Sensational suggestions for the new Mapes Hotel
From the 11-23-97 Daily Sparks Tribune

I'm outta here. Writing for newspapers and promoting unions doesn't pay the right kind of money. From now on, I'm hanging out my shingle as a small town urban redevelopment consultant.

I'm available, relatively cheap. Instead of handing me three or four million bucks worth of choice downtown riverfront real estate, I'll work for half that. I offer outstanding qualifications, a quarter-century of writing, researching and generally grousing about the sordid state of Sparks-Reno redevelopment and tourism promotion.

A few years ago, some of my suggestions for the Truckee River frontage so scared the top dogs of the gambling-industrial complex that they actually asked to take a meeting. I was flattered, but it never happened. An election intervened and I guess the right councilcritters won.

Because I know my advice reaches such high levels on the local caviar and champagne circuit, I don't need to prove myself. But just to show that I am every bit as capable as some of the cockamamie cats currently cruising the Truckee Meadows for fun and profit, here's a freebie: revolutionary recommendations for what to do with the born-again Mapes once it's saved.

1. BILL HARRAH'S TOMB. Think of all the tourists who would come to see him turning over in his grave.

2. MAJOR VIDEO, a continuing reminder of why the new movie theaters up the street are so empty.

3. AN OLD FASHIONED NEVADA CATHOUSE. Why not? The appropriate gold foil and red brocade wallpaper remains from when Charlie Mapes ran the place. To guarantee authenticity, we need only move Reno City Hall into the mezzanine.

4. A SHOOTING GALLERY. The National Rifle Association and Park Lane Mall would probably co-sponsor the concept. The NRA would want Reno gangs to learn proper gun safety and Park Lane would want them to stage their shootouts somewhere other than Park Lane.

Since Union Pacific will be hauling so many nukes through downtown Reno, the railroad would probably fund a huge, nuclear-powered neon sign. "Nukes are good for tourism," said UP spokesman John Bromley.

"We oppose any nuclear gun control," stated NRA boss Tanya Metaksa.

5. THE NATION'S FIRST FRANCHISED WELFARE RESTAURANT: Charlie Mapes' Wild Animal Meat Top Ramen Soup Kitchen. To help take the pressure off St. Vincent's Dining Room, any lowly-paid casino worker could dine at a nominal fee. Ol' Charlie gained fame as a big game hunter, so he could decorate the place with his stuffed animal collection.

6. DON CARANO'S STUFFED POLITICIAN TROPHY ROOM. With Kenny Guinn running for governor, Don's running out of room at his place.

7. DON KING'S RENO DIVORCE MILLS. "I'll promote it like crazy," King said in an exclusive interview. "Reno people will think that Judge Mills Lane is involved. Maybe I can even talk him into it. After all, most marriages could use a good referee. Then we'll franchise it and make it into a syndicated TV show, the new 'Divorce - American Style.' I love this country!"

8. KENNY GUINN'S CORONATION BALL HALL. If the gambling-industrial complex is going to crown Guinn as our next, guv...then the Mapes could serve as a proper palace for his majesty. Think of the symbolism: an industry and ruler just like the old hotel: a magnificent fašade masking decrepitude and corruption. Kind of a Nevada version of the Picture of Dorian Gray.

Reno National Bowling Stadium management will probably object. "If it involves balls, that's our job," snorted a guy in an electric blue rayon shirt who refused to give his name.

9. THE MIKE TYSON PLASTIC SURGERY AND BODY CONTOUR CENTER. "I'll endorse it if Tyson will get into a McGruff the Crime Dog costume a couple of times a year," said Washoe County Sheriff Dick Kirkland. "Every crook in town will know that we're serious about taking a bite out of crime."

10. JIMMY HOFFA'S GRAVE. His body's never been found, but that doesn't matter. Just leak the rumor that Hoffa's buried under the Mapes and people will seek the place out for years to come. Books, movies and Geraldo Rivera will follow. Don King would envy such hustle and our lackluster local promotional types could use a good demonstration of creative chutzpah.

11. THE UNLV SCHOOL OF HOTEL-CASINO ARCHITECTURE. We need it. Reno's always been an incestuous little town. Such social inbreeding manifests itself in tax dollar hemophilia and architectural sterility. Has anyone noticed that the proposed Boomtown expansion's hub-and-spoke design is the same as that of a modern maximum security prison?

12. MUSTY URBAN STUDY REPOSITORY, final resting place for all those legendary quality of life surveys and blue ribbon task force planning reports. Put them all in one morgue and see how long it takes for a new species of dust mite to evolve.

13. A PARKING GARAGE FOR RENO MAYOR JEFF GRIFFIN'S EGO, which takes up so much space that this column is over.

If you have any additional brilliant ideas, please send them in.

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Copyright © 1982, 1997, 2004 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano, a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 29-year Nevadan, is editor of U-News.
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Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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