After a little more than a decade, Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton shuts it’s doors. The closure comes as contract renewal talks between Paramount/CBS, Cedar Fair, and Colony Capital stalled. The main hold out was Colony Capital who owns the Las Vegas Hilton, who bought the Hilton from Caesars Entertainment (formerly Park Place Entertainment at the time Star Trek: The Experience opened) didn’t like the deal where Star Trek: The Experience was like a retailer just renting space, and not sharing in the revenue generated from the attraction. Cedar Fair, the company that bought the operations of the attraction from Paramount Parks and Paramount/CBS who owns the Star Trek franchise weren’t able to secure a renewal of the contract and as such has decided to close Star Trek: The Experience.
The last day of operations for Star Trek: The Experience was September 1, 2008 and concluded the business day with a decommissioning ceremony normally only afforded to the decommissioning of naval vessels. Star Trek gets a lot of it’s lore from naval tradition except instead of sailing the waters, its the stars. Despite the fact the current contract doesn’t expire until the end of the year, the decision to close on September 1st, is to allow Cedar Fair the time necessary to return all the Star Trek property back to Paramount and gut the complex to hand it over to Colony Capital as empty space.
The announcement for the closure of Star Trek: The Experience was made at the end ABBAof June and unfortunately I didn’t know about it until the wee hours of morning as September 1st changed into September 2nd, thus eliminating any chance of my making out to Las Vegas for one last trip through the History of the Future museum exhibit, the Klingon Encounter and Borg Invasion 4-D rides, shopping that the Star Trek store, and of course, last meal at Quark’s Bar and Restaurant, complete with my all time favorite alcoholic drink, the “Warp Core Breach.” Fortunately for the Star Trek Fans who attend the annual Star Trek convention in August in Las Vegas, they got their chance for their last go round, but I avoid Las Vegas like the plague during the summer months, but had I have known about the closure, I would certainly have made an effort to go out there and get in one last visit to Gene Roddenberry’s 24th century.
I’ve had many memories of the place throughout the years as it was always a stop for me anytime I went to Las Vegas, and for quite a number of years in the last decade I had been to Las Vegas about three or four times a year, although now it’s been a little more than two years since my last visit to Las Vegas. Even though that visit I was only in town long enough for dinner at the Star Trek bar and a performance of Avenue Q when it was still at the Wynn.
My first visit extends way back to 1998 when I visited Star Trek: The Experience on my drive from San Diego to Calgary. I only stopped in Vegas long enough to gas up the car and go through the ride and have dinner, then I was back on the road. But it was a fun experience. Back then they actually had Pepsi products as they were the “choice of the next generation” then. I personally prefer Pepsi products. At some point later on they switched to Coke which pleased my good friend Patsy Ledene, who is a friend of mine that I met on a Roxette mailing list and she is also an avid Star Trek fan and a collector of Coca-Cola memorabila. She loves Coke so much, her blog is actually entitled, “Life From Within The Coke Bottle” and you can visit her blog by clicking here. So needless to say she was happy when Star Trek: The Experience switched to Coke.
I didn’t actually discover the “Warp Core Breach” drink until my second visit on the way back from Calgary because the first time I stopped I was getting back on the road, well this time I stuck around in Vegas so I could try a drink or two. Well the first drink I tried was a “Riker-Rita” which I should have figured from the name is really a margarita and I don’t really like Margaritas. So I was a little disappointed with that one, but saw they had a really cool drink called the “Warp Core Breach” which only came in these huge fishbowls and were $19.99 at the time.
Well I didn’t really want a drink that big, but I did want to try it and the bartender talked me into getting one of their souvenir glasses because it was the only way he was allowed to make one in a size for one. So I tried it and I loved it. It became my official favorite drink in the world, and every nearly every stop to Quark’s Bar and Restaurant at Star Trek: The Experience would I get one. The only time I didn’t get one was to try their then new drink called the “Borg Sphere” which is similar to the “Warp Core Breach” except its green and substitutes vodka & gin for a good portion of the nearly all rum that the “Warp Core Breach” is. Needless to say, the “Borg Sphere” isn’t quite as good as the “Warp Core Breach.” And it’s amazing how much the price has change for the “Warp Core Breach” over the years. Final menus for Quark’s show that it was going for $29.50, a far cry from the $19.99 it originally cost. I guess that’s the price of not scrimping on the amount of alcohol nor the dry ice.
