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Hangar might be suitable dining hall

The city and other concerned groups have been trying to figure out how to make a historically sensitive reuse of the old airport south of Boulder City Parkway.

The property includes the 1940 hangar and 18 acres of buildable land. I’m sure there will be plenty of proposals for what to build on the 18 acres. But does anyone want an 8,000-square-foot shell of an 80-year-old building that doesn’t even have plumbing?

I have an idea.

The Henderson-Boulder City Sons of Norway rent the Elk’s lodge here in town for its fall lutefisk fundraising dinner. They require a self-help kitchen because no caterer west of Minnesota would know how to make lutefisk and lefse. It is remarkable that the other Sons lodge, that is headquartered well north of the Spaghetti Bowl, also comes here to Boulder City to rent the very same Elks lodge for its dinner. Why so far? Because there is virtually no alternative anywhere in the valley.

We are very happy with the Elks and their professional treatment of our needs. But, just in case, I spent some hours recently researching alternative rentable halls where we could do the food preparation ourselves. The only other one I found was another Elks lodge in Las Vegas. All others either provided a “kitchen, not for cooking” meaning they were only for a caterer to bring food in, or the banquet hall also had its own restaurant and you had to use them to use the hall.

The Elks can accommodate our lodges because we are small and fit in. But what would an organization do that wanted to cook for 300 or 500 or 700 guests? It would presumably have to hold its event in Los Angeles.

I have talked to several other people who have expressed a similar need. A gourmet group would want to control its own cuisine. A cooking classroom would want to do it themselves. Some renters might be hosting a three- or four-day conference and want the hall for more beyond the eating.

We all want to lure ventures that will bring people to Boulder City to stay in local hostelries and spend money elsewhere around town. I believe that filling this banquet hall void would be a perfect undertaking for Boulder City. Clearly the old water filtration plant would not do the trick. But, I believe the hangar could be the perfect location.

It would need serious and expensive renovation (remember that plumbing) and outfitting kitchens cost big bucks, but it would still be way less costly than building new. Our refitting/remodel would perhaps be done to the lessee’s specifications on the city’s nickel.

The exterior of the hangar could remain historically correct and the interior finish could emulate a Planet Hollywood-like decor that highlights Howard Hughes’ era flight memorabilia and artifacts.

Once we had the hall built, renters would not be forced to cook for themselves. Dan Fox, for one, said that he would be happy to cook something up, as would any caterer.

The suggestions we hear for using the hangar for a gallery or museum are nonstarters. Any type of museum would require probably millions of dollars to acquire exhibits and then probably two full-time paid workers to operate. Revenue would be next to nothing, as witness the great museum in the hotel that had to reduce its $2 admission to free.

We should recruit someone to outline an offering, survey the region to quantify the market potential and try to find or form a business partner to take it on. I am not the one to do that, and don’t know anyone who is.

Dave Nelson retired to Boulder City in 2003 after a career with the FICO score company. He is vice president for the local Sons of Norway.

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