Las Vegas Almost Built a Full Scale USS Enterprise From STAR TREK

by     Posted 2 years, 146 days ago

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Vegas: The Final Frontier.  While Las Vegas has undergone a number of renovations over the years, spearheaded by the mob or by family-friendly capitalists, there were once plans for a futuristic attraction that would have drawn Trekkies in droves.  A 1992 Las Vegas downtown redevelopment competition was nearly won by the Goddard Group’s plan to build a full-scale Star Trek USS Enterprise, complete with restaurant, ride elements, tours and live entertainment, but not, to its detriment, a hotel or casino.  Fans of the show or not, tourists would have flocked to the area to, at the very least, have their picture taken with the iconic Starfleet craft.  The $150 million project, paltry by today’s Vegas standards, came close, but lost out to the competition’s runner-up, the “Freemont Experience.”  Hit the jump for much more, including a tale of how the ego of one studio head grounded the entire Star Trek USS Enterprise project.

star-trek-uss-enterprise-drawingNews of the failed enterprise (ha!) was announced when Gary Goddard, head of the Goddard Group, posted the story online (via TrekMovie).  The idea to build a full-scale USS Enterprise came at a time when the Las Vegas Strip was pulling an overwhelming majority of tourism and investment capital away from the downtown region.  Big problems demand big ideas and, at the time, nothing would have been bigger than a true-to-life starship attraction.  Goddard’s idea answered the competition’s requirements of something that could:

“become an attraction of such magnitude that it would draw people from the strip, a destination attraction” that would “re-establish the downtown core as the center of the action in Las Vegas.”

Since other hotels and casinos in the downtown area were financing the winning project of the competition, those two features would be left out due to conflict of interests. While this was surely a sticking point, it wasn’t the coffin nail.  The project had to be cleared by not only the city officials, but also the studio that owned the property: Paramount.  Most of the decision makers were on board, including Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones; the redevelopment committee; the President of Paramount Studios, Sherry Lansing and the Paramount Licensing group.  One man was left to star-trek-uss-enterprise-conceptconvince before the project could get off the ground (so to speak): Paramount CEO Stanley Jaffe.

As quoted by Goddard:

Albert Einstein said it best: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

And with that foreboding comment, Goddard recounts the fatal meeting with Jaffe:

star-trek-uss-enterprise-posterAll of our work, the effort to get Paramount, the Mayor, and redevelopment committee aligned, everything had come to this moment.  We were ready to go.  Money in place, land provided by the city, license for the property negotiated with Paramount licensing – all set.  If Mr. Jaffe says “yes” and we are a “go” project. And the city wanted to have a press conference within a week announcing the project.

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.”

star-trek-uss-enterprise-full-scaleAnd with that, Mr. Jaffe in a single moment, destroyed about five months of work by a host of people, and killed one of the greatest ideas of all time.

Stanley waltzed out of the room and I think everyone was stunned.  No one could believe it. But our dream pretty much ended there.  Sherry Lansing was stunned and apologized to the room and followed her boss out. The Paramount licensing team was embarrassed to say the least, and of course, they were also realizing they had just lost out on millions of dollars in future licensing revenues too. The Mayor and the redevelopment committee were just depressed I think.  But they thanked me for all the efforts I put into it, and for making the meetings with Paramount possible, and then they headed back to Las Vegas.

There you have it, Star Trek fans; the mecca that could have been if only for the limited vision of a small-minded studio CEO who chose not to boldly go where no man had gone before.

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  • John

    Not surprising. These studio execs are so worried about their jobs that they don’t want to take any risks.

    But did anyone think Star Trek was going to be a flop? I didn’t. Abrams did a great job widening the appeal of Star Trek for mass audiences.

    This project would have been great – the concept art is fantastic. It’s too bad one guy ruined it…

    • Justin

      It had nothing to do with the Abrams movie. This was 20 years ago, in 1992 when TNG was several years in, Deep Space Nine was a year away and Star Trek was just about at the height of its popularity, but the best the movies had done then was 133 million, not the 385 million that Abram’s movie made.

      If this was a project that had only happened recently then it probably still wouldn’t happen because how poorly Star Trek: The Experience did. The space for the enterprise is also gone now, taken up by the Fremont Street Experience.

      • Oingo Boingo

        Uh, no, we are *not* comparing box office profits to decide who made the better movie. 5$ in 92 still got you admission and a drink, where now, you barely get in the door for $15, and that’s without even including the fact that there are hundreds more screens and a perfected hype-machine available these days.

