Q&A: Fremont Street Experience's Paul McGuire
In his role as chief marketing officer for the Fremont Street Experience, Paul McGuire is finding new ways to bring the “Only in Vegas” character to life and have it communicate with so many different visitors. Las Vegas Magazine’s Brock Radke caught up with McGuire to talk about FSE’s momentum heading into a new year as the centerpiece of downtown Las Vegas excitement.
What attracts visitors to the Fremont Street Experience?
There’s heritage—this is the original Las Vegas Strip, all the iconic casinos from back in the day. The Golden Gate started it all as the first-ever hotel in Las Vegas. Its phone number was 1. In addition, you have those great marquees that you just don’t see anymore, the gorgeous iconic neon that illuminates downtown at night. You have the largest single digital display in the world with the Viva Vision canopy. You have SlotZilla, the ultimate zipline. When you add it all up, it’s a bucket-list experience you can’t replicate, and on top of that, the majority of what we provide is free.
In 2017 you added the Downtown Rocks summer concert series. Will that program continue to grow?
Yes. The tagline for Downtown Rocks is “One Louder,” inspired by This is Spinal Tap. Like in that movie, we go to 11, but it has less to do with volume and more about the experience of always giving you something extra, a surprise. The summer concert series was an all-time record for us; When we had Rick Springfield perform, there were more than 18,000 people within a very packed area having the time of their lives. We look forward to expanding on that with more free concerts because that’s what our customers are saying they want.
What about new events coming in 2018?
For the first time ever we’re bringing an event that’s a halfway-to-St.-Patrick’s-Day theme called Downtown Shenanigans. I think we have a little license to be playful and even naughty at times, but always in a fun, clean way, so you’re going to see new events like this one that are going through that lens. It has to be something special and it has to be something social that you’re going to want to take a picture of and share it. I call it the next-day effect—hopefully you’ll wake up the next morning thinking, “What just happened?” and plug it on your calendar for next year.
The Fear the Walking Dead Survival Attraction was another new element and big hit this past year.
We’re always looking for any type of partnership or strategic alignment that will bring something engaging that touches multiple senses and includes a quality brand. We partnered with AMC and Triotech for that one, and obviously the brand has very passionate, loyal fans. Zombies are timeless. It’s not a fad. And we’re looking to do some additional integrations that are zombie-themed.
This year will see the opening stages of construction of a new downtown casino resort where the Las Vegas Club has been demolished. How big of an impact does that have on the Fremont Street Experience?
It’s really, really exciting on so many different levels. The owner Derek Stevens is very creative and progressive-minded with how he invests, and he goes all-in on everything he does. We’re all very anxious to find out what the theme is and what the product will be as it’s been quite hush-hush. What I do know is whatever it will be, it will be quality, and a new reason to come downtown. It anchors one end of the Fremont Street Experience quite nicely.
What else will we see happen to the FSE in 2018?
One of the most exciting things is still in the early part of the process, but it’s been 2004 since the last upgrade of the canopy and it’s just time. We’re looking to fully upgrade the technology of (Viva Vision) as right now it’s only illuminated at night. We need darkness to have those visuals come to life. This will be a state-of-the-art, day-and-night experience, and once we create it, we need to feed it, so there will be an entirely new and dynamic content plan with interactive components. It’s a true game-changer and we believe it will be the true jewel of downtown Las Vegas once complete.