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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 4, 2002

Complex opens in Las Vegas

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The much-anticipated downtown entertainment complex Las Vegas officials see as the cornerstone in the city's redevelopment efforts opened yesterday even though most of the shops didn't.

A next-door neighbor of the Fremont Street Experience light show and pedestrian walkway, the $99 million Neonopolis is expected to attract people who work downtown and locals and tourists looking for entertainment that doesn't include gambling.

The opening capped nearly four years of planning, two mayors, several groundbreaking ceremonies and an uphill climb for leasing agents.

City officials said at a Thursday premiere that it was a banner day for redevelopment. They said the 200,000-square-foot Neonopolis proves the area can attract developers willing to invest in downtown.

Neonopolis opened to the public yesterday with a majority of shops not ready. Only the 14-screen movie theater — showing "Spider-Man" — the food court, an art gallery, a sports shop, and the ZINC specialty store are open. Leasing agents said La Salsa, its tavern and several other shops will open this week. The second anchor tenant, Jillian's, will open in the fall.

The sight of empty stores, though, did little to diminish the enthusiasm of city officials and merchants who hope Neonopolis will spur development in the area.

Don Snyder, president of Boyd Gaming Corp., said Neonopolis is what's needed to redevelop the area, giving people a reason to come — and stay — downtown.

"All we're asking is for people to come down here once," Snyder said. "If they don't like it, they don't have to come back. But give it a chance."

Snyder said Neonopolis will work well with other proposed projects downtown, including a nearby 6,500-seat arena that will house minor league hockey and other events.

Michael Newman of Colliers International said it's unclear whether Neonopolis will be as successful as officials hope. He said a key element to the success of any downtown redevelopment project is new housing.

Without it, the project is depending on locals, who can get entertainment near their homes.