Tourism panel to help fund Fremont Street video canopy upgrade

Updated February 13, 2018 - 6:21 pm

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $9.5 million contribution to a $28.5 million upgrade to the Fremont Street Experience video canopy.

The destination marketing organization is making the expenditure through the city, which owns the light canopy attraction and contracts with the Fremont Street Experience to operate it.

The planned upgrade will brighten the massive screen from 4.2 million pixels to 16.4 million. The Fremont Street Experience board is contracting with Danville, Illinois-based Watchfire Technologies on the upgrade.

LVCVA President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said the $9.5 million will come from a $10 million capital expense account that was budgeted for potential future LVCVA land acquisitions.

Patrick Hughes, president and CEO of the Fremont Street Experience, said the company hasn’t upgraded technology for the attraction in 14 years. The Fremont Street Experience made its debut in 1995 after about two years of planning and construction.

The LVCVA board justified the expenditure after Hughes noted that an estimated 53 percent of Southern Nevada’s 43 million visitors went to downtown Las Vegas on their trips to the city and 59 percent specifically went to see the giant LED canopy.

The city of Las Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience will pay the rest.

Downtown Las Vegas is experiencing a growth spurt, with 700 new hotel rooms expected to be built in the next few years, driving $1.1 billion in new spending annually. Hughes said that would generate $2.1 million in new tax revenue per year.

Hughes said the technology upgrade will overlay the existing lighting system so the attraction won’t go dark during construction, which is expected to begin later this year.

A new interactive feature also is expected to be introduced that Hughes said would be a new hook to attract visitors.

Smartphone owners will be able to download a free app, known as the Key, and write messages they can submit to be flashed across the screen.

“Don’t worry. We’ll still have editing capabilities and control over the content,” Hughes told board members.

The app also will have a jukebox voting system so viewers can vote to select what content will be played next on the big screen.

The attraction already has shows featuring local bands Imagine Dragons and The Killers, and Watchfire has been contracted to create new content.

“We think the interactive element will be a game-changer,” Hughes said.

In other business, the board unanimously approved:

*A 2½-year, $661,375 amended professional services agreement with the Los Angeles-based High Lantern Group to lobby on behalf of the LVCVA on national issues, including transportation projects, the federal visa-waiver program and opposition to the proposed activation of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

*An agreement with Connect Worldwide Japan Co. Nishi-Shinbashi Minato-ku Japan for an estimated $392,000 to represent the LVCVA in Japan in a contract running from March 1 to June 30, 2020.

*Spending $225,000 for the LVCVA to exhibit at IMEX Frankfurt, an international tourism trade show in Germany that runs May 15-17.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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