First and foremost was the ongoing struggle between the officials of Hot August Nights (HAN) and the Reno City Council. It looked as if the council had dug its heels in about having the HAN board sign not only a long-term contract with the city, but also the possibility of the councilpersons passing a law that no competing special event of the same name and nature could be held 45 days prior to, or after, the event being held in Reno.
It was all supposed to come to a head at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the city council, but at the last minute it looked as if cooler heads prevailed and there was a potential offer by the HAN board to negotiate with the city fathers. Mayor Bob Cashell was quick to go on record as saying that he welcomed this overture by HAN and that he was looking forward to such a future meeting. For his part, HAN CEO Bruce Walter seemed to mellow a bit also and issued a statement that he would act in any such manner as the HAN board of directors instructed him.
The firestorm of controversy erupted when Walter signed a six-year agreement with the city of Long Beach, Calif., to start HAN in that city beginning next year and also to pre-empt the Reno event by doing a short version of HAN in South Lake Tahoe this year and in the future. The back tracking by both sides late Tuesday came as a welcome sign.
Another outgrowth of the controversy was the subsequent announcement that both the city of Reno and the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) were going to join forces in becoming more actively involved in all major special events in this area.
It probably is about time that all the entities concerned, meaning the cities of Reno and Sparks as well as the RSCVA and Washoe County, coordinate their best efforts to guaranteeing that major special events that pump millions of dollars into the local economy continue to grow and prosper.
Another group, the major local hotels and casinos, have indicated they would like to be represented on any coalition that could develop when it comes to special events.
Over the years, the major properties have literally “taken over” HAN to a large degree. The most active venues for HAN now are on the private property establishments such as the Grand Sierra Resort, the Atlantis Hotel Casino Resort and Spa, the Peppermill Hotel Casino and the main streets in front of John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.
The fact that these establishments have stepped up so strongly is probably the main reason HAN has enjoyed so much local prosperity. Now that the various hotels and casinos pay for the free live entertainment and provide all sorts of incentives for HAN participants to headquarter and compete on their grounds, all HAN has to do is worry about the cruising aspect of the celebration. In the early days of HAN, the organization’s control of all aspects put them seriously in the red and it was only by the good efforts of local businesses, spearheaded by the late Jim Thompson, that the HAN debt was erased and the event was put on a solid footing.
Since there is plenty of room under the HAN tent for all sides to come together and make it an even stronger event, it looks as if this is the time to accomplish that.
Pack in the MWC
The No. 2 big news story over the past week was the announcement that the University of Nevada, Reno along with Fresno State will be leaving the Western Athletic Conference and moving up to the Mountain West Conference. Former WAC powerhouse, Boise State, had already made the move some time ago. Once again, a veritable firestorm of controversy broke out — though not as strong as the HAN imbroglio — between the WAC commissioner, Karl Benson, and the local university. Benson was quoted as saying that both Nevada and Fresno State were “selfish” in their decisions and that he was going to hold them each responsible for paying a $5 million exit fee from the WAC.
Subsequently, UNR’s president, Milt Glick, noted that Nevada might not honor the exit fee since it had signed no such agreement. Also, there is an entry fee that is normally charged by the MWC.
With Nevada’s athletic department releasing figures showing that it has some $800,000-plus in the hole, currently the above charges would certainly put a strain on the beleaguered Wolf Pack Athletics.
As of this writing, there has been little or no information released on how the negotiations are going between UNR and the WAC.
Last but not least
Look for fireworks to develop next Monday when the Sparks Chamber of Commerce releases its new name. According to preliminary reports, the chamber currently has members that are located outside the environs of the Rail City and that means the chamber wants to have an all-embracing slogan.
For long-time localites, this situation reminds of the time, many years ago, when the late Mark Curtis was retained by the Sparks Nugget to lead a movement to change the name Sparks to East Reno. That effort was shot down in flames.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and pressent of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.