Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bob Stupak Has Died

The flamboyant Las Vegas casino operator Bob Stupak died yesterday at the age of 67. He was perhaps best known locally in Las Vegas for his seemingly endless string of "colorful" publicity stunts, like the time he publicly challenged Donald Trump to a $1 million bet over a board game, or the time he played the Harlem Globetrotters. Outside of Las Vegas he'll be remembered as the father of the monumental "Stratosphere" hotel and casino there. The Stratosphere tower, pictured at left, is the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi. It literally towers over the rest of the city of Last Vegas. You may know that, in addition to an observation deck, it also has a roller coaster and a "free fall" ride at its top.

The $550 million project was plagued from its inception in the early 1990s with construction and finance problems. Mr. Stupak eventually ran out of money before it was completed. The "Stratosphere" project was ultimately finished by an unrelated company, Grand Casinos, but then filed for bankruptcy less than a year after opening in 1996.
I stayed there for a couple of days in 1998 (when it was still in bankruptcy), primarily because they were offering rooms for $19.95 per night, a totally insane price that also included a complimentary buffet meal each day and free passes to the observation deck and roller coasters. I did go up to the observation deck. The panoramic views really were spectacular. But I couldn't bring myself to try out the thrill rides at the very top, unwilling to entrust my life to a troubled project that was languishing in bankruptcy at the time. (Though it probably says something unflattering about me that I did "eat hearty" at the buffet, and don't remember having the same concerns about my safety there, for whatever reason.)
I really enjoyed "The Stratosphere" and recommended it to friends and acquaintances alike for several years afterward, which never failed to provoke surprised or even skeptical reactions because of its "uneven" reputation back then. But I was very disappointed when I first arrived there to learn that the huge animatronic King Kong that was planned (and heavily touted) by Mr. Stupak to climb up and down the tower every hour had never in fact been installed, for financial reasons.

No comments:

Post a Comment