The Stratosphere Las Vegas is a landmark tower, hotel, and casino located on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is owned by Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds, an affiliate of Goldman, Sachs & Co who purchased American Casino & Entertainment Properties which includes the Stratosphere along with three other properties. The sale closed on 21 February 2008 for $1.3 billion. The property’s signature attraction is the 1,149 ft (350 m) Stratosphere Tower, the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States and the second tallest in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. It is the tallest free-standing structure in Nevada, and it is the second-tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, after the Kennecott Smokestack in Magna, Utah. The hotel is a separate building with 24 stories, 2,444 rooms and an 80,000 square foot (7,000 m²) casino.
The Stratosphere is the northernmost of the major Strip casinos and the only one actually in the City of Las Vegas, as the rest of the strip south of Sahara Avenue is in the unincorporated townships of Paradise and Winchester. Because it is inside the city limits, the Nevada Gaming Commission groups it with the other Downtown Las Vegas casinos.
Following its completion in 1996 it was initially less popular than first envisioned due to its location on the extreme north end of the strip, far away from the most popular hotel casinos, but its low room prices and unique offerings eventually ensured its success. While many tourists consider its location to be inconvenient, others feel the location is an advantage since it is equidistant between the more popular strip casinos and the downtown area (which includes the Fremont Street Experience).
In the early 1990s, The Stratosphere was conceived by Bob Stupak to replace his Vegas World casino. At the conception of the project, one of the planned rides was to be a giant ape that would carry riders up and down one of the tower’s columns. Original plans called for the Stratosphere to have a height exceeding that of the CN Tower (1815 ft/553 m), making it the world’s tallest freestanding structure at that time. However, due to possible interference with nearby McCarran International Airport and any possible flights that come through Las Vegas, the tower’s proposed height shrank multiple times until it stopped at its present height.
In 1995, Grand Casinos was brought on as an equity partner for the still privately funded project under construction. While construction was still progressing, the Stratosphere Corporation was formed as a public company with shares being offered to the public.
On August 29, 1993, the tower caught fire while still under construction, causing a gigantic setback for Stupak and the construction of the tower. It was severe enough to close Vegas World, the adjacent resort next to the tower, and caused a crane to list to the side, almost collapsing to the street below. Nobody was injured, but the fire forced repairs and rebuilding that led to numerous delays in the construction of the tower.
The Stratosphere opened on April 30, 1996. Shortly after opening, the Stratosphere Corporation was forced to file for bankruptcy. This caused construction on the second tower to stop, with only a few stories partially built, and it allowed Carl Icahn to gain control through one of his companies by buying a majority of the outstanding bonds.
A major addition was completed in June 2001 for $1 billion that included finishing the 1000-room second hotel tower.
In the early 2000s, the company attempted to get approval for a roller coaster that would run from several hundred feet up the tower and, in the last proposal, across Las Vegas Boulevard. Part of that last proposal included an entry monument on the ride over Las Vegas Boulevard welcoming people to the City of Las Vegas. The City Council did not approve the project due to objections from the neighbors over possible noise from the enclosed cars on the proposed ride. This ride was intended as a replacement for the never-built ape ride.
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