The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, showing Gilleys sign

The New Frontier soon to be the new Montreux Hotel

The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, complete with Gilleys

This is the New Frontier Hotel on the north side of the Vegas Strip. The photo was taken in 2005 on my first visit to Vegas, and was one of the first hotels I saw. I was staying in Circus Circus (as ever), and was walking up the strip, and had no idea what to expect. The Frontier, with Gilley’s bar and its giant sign proudly proclaiming “Cold Beer, Dirty Girls!” was exactly what I was expecting of Vegas – tacky on a gigantic scale!

Which was part of the reason why I was so amazed as I carried on walking up the strip and saw that the real Vegas is nothing like the impression that the Frontier gives.

And that’s exactly why The New Frontier’s days are numbered…

The fading New Frontier

New Frontier hotel, Las Vegas
The top photo was taken in 2005, when The Wynn hadn’t quite opened, and the surrounding hotels were The Stardust and Circus Circus. Compared with the mega-casinos further south, this was hardly the most salubrious end of the strip, and so the Frontier fitted in rather well.

Since then, though, The Wynn has been completed, the new Wynn Encore is being built, The Stardust has been demolished to make way for the new $4 billion Echelon Place, and Donald Trump has built a billion-dollar tower full of condos just behind the Frontier. The New Frontier is therefore looking decidedly out of place, and is exactly the type of hotel that its new neighbours no longer wish to be associated with. You don’t want to emerge from your million dollar condo in Trump Towers only to be greeted by mud-wrestling girls in bikinis (well, you might, but I’m sure you’d never admit that!)

In other words, The Frontier’s days are numbered.

Goodbye Frontier, Hello Montreux

And numbered they are, as owner Phil Ruffin (who also owns half of the new Trump Tower Las Vegas) has grand designs to tear down the New Frontier and replace it with a huge Swiss-themed hotel and casino called The Montreux (now there’s a name no-one’s ever going to spell correctly!).

Ruffin, who apparently is the 717th richest person in the world, has owned The Frontier since 1998, when he paid just $165 million for a hotel whose land alone is now estimated be worth more than $1 billion (certainly the building isn’t!)

Ever since he bought it, Ruffin has had plans to demolish it. He originally planned to implode it back in 2000 and build a San Francisco-themed mega-resort in its place, but the events of 9/11 put paid to that.

And so, the Frontier has been limping along, with no new money spent on it, simply because its existence hung in the balance.

History of the Las Vegas Frontier Hotel

The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, showing Gilleys sign

The Frontier wasn’t always the hideous place it is now, though. Indeed, it has an illustrious history, being the second resort ever to open on the main Las Vegas strip, and has been operating continuously since 1942, when it was named the Hotel Last Frontier.

Since then, it’s had a number of famous owners, including Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn (he of the famous Wynn hotels, obviously!), and hosted Elvis’s first ever Vegas appearance back in 1956. If it’s old-time Vegas you want, The Frontier is the place to be!

The sad sight of a dying hotel

The New Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas, surrounded by The Palazzo, Wynn Encore and Echelon place construction sites

Or, perhaps not. Go there for the nostalgia, sure, but stay for only a minute or two. The place is dark and depressing, and looks simply moth-eaten. It’s full of cowboys (no, really!), and Gilley’s is pretty much the worst club on the strip.

It looks out of place, too, with all the new multi-billion dollar mega-casinos and hotels surrounding it (above), not to mention the gigantic and futuristic-looking Fashion Show shopping mall next to it. The only thing that brings a smile to the face is the famous Frontier road sign, which, when I went to Vegas back in 2005, was showing proudly “Anne Magaret live!” which I think was more confirmation of her physical status than an advertisement for her show!

Oh, and the fact that of all the different types of gambling that can be done in Vegas, the Frontier specializes in Bingo of all things!

In a matter of two short years the Frontier has been surrounded in a pincer movement by billion-dollar giants, and is set to be imploded some time in 2007/early 2008. If it’s old Vegas you want, get it while you still can!

The New Las Vegas Montreux

The Las Vegas Montreux Hotel and Casino
Don’t cry for The Frontier too much, though. It’s not a pleasant place, and what’s replacing it should help make the north side of the strip as popular as the south side. The Montreux will be a giant $2.6 billion resort containing 2,750 rooms, and featuring a Swiss theme and jazz throughout. It’ll even come with a huge 450 foot tall observation wheel, currently called the Las Vegas Eye as it’s based on the London Eye, and giving fantastic views across the strip.

The Montreux will tie in with the new Trump Towers that are being built (one is expected to be completed New Year’s Eve 2007, the other will be going up shortly after that), and will also link directly to the Fashion Show shopping mall directly opposite. It really is the perfect location, as visitors will have the Las Vegas Eye, four new mega-resorts to check out in the immediate area (The Wynn, Wynn Encore, Palazzo and Echelon Place), Trump Towers to stay in if they want luxury, and wall to wall shopping.

Indeed, shopping will be something of an attraction in its right at the new resort. Some 9% of it is currently planned to be retail space, with only 2% reserved for casinos. In addition, the retail area will open right onto the strip, encouraging people to walk in, and with the casinos located strategically,maybe do a bit of gambling as well. This is in stark contrast to the old Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood), whose Miracle Mile shops are completely separate from its casino.

Other plans for the Montreux include a transformable ballroom that can be used for fashion shows, poker tournaments or even boxing matches.

The implosion of The New Frontier and the construction of The Montreux will be the final piece of the jigsaw of the south side of the Strip. As new billion-dollar projects have circled The Frontier, it was inevitable that its days were numbered.

And with The Stardust gone, all eyes now turn to the last of the old-school Vegas hotels – Circus Circus and The Sahara, the two old hotels that stand between the remains of The Stardust and The Stratosphere, the last of the new(er) hotels on the north of the strip. Surely it’s only a matter of time before these ancient relics fall prey to the rise of the new Las Vegas mega-resorts?

[Sources: Wikipedia, Forbes, Wired]

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