There are people who love downtown Las Vegas. Then there are those other people who really LOVE downtown Las Vegas. Derek Stevens is one of those rare individuals who LOVES downtown Las Vegas and it shows!
To watch him talk about it, you can’t help but go along with his pride and enthusiasm about all things Fremont Street as well as downtown itself. The future, to him, looks bright for downtown Las Vegas.
Not bad for a man who moved most of his family enterprise from Detroit to the Las Vegas valley in 2006 to save on his corporate taxes. Then thought why not see if he could invest in a downtown casino. He did. The story he told of his Las Vegas baptism at the Las Vegas Territory meeting this morning was one of those you just know is an “only in Las Vegas” kind of a story.
In 2006, Derek Steves and his brother bought a 50% share in the Golden Gate, then bought all of the Golden Gate. Next, they bought the Fitzgerald casino and after an extensive remodel, renamed it the D. Recently, they bought the entire block that included the Las Vegas Club and Mermaids Casino. Tearing it all down to build a new, undisclosed resort project.
Actually, watching him tell his story and what he loves about being downtown, you see him light up like a kid talking about his favorite toy or his first crush. Hearing what he loves about the people and the future of the city as well as his investments in the Fremont Street Experience, you almost start to think he’s channeling Jackie Gaughan (El Cortez) or Benny Binion (Binion Horseshoe) with a touch of the old Steve Wynn.
Actually, I really started to flashback to my podcast interview with Michael Gaughan, Jackie Gaughan’s son. Michael is the owner of the South Point Resort and his whole “Awe shucks, I didn’t do anything special” attitude.
I jokingly asked him if the other casino owners downtown had ever asked him to tone down his brightness? He cracked a smile, made a small joke then went back to talking his love for doing whatever it takes to bring people down to the Fremont Street Experience. Saying that if one casino gets people to come downtown, they all win. A refreshing thing to hear. It’s not all about one casino or one group of resorts. They all win together.
In my question to him, I joked that I was his supporter and fan until He shut down the Bay City Diner. In reality, I also commented that he is repeating history. Can you name and current casino owner downtown other than Derek Stevens? How about the name of his brother? (Greg) He walks and talks like the old days of Jackie Gaughan and Benny Binion. Both worked tirelessly to get people downtown, not just to their casinos, but to everyone else’s place as well.
He wants downtown to succeed and knows it can only if you get creative and not just build to copy what works now or what the other guy did first. That was the Steve Wynn theory. Invent, create something new and interesting. He added that when building downtown, you also have pay respects to the history that got the town to where it is today. That was his message when he was asked about his new project on the big empty lot across from the Golden Gate that once housed the Las Vegas Club, the Golden Goose Strip Club and of course, Mermaids!
The new project that is now seeking FAA approval for height clearance, will be modern with an eye towards the future of Vegas tourism, with a very obvious dose of old Vegas in its design and operation. Talking about how people today are taller then they were when the Las Vegas Club built their towers in the 70’s. Meaning bigger, better bathrooms, (tall shower heads!) more amenities and more mix of entertainment. Stopping to say there would be no designated showroom. Ballrooms, meeting rooms, and multi-purpose theatre style rooms? Yes. Just not a dedicated place for resident shows.
He ended with a tip of the hat to what made the Golden Gate so famous when he took it over. They own the recipe for the world famous shrimp cocktail and that it would return “at the appropriate time and location!” I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean it will return with the same 99 cent price tag!
It was just a nice change to hear someone with a vision and a passion for the downtown area to succeed. Not just his properties, he wants and believes all of the properties will win if they work together towards the same goal; Get more tourists and locals to come downtown. He didn’t move to just buy an old property, change the carpeting, repaint the rooms then call it done (the Plaza). He came here to make a positive difference and he has and he will.