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November 23, 2014

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To boldly not go: How one man robbed Vegas of the Starship Enterprise

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Alternate universe: Let us hope that in another reality, Las Vegas realized this sci-fi wet dream.

In 1992, President George H. W. Bush barfed in the lap of Japan’s prime minister during a televised state dinner. It was an omen of the sickening tragedy that would happen later that year. Not the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Di. Not the music video for “I’m Too Sexy.” The death of what could have been our city’s most awesome spectacle.

Imagine a life-size USS Enterprise in permanent dry dock in the heart of Downtown. As long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, the massive ship would have beckoned Star Trek pilgrims to tour its iconic bridge, dine Starfleet-style and ride a high-speed “travelator.” Nerd Mecca. But non-nerds (and airplane passengers) would have been just as stunned by the sheer scale of it, the otherworldly lights out-gleaming the surrounding neon.

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Beyond the Weekly
The Goddard Group's Blog

“My concept was to do something so large and so epic, it would fire the imaginations of people around the world,” said Gary Goddard in a recent blog for the Goddard Group. After 20 years of silence, he revealed that “The Starship Enterprise” was his answer to Downtown’s cry for help competing with the Strip. The mayor and the redevelopment committee ate it up, and Goddard’s then-firm Landmark spent five months proving it could be done. A licensing agreement with Paramount had the blessing of the studio’s president, but the final word belonged to CEO Stanley Jaffe. That word was no. Goddard recalled him saying: “If this doesn’t work—if this is not a success—it’s there, forever.”

Clearly, homeslice didn’t grasp the universal, timeless (provided we never crack that pesky space-time problem) allure of Star Trek, nor the way Vegas treats failed attractions like gangrenous limbs. Jaffe had the “8th Wonder of the World” in his hands and chose to boldly not go. So, Downtown got the Fremont Street Experience, and Goddard suffered “a great personal, creative and emotional loss.” Working on Vegas’ beloved “Star Trek: The Experience” eased the pain, but the Enterprise would have been a staggering monument to gumption, to the mark one person with a crazy idea can make on the world. Ironically, it only took one person to kill it.

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