Anytime I’ve met people in Vegas I’ve taken them to or met them at Quark’s Bar at the Star Trek: Experience. Depending on whether or not they were a fan of Star Trek or not would determine if I’d share the rides with them to. For me I was quite happy to enjoy dinner and a “Warp Core Breach” if my friends or guest didn’t want to do the rides.
Over the years I’ve met several of my ABBA friends there with the biggest event being the premiere of “Mamma Mia!” at the Mandalay Bay Resort. This brought in a lot of ABBA fans from around the country as well as a few from Europe. Well we set aside a day to visit the Star Trek Bar where we enjoyed appetizers such as the “Holy Rings of Betazed” (aka a tower of onion rings) and several shared “Warp Core Breaches”. We even were visited by a couple of the Klingons roaming around for ambiance, and since one has long flowing white hair and the other long flowing black hair, we thought it might be a trip to see if we could get the two Klingons to strike an ABBA pose, meaning one facing forward towards the camera with the other in profile. We also posed for a group picture but this was before I had a digital camera so it wasn’t until I got the photos developed that the picture was found to have part of the gift shop booth lady’s finger that she held out just enough to be included in the picture.
Another memorable experience was when I had one of my Australian friends, Grant Whitingham, here for a visit. And at this time they were now offering opportunities to get a photo taken in the captain’s chair of one of the mock-ups of the Star Trek: The Next Generation bridge. We both partook in the chance to be “Captain Picard” although I think Grant looked the part more as he’s skinner and has a more Picard like hairline than I’ve got. We were joined for dinner and “Warp Core Breaches” by another ABBA fan who patiently waited for Grant and I to have our geek moments in the captain’s chair. (If I ever figure out which box that photo is stored in, I’ll scan it and put it up here).
The only other really cool item I got there that’s unique is the lenticular transporter photo I got the very first time I visited Star Trek: The Experience. It involved standing in front of a green screen where they took a picture of me and then added me to picture of the transporter pad from The Next Generation. And just for kicks they had me do a second pose and added me to another transporter pad, and when it get’s printed out and put behind one of those lenticular plastic sheets and you move the picture from side to side it appears as though me and my evil twin beam in and out. That pic is probably with my captain’s chair picture buried in one of my many boxes somehwere in the garage. I’d scan it too but I doubt it would show well. The very first time was the only time I’ve seen these offered, the next time I looked at doing one of these photos with a friend, they were only offering plain photos.
I’ve written a more in depth tribute to my memories of Star Trek: The Experience for my September 2008 column at ABBAMAIL.com, if you would like to read it there, please click here. In fact, in that tribute you’ll find out that one of the dessert items on the menu at Quark’s Bar and Restaurant gets it’s name from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode written by a famous ABBA fan. It makes a good trivia question to stump your friends with.
Thanks again to the many men and women behind the creation and day to day operations of “Star Trek: The Experience” I’ve had a wonderful ten years of memories, and I hope that Cedar Fair finds somewhere else to resurrect Star Trek: The Experience. I will be joining with other Star Trek fans in my boycott of the Las Vegas Hilton and other Colony Capital properties (under the name Resorts International) which include the Atlantic City Hilton, Resorts hotels in Tunica and Atlantic City, as well as Bally’s Tunica. I will also be boycotting whatever fills the space formerly occupied by Star Trek: The Experience. One of the many rumors is that it might become a theatre for Michael Jackson. So look out Jacko, you’re on the boycott list if this turns out to be true.
And for those, like myself, who was aware and/or able to attend the closing of Star Trek: The Experience, the fine folks at The Ugly Couch Show website have recorded several videos of the final night, including last call at Quark’s, the decommissioning ceremony, and some various interviews. They’ve even gotten one of the bartenders to spill the beans on some of the more popular drink recipes including the “Warp Core Breach.” Check it out here at www.uglycouchshow.com. So make yourself a “Warp Core Breach” and give a toast to the ten years it had at the Las Vegas Hilton, and whisper a silent prayer Star Trek: The Experience can pull a Spock and come back bigger and better somewhere else.