Luxor Pyramid, FOR FREE?   Sheesh.

      On the other hand, it wasn’t Paramount’s idea, and Paramount has no control besides the ability to halt the project.   Not Invented Here effect, NIH.    “Outsiders did this, and it makes us look bad that we didn’t think of it ourselves, and now they want our approval?  Cha, right.”

      • joeposts says:

        That’s actually a fair point, but it’s not going to quell the Trekkie rage. I agree, but I COULD HAVE WALKED ON THE ENTERPRISE.

  14. anansi133 says:

    Actually, I prefer the mental version of the Enterprise to any physical version that’s out there.  Building a full size model would just serve to remind me that such things don’t yet fly, and that most of the space was never really allocated for anything.

    Build a full size model of Serenity, though, and I am *so* there!

  15. Bill Beaty says:

    Hmm.  Given time, a shovel, and a 500ft layer of clay, a small group should be able to hollow out a fairly accurate version of the entire inner structure of the Enterprise.  Not Vegas, instead an offroad attraction, like a reptile zoo.   I’m thinking Fresno Underground Gardens.  Live inside it while digging out more space.   Of course the thickness between decks would have to be larger in order to avoid collapse.  And the shuttlebay would take some serious planning.

  16. Jacarutu! says:

    I’m sure it would have been popular but I have so many misgivings about the whole thing. Why the ENTIRE ship? WHICH ship? The original from TV? A, B, C, bloody D? None of the drawings show it with scaffolding all over it which would have significantly lowered the aesthetic appeal. After 5 years you’d pray for them to finish the damn thing. I would say make it a ride where you take a shuttlecraft out to the Enterprise in a virtual enviroment then when the doors open it’s real. Just no reason to spend so much money on the actual outside of the ship. The simulator can open on an office building sized set with everything you need. I would have vetoed it too. People think any idea is feasible but it’s like a movie script. It may sound great, but can you make it into a movie or is it going to be John Carter?

    • Donald Petersen says:

      The article mentions that they’d pretty much concluded that, contrary to the concept art, they’d have to install it in “scaffolding” that was made to resemble a dry-dock, since the winds out there can get quite high.

  17. Teller says:

    The Fremont Experience is so lame-ass as to be best viewed from the air only. Perhaps in a Constitution-class ship.

  18. Lurking_Grue says:

    No building is forever in Vegas.

  19. grimc says:

    I want to hate on Jaffe, but he was the producer on the original Bad News Bears. I am stymied.

  20. William says:

    It was a stupid idea to begin with. Now on the other hand if they’d built a Borg cube…

  21. niktemadur says:

    Were they planning on building freestanding nacelles?  That would take some pretty innovative and expensive engineering, and still prone to unknown, potentially hazardous variables.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

      My guess is that they’d be built as light as possible, and possibly suspended against each other’s weight with very thin cables that wouldn’t be visible from street level. 

  22. ozzman69ca1 says:

    A working Transporter would be just the thing Vegas needs.
    From all over the world people step up to a pad and step out in Vegas.
    The decontamination program will ensure that what you catch in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

  23. i_prefer_yeti says:

    Dude made the right call.

    Then again, had it flopped, imagine how fun blowing it up would be.

  24. sigdrifa says:

    Flop? This concept? Seriously, how could this have flopped??

  25. Neoracer Xox says:

    They coulda made it a HOTEL?!!!! So its like your actually living in the ships quarters how freekin cool that woulda been.

    • MostlyDifferent says:

      Including the obligatory “Crusher and Troi’s awkward mirrored stretching room” as the hotel gym.  Count me in!!!

  26. MostlyDifferent says:

    I would’ve gone aboard just to see what they did for the restrooms.

  27. hostile_17 says:

    Wish this had happened, mostly.

    It would have probably meant no Quark’s Bar though happening, as there was already a Star Trek attraction.

    And after so many great nights at Quark’s, I couldn’t  wish that away.

  28. dr says:

    I’ve heard there’s a kid in East L.A. who could probably do a credible version of this on a shoestring budget using cardboard boxes.

  29. If it’s a flop, it will be there “forever”? Apparently Mr. Jaffe isn’t familiar with Vegas, where buildings get replaced at the drop of a hat…

  30. bcsizemo says:

    As long as they would have had Klingon blood wine on tap I’d been there.

  31. Christopher says:

    I would have loved to finally find out where exactly the bowling alley is on the Enterprise…still I’d prefer to see a life-size replica of the TARDIS, but that whole bigger on the inside than it is on the outside thing might be kind of hard to pull off, even for Vegas.

  32. Petzl says:

    And in any case, this wouldn’tve been Paramount/Jaffe’s failure.  Had it failed, people would’ve seen it as a “Vegas” failure.  Plus, it’s can’t fail: Paramount makes $150Mln+ up-front in the deal.  It’s free money into the company’s bottom line.  That’s not chicken-feed either:  1992-era USD were real USD.

  33. machinestate says:

    I wonder if this can be crowd-sourced, with the donors turned into shareholders?
    This would so work today.  And really  needs to be done before the surviving cast die off, if it’s gonna happen at all.
    But it would still likely take nearly a decade to build, I wonder if it would work 10 years from now?

  34. Timothy Krause says:

    Too bad the planners didn’t read Learning from Selek IV, a lovely theoretical look at vernacular schlock architecture such as this, and how it can inform architectural practice in the future. Highly recommended!

  35. Guest says:

    Timidly going where most people have gone before

  36. politeruin says:

    I keep thinking about this and still can’t escape the thought it would have been utterly magnificent. Though no doubt it would have been torn down by now if it had been built and would still give me the geek rage like the new trek film did… “But it was built in space you idiots! You’d never get it off the ground!”

  37. Red Leatherman says:

    This was done in Texas with something that looks like it came off a farm like a silo or maybe it’s drain culverts and it’s probably for sale if anyone is looking for that farm out experience.
    http://comicbookliteracy.blogspot.com/2012/01/ultimate-fate-of-starship-pegasus.html
    http://www.domeontheweb.com/files-articles/2009-09-15-starship-dome.php

  38. Bob Thornton says:

    1992 crappy CRT monitors everywhere, slow ass computers running everything, shotty animatronics… It would look cool from outside but would have been a disaster once we got in the ship. We all would expect futuristic tech and it just isn’t fully here yet…

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Actually, I docented Federation Science in the early 90s, and we had snazzy interactive touch screen exhibits. The virtual reality for the transporter room was pretty hokey, but the rest of it was way ahead of its time.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

      You might be confusing the interfaces from the TOS movie Enterprise, which mostly used hardware buttons and CRT/rear-projection displays, with TNG, where every control surface was basically one big iPad. 

      • bcsizemo says:

        Well the interfaces were nice, but the displays were still suck.  DS9 has/had some type of interface/control panel on almost every wall, yet when they pulled up information it looks like it came from an Amiga…

        And the more I watch Star Trek the more I realize that everything, every function, every button tap makes a noise….   I can’t imagine having a conversation with someone while they are using the computer…

    • cdh1971 says:

      It would have looked cool enough for a few years, during which time they could could have continuously updated various things, with major retooling as technology advanced – kinda like what the Disney parks do with their decades-old, signature attractions. The most important thing would be getting the exterior right in the first place.  

  39. Halloween_Jack says:

    I definitely would have made this into a more-or-less annual pilgrimage (time and funds allowing) if it had been built; I’ve never been to Vegas, but the only time I’ve come close to going was when the Experience was still a going concern.

  40. johnshue says:

    Ahh what could have been. perhaps it is there in another timeline

  41. johnshue says:

    perhaps in another place and time it is there

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