Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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BIZ BUZZ:

How one troubled business was turned around — and why some might not be saved

This week I’d like to take a look at four failed or challenged Las Vegas businesses and examine whether they can be revived.

First I’d like to cite a past business failure I covered that has since turned almost all the way around.

I wrote a story in 2002 about the bankrupt Aladdin called: “What went wrong?” (The answer was: almost everything, from poor design to inexperienced owners to the bad timing to open right before the tourism slowdown of the post-9/11 world — with an Arabian theme, to boot.)

Aladdin’s new owners who rescued the property from bankruptcy weren’t able to solve all of the property’s design problems, but they bought the resort at a good price, got rid of the troublesome name and theme and rebranded it as Planet Hollywood.

With CityCenter ready in less than two years to open across Las Vegas Boulevard, Planet Hollywood is ideally situated to continue its improving performance.

Next I’d like to take a look at the Las Vegas Monorail. First, I think it’s clear that we need more transportation alternatives in the Strip corridor than just taxis, rental cars and workers’ cars.

Even with the Deuce buses provided by the Regional Transportation Commission and privately owned Arrow buses, there’s not enough capacity to move folks from resort to resort or from resort to convention center.

And that’s where the monorail should come in.

But it has been plagued by problems, some of which were caused by entrenched opponents, such as some resort owners and the taxi industry.

It should have been built in the center of the Strip, so it would be equally accessible to resorts on both sides and visitors could enjoy the dramatic Strip streetscape as they travel.

It should have opened with a link to McCarran International Airport.

And it should have been tested well enough that its first year of operation wasn’t plagued by falling parts.

That was then, and this is now. It’s too late to move the monorail to center-Strip.

But it is not too late to add a link to the airport, and eventually to extend a line to the resorts on the west side of the Strip.

The monorail and the Las Vegas Convention Center need to do a better job of selling the line to conventioneers.

There are a lot of monorail critics around here, particularly in the news media.

It’s easy to kick the monorail. But it does reduce Strip-corridor automobile congestion, and could alleviate more if it were expanded to McCarran.

I’d like to see resort owners kick in some money to allow the monorail to borrow enough to build an airport extension.

When Strip congestion gets worse as new projects open during the next few years, the monorail’s value to the economy will become more apparent. It’s a troubled business that needs some help to survive, and Las Vegas needs the monorail to thrive.

Next I’d like to analyze prospects for Neonopolis, the troubled retail space on city-owned land on Fremont Street just west of Las Vegas Boulevard.

It was always a poorly thought-out project.

The idea that it would draw suburban Las Vegans to Fremont Street was ludicrous.

And the only reason Neonopolis has sufficient parking in its underground parking garage is because so few people go to it.

If it drew a lot of business, parking would be a problem.

But there is a shred of hope for the failed project. Its owners need to lure a healthy tenant that wants to capitalize on Neonopolis’ downtown Las Vegas location.

One idea that has recently been discussed: Bringing in Spanish language TV station Telemundo, which could benefit from its proximity to tourists and the resulting exposure.

I don’t know whether the deal will get made. Regardless, I’m skeptical of Neonopolis’ prospects.

Last, I want to examine the future of the Moulin Rouge, the long-closed casino on Bonanza Road that developers have recently said they’d like to revive.

As the first integrated casino in Las Vegas, the Moulin Rouge has an understandable place in the hearts and minds of Las Vegans.

But the idea that some out-of-town entity is going to spend $700 million or more building a casino resort is ridiculous.

The area is troubled, and it would take a lot more than $700 million to revitalize the neighborhood.

The developers expect nearby residents to make the new casino their place to play.

They apparently don’t realize that residents of the economically depressed area already have nearby casinos: downtown Las Vegas, plus Jerry’s Nugget, Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho in North Las Vegas.

I will be shocked if the developers can raise the money to build a new Moulin Rouge.

But if they can somehow raise the money, and if a casino can thrive on Bonanza Road, I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong.

Of course, I might have to simultaneously admit that pigs are flying and snowballs are surviving in hell.

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