Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 5, 2009

The Fontainebleau Tragedy: Vegas’ Ghost Hotel


“That’s our ‘ghost hotel’ up ahead,” said my cab driver. “You can get a pretty good view of it this morning.”

Up ahead, the 68-story skyscraper shimmered a ghostly blue in the desert sun, almost fading into the sky behind it.

But the $3 billion blue elephant won’t fade away. It’s an eye sore on the city’s eclectic skyline – and a reminder of a boom gone bust.

You always knew that one day the seemingly endless Vegas boom had to go bust. You wondered who would be left without a chair with the music stopped. It appears high rolling land developer Jeffrey Soffer, who has developed the surrounding Turnberry West condominium towers, is the biggest loser.

“He needed a billion dollars to finish it,” my cabbie noted, “and nobody cared enough about him to help him. So now it sits, windows falling out of it, 24-hour security trying to keep the bums out of it.”

The developer’s Fontainebleau Las Vegas company filed for bankruptcy in June.

Close to $2 billion has already been spent building it; the frame is there, as are most of the panels of its blue glass shell, and miles of plumbing and electrical wiring. Construction equipment – that which has not yet been repossessed – sits rusting around the fenced-off site.

Mr. Soffer has recently filed suit against essentially himself – really, two construction companies he controls – in a complex strategy that may ultimately force banks to loan him the money to finish the Fontainebleau. Or, he might sell it for about 10 cents on the dollar to one of the few parties who have expressed interest in it.

Regardless of what happens with Fontainebleau, whether it is ever finished or not, one fact remains: Las Vegas doesn’t need it. The city is already awash in empty hotel rooms. It doesn’t need more condos; you can buy a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit – as of this writing – elsewhere in Vegas for as little as $9,000.

Other Vegas hotel operators must shudder at the prospect that the 3,889-room Fontainebleau might someday glut the market with even more rooms.

Good news for travelers, though: Think how cheap those Vegas hotel deals will get.

Meanwhile, enjoy the ghost hotel. One of the few free attractions in town.

Jerry Garrett

November 4, 2009


  1. Las Vegas city planners have been in a kind of steroid overdrive of building approvals and the result couldn’t defy the reality of the economy. The ghost hotel is a sad example of that wretched excess.

    In the race with Macao over gambling center supremacy, Macao has won. So instead of building more and more casino hotels etc, Las Vegas can think now about how to reinvent itself without more new building permits. Bugsy Siegel proved that imagination is a powerful thing.

  2. where can I get a 2bedroom 2 bathroom Condo for $9000.00 in Vegas????

  3. […] way, large swaths of Las Vegas (2010 population: 1.95 million) look like a ghost town (I wrote a 2009 column about Vegas’ “ghost hotel”, the unfinished Fontainebleau). Am I exaggerating? […]

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