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Baker's giant thermometer is up for sale

January 3, 2013 |  4:00 pm

1148234_ME_1129_baker_1_GMF

For Sale: Thermometer. World’s Tallest.

Location: Death Valley adjacent.

Asking Price: $1.75 million.

The “World’s Tallest Thermometer" in Baker, the roadside icon along Interstate 15 that is passed by millions of Las Vegas-bound drivers, is on the market.

The 134-foot-high thermometer has been on the blink for years, much to the irritation of many Baker residents and business owners who now consider the once-beloved tower an eyesore.

But the owner thinks the thermometer's prime location along I-15, visible for miles, will entice a buyer.

“It’s a landmark already. All someone has to do is go in there and fix it up the right way," said Baron Castillo of Coldwell Banker Commercial in Los Angeles, who is handling the sale

The $1.75 million asking price for the thermometer includes the vacant gift shop at the base and the four-acre parcel along Baker Boulevard, Castillo said.

So far two billboard companies have expressed interest in the thermometer, though discussions are very preliminary, he said.

“What they are looking at is turning it into an LED sign," Castillo said. “The infrastructure is there. I mean that thing is solid.''

The owner, Matt Pike of Orange County, also owns the Bob's Big Boy restaurant next to the thermometer and several other businesses in town.

A federal judge on Nov. 29 ordered Pike's company to pay more than $40,000 in damages and fees to the Michigan-based corporate owner of Bob's Big Boy restaurants for failing to pay the franchise fees and to "cease and desist" using Bob's Big Boy signs on the restaurants, court records show.

Pike could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In September, Pike told Nevada Public Radio that the thermometer's light bill was about $8,000 a month. When the economy went south, he turned it off to focus on his other businesses in town but said he still had hopes of lighting it up when the economy rebounded.

When working, the “thermometer” is, in reality, a towering sign with a string of ovals that light up in 10-degree increments, the top one also giving the exact temperature.

The 13-story-high thermometer was the brainchild of local businessman Willis Herron, who plunked down $700,000 to build the giant monolith in 1991 next to his Bun Boy Restaurant.

The tower's height commemorated the 134-degree record temperature set in nearby Death Valley in 1913.

Shortly after it was finished, the thermometer snapped in two after being buffeted by 70-mph winds. Two years later, the rebuilt thermometer again twisted and swayed as gusts whipped through the valley, popping out lightbulbs. The problem was solved when a work crew poured
concrete inside the steel tower, anchoring it against the harsh desert wind.

Herron sold the Bun Boy and the giant thermometer to business partner Larry Dabour, owner of the Mad Greek restaurant, another Baker institution. It changed hands again in 2005 when Dabour sold the thermometer to Pike’s company.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: The "World's Tallest Thermometer" in Baker, Calif., which is now turned off. Source: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times.

 

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