In spite of the optimism espoused by our political leaders regarding the impact on our city by the opening of the Interstate 11 bypass, I think many residents are unsure about the long-term consequences we face as a community. Will our businesses suffer to the point we become like many of the near-ghost towns along Interstate 40 that were similarly bypassed by the construction of our federal interstate highway system in the ’50s and ’60s?
It seems clear to me that we must rebrand Boulder City as a tourist destination, rather than a stop along the way to and from Las Vegas. One way to approach that would be to affirmatively promote our town and its businesses to the current travelers who whisk through on U.S. Highway 93 heading north or south.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has for years operated its somewhat mislabeled “Nevada Visitors’ Center” near the intersection of U.S. 93 and Nevada Way where they provide restroom facilities, parking and picnic facilities, maps, brochures, etc. I have always found it peculiar, however, that the “center” is only open Monday through Friday, during normal business hours, and is closed on weekends, days when many people are passing by who have to work during the week.
The site is on my regular morning walk route, and I make it a habit of walking the perimeter of its parking lot as part of my routine. Inevitably, on any weekend day, during the approximately five minutes it takes me to complete that leg of my walk, at least two, and often as many as four, vehicles will pull into the lot, only to turn around and leave after finding the facility’s closed sign prominently displayed. (It’s fairly easy to extrapolate and realize the large number of visitors similarly frustrated on any given weekend.)
Some do disembark to see if the restrooms are available but are soon back in their vehicles, probably continuing their search for a relief spot, after encountering locked doors. I have yet to see one of these parties turn right on Nevada Way out of the parking lot and head up the hill to our business district. They all turn left and then go right back onto U.S. 93.
This phenomenon raises some questions: What will happen to this facility after I-11 opens? Will the LVCVA continue its efforts there? Who owns the property? What long-term plan does the city have for the area, if any? Could the city and/or the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce take it over and promote our businesses to what remains of the north-south traffic flow on U.S. 93?
And that brings me to my point about missing an opportunity. Why not start right now to use this site for our own promotion? Maybe, with the cooperation of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, we could have access to the building on weekends and staff it with volunteers who could distribute maps highlighting our local restaurants, lodging, recreational, retail and other public access facilities.
If for some reason the LVCVA would not grant us access to the building, maybe we could set up a self-service kiosk with signage to tease passers-by out of their vehicles so they might avail themselves to the information provided therein. Part of our info dissemination could include the location of the public restrooms at the Water and Power Building or the many commercial venues with restrooms available to customers. Whatever interests them, it will get them into Boulder City.
Just this small amount of exposure to our clean, appealing and friendly community might just instill in these “accidental visitors” that same feeling you and I had the first time we arrived here. “Wow, what a neat town. I think I’ll do some exploring, or come back soon when I’ve got the time.” Or maybe both!
Mike Durick is a labor arbitrator and a former commissioner with the United States Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.