    • Stephen Martin

      Wow. Unbelievably short sighted. I’m sure that CEO is long gone by now. What a complete idiot. To think that the most popular franchise at the time would let someone create a failure is absolutely absurd. I know, because back in 93 I applied for a Star Trek license and the hoops I had to go through was not easy. At that time, those people were very protective of the image, and went to great lengths to ensure that the name “Star Trek” was held in high esteem.

      What a shame. That project would’ve been a HUGE success, then, and now.

  • Dogg

    I don’t see them supporting that huge saucer section as a space for human occupation. Maybe with a bunch of cables to support that massive overhang, but that would have destroyed the whole look. And making it a big empty sculpture would piss off Trek fans. I doubt this was ever anything more than architectural vaporware.

    • Dave Trumbore

      Dogg, Goddard addressed that difficult in the full post, as follows:

      We learned everything we could about the Starship – its actually size and dimensions, how it would exist in “dry dock” on the planet if indeed such a situation had been possible. We imagined what it could be, and how we might achieve it. We got Ken Ball (former head of engineering at Disney’s MAPO) involved to figure out how to engineer and support it. (Ultimately we realized we would need to add some supports on the outer edge of the “disc” section due to the extremely high wind conditions in Vegas. For this we created a high tech “scaffolding structure” that gave the ship more of the appearance of being in an open-air dry dock. I have not yet located that sketch, but I’ll try to find it.)

      • Dogg

        Good info, thanks.

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  • Jay McKells

    Wow im not even a fan of star trek apart from liking the recent film but that looks amazing…

  • Nomis1700

    If they ever build one, it should be a real spaceship.

  • Phil Beta

    Damn Jaffe! Has that guy some connection with George Lucas?

    Einstein remains as genius as ever gets.

  • Evan

    If they would’ve done the Abrams Enterprise and not the Original Series Enterprise today, that would be spectacular.

    • WTF Guy

      It would have been more than spectacular, considering the plans were made in 1992 and the Abrams movie wouldn’t come out for another 19 years!

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  • Alex–

    A space shuttle ready for launch wouldn’t be such a bad idea

  • HLM

    The easy solution to this problem: make a few tweaks, change the design to the millineum falcon and set a meeting with LucasFilm (who’re always looking for opportunities to whore out the Star Wars Franchise).

    • hockablah

      i concur. though a full scale millennium falcon would be pretty small for Vegas standards. now a star destroyer….

    • Slackr

      Bad idea! What can you fit in the MF? maybe 12 people at a time?

    • David Guzman

      No, as cool as the Millenium Falcon is it would not have anywhere near the grandeur of this, not because of artistic considerations but because of the huge difference in size.

      A full size sci-fi ship like this is something that would have been so much more spectacular. I mean look at the proportions in relation to the surrounding buildings, it would be something that would have looked as spectacular as the St. Louis arc as you see it for the first time that you go to the city from a distance.

      I mean I had seen the arc many, many times in movies an I was impressed with it but the first time I saw it with my own eyes it was an amazing experience and with the size of this it would have been probably as impressive or to me being a sci-fi fan even more impressive.

      And imagine the reaction of little kids going there and seeing something like this for the first time all the way from the distance to actually going inside, just try to put yourself in those little shoes and imagine what would you have felt.

      I think that another possible place where something like this could have been placed would have been in an theme park like Disney World or Universal Studios in Florida, that is another place where it could have had possibilities but the idea of driving into a city and seeing something like this also kinda blows the mind away.

      Too bad that they didn’t actually build it, for many sci-fi fans it would have been a dream come true. Amazing concept and the bravado to actually consider putting this in the real world, wow.

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  • noghar

    This is the course of Hollywood – its always safer to say no than yes, so small minded, timid mediocrity wins out over vision and ambition…

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  • GS

    Albert Einstein said it best: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

    And you never have to look far, for proof of that.
    But ironically a physicist would be the first person to put the kibosh on this!

  • Jerome

    Is Jaffe still at Paramount? If not, I would say find another location in Vegas and build the damn thing. There are folks out there that still of Star Trek and would love to see the Enterprise like that!! It would be spectacular! Trekkies from around the world would flock to Vegas to take a look at it!!

  • Singularity

    The idea is cool. It would be amazing to see the Enterprise.

    However, time marches on. Twenty or thirty years pass and suddenly the “modern” Enterprise of ’92 looks frozen in time. It becomes uncool, and a monument to un-stylish permanence.

    I think Paramount made the right decision.

    Cool as it would have been in theory.

    • CYrusBORG

      Unfortunate that people think that way. Little appreciation for the past. For the historical.

