Star Trek: How A Life Size Enterprise Almost Got Built

The story behind the idea that never was.

Amarpal Biring


Back in 1992 a competition was held to come up with ideas to rejuvenate downtown Las Vegas, which at the time was running second fiddle to the main strip. Entertainment design firm, The Gary Goddard group came up with an idea that they thought would attract shed loads of tourists to the neglected area, an idea that would have got trekkies exited all over the world and that idea was to build a life size USS Enterprise.

According to Gary, the plan was for it would become a major attraction in Las Vegas that you would see as you flew into the city.  Gary explains –

”The “big idea” was building the ship itself at full-scale.  That was the main attraction. That being said, we also knew we would have to have some kind of “show” on board.  So, conceptually, it was to be a “tour” of the ship, with all of the key rooms, chambers, decks, and corridors that we knew from the movie.  There was to be the dining area for the ship’s crew (where you could dine in Star Fleet comfort), and other special features.  There were also one or two interesting ride elements that we were considering including a high-speed travelator that would whisk you from deck to deck.”

They came up with concept art and engineering studies.  Construction cost were estimated at $150,000,000 (in 1992 dollars).  Below is a chart showing how big the Enterprise would have been in comparison to other world monuments.

The Goddard Group approached Paramount Licensing and they loved the idea and said that there will be no problem in getting approval from the studio if the Las Vegas Redevelopment Committee gave the green light to the project. The Committee thought it was great and even the Mayor got behind it. So it seemed like all the boxes had been ticked and the only thing left was for the Head of Paramount, Stanley Jaffe to give the green light and they could start construction. Gary, the redevelopment  team and the mayor flew to meet Stanley Jaffe at Paramount to give him the pitch and get his approval. But things didn’t go to plan. Jaffe’s response to the project was –

“You know, this is a major project. You’re going to put a full-scale ENTERPRISE up in the heart of Las Vegas. And on one hand that sounds exciting. But on another hand, it might not be a great idea for us – for Paramount.” Everyone in the room was stunned, most of all, me, because I could see where this was going. “In the movie business, when we produce a big movie and it’s a flop – we take some bad press for a few weeks or a few months, but then it goes away. The next movie comes out and everyone forgets. But THIS – this is different. If this doesn’t work – if this is not a success – it’s there, forever….I don’t want to be the guy that approved this and then it’s a flop and sitting out there in Vegas forever.”

And with that, the project was shelved and the city went with the runner up idea to build the worlds largest video screen instead, known as the the Fremont Street Experience. Compared to the original idea, a large video screen really cant compete.  Gary Goddard did eventually set up a Star Trek attraction in Las Vegas. ”The Star Trek Experience” was a themed attraction inside the Las Vegas Hilton which opened in 1998 but closed in 2008.

As a Star Trek fan, I would have loved to have seen this built and I can’t understand why Jaffe couldn’t see how awesome this idea was.  If anything its another example of studios not wanting to take a risk no matter how many people tell them its a great idea.

To read more, head over to Gary’s blog.