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August 20, 2014

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CITY HALL:

Plans to give ‘Star Trek’ attraction a home in Vegas still alive

Image

Sam Morris

Peggy Pettit of Aberdeen, S.D., looks askance at a “Star Trek” character, Dahar Master Motog, while riding the Las Vegas Monorail in September 2005.

Final Frontier for Neonopolis

Neonopolis representative Rohit Joshi sits down with our John Katsilometes to discuss downtown development, and the mall's coming attractions.

Map of Neonopolis

Neonopolis

450 Fremont St., Las Vegas

The dream of bringing acquisitive Ferengi, scheming Romulans and combative Klingons to downtown Las Vegas — as if downtown weren’t colorful enough — is still alive.

According to the two primary players in the effort to import the “Star Trek: The Experience” attraction to the 250,000-square-foot mall called Neonopolis, the effort is still on track despite the dampened economy.

This is good news for both the city and Star Trek fans dismayed by the previous delay of the opening. The attraction had been slated to coincide with the May 8 premiere of the “Star Trek” movie, but was called off.

Rohit Joshi, the Neonopolis owner’s representative, said that was because CBS, which owns the rights to the Star Trek brand, didn’t think the plans were fully in place.

Joshi said he’s been working with several consultants to design the multi-tiered attraction, which could include more than one ride, a restaurant and bar, a Star Trek museum and possibly a Trek-themed nightclub.

Trek fans are unlike any other potential customers Joshi has dealt with, he said. It’s vital that all the details of a Star Trek attraction be as faithful to Trek history and lore as possible, he said.

“You have to be extremely knowledgeable to do this correctly,” Joshi said. “You don’t want to do something to upset the Trekkies.”

Though he’s optimistic about its prospects, Joshi declined to give a possible opening date, saying that fans planning trips to visit the attraction had been let down before and that he needed to respect them.

Neonopolis has a tough act to follow. The Star Trek attraction ended its 11-year run at the Las Vegas Hilton in September of last year. According to Joshi, it attracted more than 3.5 million visitors during its run.

Joshi didn’t say how much the attraction would cost to build at Neonopolis. But the attraction cost $100 million to build at the Hilton, he said: $80 million initially, and another $20 million for the Experience’s second phase.

Leslie Ryan, vice president of communications for CBS Television Distribution in Los Angeles, said the Neonopolis project “is still in development,” and that CBS did license the rights to the attraction to Joshi’s group.

It’s unclear how long that agreement with CBS will last before Joshi must move forward or lose the rights to the project. Ryan declined to comment on any other aspect of the deal. Joshi said the agreement was for the “long term,” but would not give specifics.

•••

In efforts to finance a new city hall, city officials have bandied about several funding mechanisms, including general obligation bonds and special certificates of participation, which are similar to bonds.

Now it appears the city is looking at using so-called “Build America Bonds” to finance the project, which could cost the city as much as $267 million.

At a recent news conference, Mayor Oscar Goodman said the project had been “looking bleak,” because the interest rates on the certificates were as high as 7.5 to 8 percent — too high.

But prospects have improved with the these Build America bonds, Goodman said.

According the Internal Revenue Service’s Web site, the recently implemented program — part of President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — “allows state and local governments to issue taxable bonds for capital projects and to receive a new direct federal subsidy payment from the Treasury Department for a portion of their borrowing costs.”

Top city officials Scott Adams and Mark Vincent are set to address the City Council on the new developments at the council’s Oct. 7 meeting. But no decisions will be made then.

According to city spokesman David Riggleman, the council likely won’t vote on whether to move forward on the city hall plan until November or December.

Vincent said the benefits of the Build America bonds are clear. The subsidy payments would save the city $82 million over 30 years, by current estimates. That would allow the interest rates to effectively be lowered to a much more affordable rate, he said.

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