Powerful light displays dazzle Fashion Show’s plaza

Sure, the Strip’s video displays are impossible to miss.

But the newest addition to Las Vegas Boulevard’s sign gallery is really impossible to miss.

The displays that span Fashion Show’s plaza along Las Vegas Boulevard are some of the Strip’s biggest, brightest and highest-definition yet, and the company that built them — Daktronics — said there’s room for plenty more in the local market. In fact, Las Vegas ranks among Daktronics’ two key growth markets, right alongside New York’s Times Square.

“As you start to upgrade different venues, and as casinos look to expand with dynamic growth, Las Vegas and New York are the two huge markets for our group,” said Jim Vasgaard, national sales manager for spectacular projects.

After a bruising, five-year recession, it’s novel for the city to be on any growth list. Strip construction ground to a halt after The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas came online in 2010.

South Dakota-based Daktronics, the world’s largest LED video-display builder at 29 percent of the global market, felt the slowdown “across the board,” Vasgaard said. Today, though, company sales are ahead of where they were before the downturn. Daktronics reported $552 million in net sales in 2014, 10.5 percent above 2008’s $499.7 million. Net sales dipped to a recession-era low of $393.2 million in 2010.

The company doesn’t break down revenue by market, but Las Vegas has played a role in the bounceback, Vasgaard said. Local gains have come from upgrades and overhauls on existing projects.

Take Daktronics’ newest outdoor display, which came online at Fashion Show in November.

The shopping center’s owner, General Growth Properties, built a 22,000-square-foot expansion with three new restaurants, an expanded Zara store and seven freestanding boutiques along the Strip. The additions were “a chance to move to something current” on the video-display side, which was “very minimal” before, said Janet LaFevre, senior marketing manager for Fashion Show and its sister property, Grand Canal Shoppes.

“The new digital programming on the exterior was part of a bigger picture of everything we were trying to accomplish with our expansion,” LaFevre said. “It’s the largest, brightest and most state-of-the-art (display) on the Strip, and that’s not an easy thing to say when we’re surrounded by the best of the best.”

The display consists of three signs — two on the pillars that hold up the “cloud” roof over the shopping center’s plaza on the Strip, and a ribbon snaked over the third-floor facade fronting the Strip next to Neiman Marcus. The signs total 10,000 square feet — equal to a third of the 30,000 square feet of displays Daktronics built in all of 2015 in Times Square.

The pillar signs start four stories up from the ground and soar eight stories above that, topping out at 12 stories. At more than 1,080 lines of resolution, the picture is as good as or better than the high-definition TV in your den. More than 12 million LEDs and 4 million pixels can produce 281 trillion colors. The 48,000-watt sound system blows away the 15,000 watts you’d need for a heavy metal concert in an arena.

On a recent weekday afternoon, programs included ads from Fashion Show retailers, snippets of Cirque du Soleil shows and artistic videos of flowers and a dancing model in a red dress.

“The content is not promoting a particular brand. It’s really promoting an experience that is vibrant and unique from an artist’s perspective. It draws and attracts people to the front of the property,” LaFevre said. “Now we have these incredible beacons on the Las Vegas Strip that further draw people into our shopping and dining experience.”

The displays overpower the 5,000-square-foot north face of the Wynn sign across the Strip, and dwarf the 736-square-foot video sign in the front of the Grand Canal Shoppes to the south. In a parade of come-hither signs, these are the come-hitherest of them all.

There’s nothing like them anywhere in General Growth’s 120-shopping center portfolio — or at any mall, period, executives said.

“No one else in the entire world has a ‘cloud’ on the Las Vegas Strip, so no one has the columns and curved digitals we were able to build,” said LaFevre, who declined to disclose the construction cost of the expansion and signs.

Fashion Show’s display, designed and built over 18 months at Daktronics’ factory in South Dakota and shipped in 15 truckloads to the Strip for assembly, isn’t the company’s single-biggest project in Las Vegas. That honor goes to SLS Las Vegas, where Daktronics designed and built about 13,000 square feet of display space inside and out for the casino, which opened in 2014.

But the Fashion Show displays hint at future growth in the local sign market.

The Strip’s singular environment has forced a sort of arms race in video displays: As properties look to compete, they’ve diversified signs, much in the way they’ve expanded entertainment from mostly gambling to shows, restaurants and malls.

“Casinos are very much looking for new and creative ideas, and that’s how we grow our business,” said Ed Wasserman, Daktronics’ regional manager of special projects. “Now we’re getting opportunities to go inside as well, because of shows, stages, ticket offices, bars and restaurants. Everyone is looking for more LED, but also more creative displays.”

Daktronics, whose first local project was for Caesars Palace in 1984, is working with other sign companies on displays at T-Mobile Arena. Company officials wouldn’t discuss the scope of work they’re handling on the site, but similar past projects have included the scoreboard at Sam Boyd Stadium and 21,700 square feet of displays at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Field in Florida.

Given current growth, “the potential is there” in coming years for Daktronics to reach the 30,000-square-foot annual installation mark locally that it has achieved in Times Square, Vasgaard said.

“There are so many opportunities in Las Vegas as casinos continue to look at how they can change their facades and become more dynamic inside and outside,” he said. “They’re always trying to get that feel. Las Vegas is vibrant. It will continue to be the City of Lights. I don’t doubt that at all.”

Contact Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal.com. Find @_JRobison on Twitter.

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