Liane Hansen, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, is in the middle of a two-part series on the Las Vegas economy. Part 2 airs this Sunday from 5 to 10 a.m.
Had you ever been before reporting this piece?
Never. The closest I’d ever been was watching CSI. We arrived on a Wednesday and left on a Sunday. We explored the Strip, Downtown, Fremont East and the solar array [near Boulder City].
Why do a report on Las Vegas, and why now?
Because there was such a boom a few years ago, and then the recession hit, then a downturn in the economy. And just hearing about the projects being abandoned, and what was Las Vegas going to do if people’s disposable income continued to decline, if gaming, tourism and entertainment all dried up. We just wanted to find out how Vegas was doing.
What struck you most about our city?
Downtown. The Strip is what I expected, Downtown was not. I spoke with Jennifer [Cornwaithe, owner of the Beat Coffee House], and listening to what she’s doing and what others are doing there I find very exciting. You come to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments, but if you go to U Street, you get a sense of what the city used to be like. There’s that kind of potential for Downtown Las Vegas. The local flavor of Vegas I really responded to perhaps moreso than the Strip.
Everyone has a “fantasy vs. reality” moment in Las Vegas. What was yours?
I wasn’t expecting music to be piped in everywhere on the Strip. It’s like Times Square supersized. On our last night there, I started thinking about the beach, peace and quiet. And I still can’t get over the idea of slot machines in gas stations.
This report was spurred by Las Vegas’ poor economy. After spending some time here, are we really doing that badly?
No, I don’t think so. I think Vegas is on the rebound. Everybody I spoke to is so enthusiastic about things such as the World Market Center, the [Lou Ruvo] Brain Clinic … the Nevada Cancer Institute was a real eye-opener. I got a sense with the younger generation that there’s a vital force here that will continue. How many incarnations has the Strip gone through? I think that will continue.
If you ever come back, what would you like to see that you missed?
The [Neon] Boneyard, definitely. I’d also like to take a closer look at the Gehry building, and I’d go to Red Rock.