      Star Trek is an iconic reference in our culture. It was a game-changer socially, culturally, thematically and in terms of the industry. A television series that spawned 20 movies + and is in another generational tour? Are you kidding? NCC-1701 was the genesis of it all. Who couldn’t appreciate that? It’s like saying that the Model T is an antiquated automobile that has no visual or historical significance.

      Frozen in time: James Bond’s Aston Martin; __________?; __________________?

  • Dave S

    What a wasted opportunity. A great idea. Little did they know how popular it would be so many years later. I just hope the idea gets revisited later, but not too much later. We may never experience space flight, but having this would make a lot of dreams come true.

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  • cjm

    Are you kidding me!!!!!
    this would have become a Star-Trek MECCA (apologies to my Islamic fans).
    I know people that would have WHEEPED at the feet of this thing, and made many a return visit to vegas.

    The failure of the star trek experience was that if you just wanted to see the studio memoribilia you still had to pay the 24.99 to see the lame motion show. there was a lot of good museum quality pieces there but few saw them. This would have been a gold mine and but for the lack of vision, no lets call it what it is STUPIDITY, of a single person, this go on as one of the great entertainment “could-beens” sort of like the original vision of Epcot

  • beatwithit

    The popularity of Star Trek rarely wanes, it just gets larger when the general populace hops on board. Jaffe was extremely short sighted. And I don’t think a full scale Enterprise would ever be “uncool”, as the interior and exterior would represent whatever era ship they decided to build. The original enterprise is dated, but still very cool to the many people who remember it, or rediscover it through movies and television. To this day, the most popular Enterprise model is the NCC 1701A refit from the original movies.

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  • Mark

    I love Star Trek as much as anyone, but this would eventually have ended in embarrassment. They already closed the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton and, despite promises it would be rebuilt in time for the 2009 reboot, it never happened. So let’s not assume that this would have been a must-see attraction for decades to come.

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  • Milhamman

    I visited Vagas just a few months ago and on my way back though Arizona saw the rock formations and thought they kinda looked like crashed star ships imbedded in the ground. It got me thinking about how cool it would be to have an attraction in Vagas dedicated to such a theme….then i hit me, why not just use the Enterprise!!! Set it up as though it were in space dock. Have the main hotel, casino and some attractions in the space dock and have nice restaurants suits and “tours” located in the ship. I am so glad someone else thought this would be cool enough to actually attempt!!! If it were me though, i would build it out side of Vagas! Make it a ranch of sorts and maybe even add a Voyager, NX-01 or an Abrams 1701 as time and popularity dicate. The main point…i wouldn’t care where they built it, I would drive, fly or walk to get there!! The Paramount exec. was way off in my opinion, even if some one cared less about Star Trek, I cant think of many people who could see such a site as a full scale star ship and not at the very least want to peak inside! :)

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  • Dave

    Yes, Jaffe is a moron no doubt.

    I would still like to see this full size Enterprise built as it would generate revenue and memories for years, revenue to the owners, memories for the fans. Star Trek is 46 years old now…and still the hottest fan base (and largest) in the world. Build it elsewhere! Tell Jaffe to agree or resign.

  • Dave

    Yes, Jaffe is a moron no doubt.

    I would still like to see this full size Enterprise built as it would generate revenue and memories for years, revenue to the owners, memories for the fans. Star Trek is 46 years old now…and still the hottest fan base (and largest) in the world. Build it elsewhere! Tell Jaffe to agree or resign….period.

    If he knew what Star Trek meant to the fans, he would understand.

  • CYrusBORG

    Unfortunate that people think that way. Little appreciation for the past. For the historical.

    Star Trek is an iconic reference in our culture. It was a game-changer socially, culturally, thematically and in terms of the industry. A television series that spawned 20 movies + and is in another generational tour? Are you kidding? NCC-1701 was the genesis of it all. Who couldn\’t appreciate that? It\’s like saying that the Model T is an antiquated automobile that has no visual or historical significance.

    Frozen in time: James Bond\’s Aston Martin; __________?; __________________?

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  • Bill

    This just blew my freaking mind!

  • Will

    I thought I’d seen everything until now. Fantastic rendering. Now Vegas has Two Ferris Wheels costing millions of dollars being built I wonder if someone will come to some conclusion that Star Trek The Experience was a great money maker and build a new one?

  • Felix

    I think a Star Trek or even a Star Wars themed casino or entertainment complex in Las Vegas would go over fairly well. Many gamblers are also geeks at heart.

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