The Incidental Tourist

[The Incidental Tourist]

The sale of the Las Vegas Club great for Downtown

An exterior view of the Las Vegas Club during the casino’s final night in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The casino closed it’s doors at midnight.
Photo: Steve Marcus

After it was announced last week that the Las Vegas Club casino on Fremont Street had been sold, I tried to talk about it. I wanted to discuss, with other Vegas-minded people, what it would mean for Downtown and the Fremont Street Experience and the city as a whole for the typically empty property, which opened in the 1930s, to get snagged by Downtown’s most active casino developers, Derek and Greg Stevens.

I was excited. I wanted to talk about it. Problem was, most of the people I mentioned it to didn’t even know there was a Las Vegas Club. So much for Vegas-minded.

Planted at the historic corner of Fremont and Main, the Las Vegas Club has been slowing down for a long time. Its 400 hotel rooms have been shuttered for more than two years, and many of its best-known and most popular features—the sportsbook, the Dugout diner, the Great Moments Room restaurant—closed for good in the mid- to late-2000s. Tamares Group, which owns and operates the Plaza across Main Street, sold the Las Vegas Club for $40 million and closed the property on August 20.

Maybe you aren’t familiar with the Las Vegas Club either, but if you’ve spent any time recently inside the D or the Golden Gate, it’s easy to see why this deal should be great for Fremont Street.

“I concur,” says Derek Stevens. “I think it will be great for Fremont Street and Downtown.”

In the recent, short era of Downtown Las Vegas being top of mind for reasons having little to do with the original Vegas casino drag, Stevens and his team have made the Fremont Street Experience a better place. They turned the dilapidated Fitzgeralds into the D, one of the Downtown tourist corridor’s premier party spots, and made beautiful improvements to the Golden Gate, the original Downtown hotel and casino opened in 1906. They also grabbed up some land behind the D and created the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, an outdoor facility that hosts rock concerts, boxing matches, festivals and other events.

Stevens says there will be obvious synergistic opportunities between the Las Vegas Club and the Golden Gate, which are directly across Fremont from each other, but that it’s too early to talk about exactly what he’s going to do with his new project. “I’m not holding anything back; we really just need to fully evaluate the structure of the building. There’s a lot of back-of-the-house things that people don’t talk about, like plumbing, that need to be [assessed]. I anticipate by the time we’re done, you’ll see a combination of new construction, renovation and demolition.”

When he’s done, it will be something new. Unlike when he bought Fitzgeralds, Stevens didn’t purchase the Las Vegas Club’s business, name or equipment—just the land and the building. He won’t have a player database to help build an audience, as Tamares couldn’t segregate that casino database from the one at the Plaza. So it seems like a daunting task, to take over a closed casino and build it into something new, from scratch.

On the other hand, Stevens gets to take over a closed casino and build it into something new, from scratch.

“These things tend to go in fits and spurts,” he says. “My overall goal is to grow our business, and we really like the Downtown area for a whole lot of reasons. There are so many great things on Fremont Street, and you’re seeing more new capital investment in [casino] properties. There are some really tremendous restaurant offerings down here. I’m just happy to be one of the guys doing these things.”

Of course, the reason my people didn’t know about the Las Vegas Club and what it could become is that they spend their Downtown time around the intersection of Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard, where the Fremont East Entertainment District begins and tourist traffic gives way to locals looking to eat, drink and party. I just have to remind them they’re missing out on the fun up on Main Street, at the spruced-up Golden Gate and Plaza casinos, and soon, whatever comes next at the former Las Vegas Club.

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An award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers entertainment ...

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