The Smith Center, the Mob Museum, the D, the Downtown Grand, Wet ’n’ Wild Las Vegas, the Container Park, the Linq.
Those are a handful of the attractions that have opened since I first moved to Las Vegas, which would be one thing if I’d come here 10 years ago. But I arrived in fall 2011.
Think about that. In 2 1/2 years, we’ve experienced the birth of a $470 million performing arts center, a $42 million museum highlighting organized crime and law enforcement, a $22 million transformation of the old Fitzgeralds into the D, a $100 million makeover that turned the Lady Luck into the Downtown Grand, a $50 million water park (with another major water park under construction in Henderson), the highest-profile attraction thus far in the $350 million Downtown Project and a $500 million entertainment/dining/retail complex that, oh yeah, happens to be home to the largest observation wheel in the world.
Add it up, and it’s a ton of money invested in a pretty short time — $1.5 billion, give or take. More openings are just around the corner, too, including the $415 million SLS Las Vegas and the $185 million remake of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall into the Cromwell.
So what’s the point of throwing all these numbers around? They’re my argument to anybody who suggests Las Vegas is still Detroit, but with better weather and more strippers.
Oh, I’m not blind to reality: Yeah, unemployment is still high, the resort companies are in debt, too many homeowners are underwater and this is a far cry from the heyday when parking lot attendants and cocktail waitresses were buying $300,000 homes.
But I’m also not blinded by skepticism or cynicism. Construction is up, home prices have risen and other major economic indicators have improved. Granted, Las Vegas still winds up toward the bottom of a depressing number of reports comparing various cities. Unemployment, crime, education, health care, and the list goes on.
(I’d add that there’s a lack of transparency in the public realm and not enough teeth in the public records laws. The pathetic state of sunshine laws and open-records practices here feeds perceptions that Nevada is a shady, unsophisticated place. To attract and retain professionals, we need to operate more in the open.)
But people still want to invest here, which tells you that people still also want to live here, work here and play here.
So if you want to be a cynic or skeptic, fine.
But if $1.5 billion in investments in 2 1/2 years is being in the tank, there are a lot of communities that would like to join us there.