The exciting thing about Las Vegas to many people is something you’ve probably heard.
“It’s always changing,” or “there’s always something new.”
True. Or at least it was, before the recession.
Casino implosions on the Strip were not long ago prized viewing events. I remember sitting for hours with hundreds of others at Desert Inn and Fort Apache looking down toward the Strip awaiting the destruction of the Aladdin.
New buildings meant new business — tourists who might have thought they’d seen it all had to come back to see what’s new.
So it’s with no small amount of fascination that Las Vegas history is being upheld as both an economic and community boon.
The Mob Museum’s success is one case in point.
A few weeks ago, the publicly funded museum paid back $1.5 million of $6 million to the city. It was part of a payment plan but also a stunner. Many doubted the city’s projections that the museum would attract hundreds of thousands.
But it did. It does.
Many raised their eyebrows at the city’s move in 2006 to save the old La Concha Motel lobby from the wrecking ball and move it to a site on Las Vegas Boulevard where more than 100 old neon signs are stored. The lobby, designed by Paul Revere Williams, would one day become a visitors center, we were told.
Eight years later, the Neon Museum and its visitors center have become a popular downtown destination.
Now another move is afoot to get the city involved in the preservation of historic Huntridge Theater, the 70-year-old landmark at Maryland Parkway and Charleston Boulevard. The city is asking for a $1 million grant from the Las Vegas Centennial Commission. The money would be used to help the private Huntridge Revival LLC move ahead with restoration plans.
The theater’s grassroots fundraising effort last summer drew hundreds of supporters who contributed money and time to the project. It raised more than $200,000 in contributions through an online crowdsourcing campaign; businesses promised hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of time to do design work and more; and some 500 people turned out to help whitewash and spruce up the neglected building.
The commission still has questions and scheduled a May 19 meeting to get more information before deciding on that $1 million.
Whether they give the money or not, one thing has become clear: Las Vegas history matters like it never has to both the community and business.