A few years ago, I attended a local presentation by a hotel developer (who I think has since fled the city limits) who promised to transform Reno into “Disney World West.”
Any guesses on what most of the people in the room thought about that? But then I started paying attention — to Artown, the riverfront, Rancho San Rafael Park and other local beautiful places to be in Reno, such as the balloon and air races, concerts in the park by the river, the Reno Philharmonic, the Reno Aces, the art museum and more.
After all, when I first toured the Siena hotel it was described to me in a way that made me think of it as an upscale resort, complete with fine dining, luxury rooms and a wine cellar — all of which just happened to have a casino in its lobby. But now the Siena has filed for bankruptcy protection because of back taxes owed to the Nevada Gaming Commission.
As it turns out, the slot machines are a more reliable source of income than the swanky steak dinners. I’m not sure if the Siena ever did attract the upscale clientele it so desperately wanted and I’m left wondering if the Siena’s Disney dreams are dead.
A controversial article in a national magazine earlier this year listed Reno as America’s “second drunkest city in America.” Yikes! Last I checked, Disney World doesn’t allow booze in the Magic Kingdom. You have to go to the much edgier EPCOT Center for that kind of party. Maybe EPCOT is Disney’s wild side.
There was a local uproar about Reno’s ranking as many of us fervently defended our town’s honor. Then I decided to focus on reality versus the idealistic fantasy of what Reno could be. I looked around and, indeed, some of our fellow residents seem to be having problems staying on Cinderella’s carousel without tumbling drunkenly onto the pristine pavement here at Disney World west.
Here’s a quick recap of some recent activity unfit for the Magic Kingdom: drunken parents driving with their children in the car, drunken parents in the backseat letting their children drive, drunken drivers hitting drunken scooter operators (SUI?), merchants at their wit’s end trying to keep the drunks and vagrants from sullying the Adventureland that is downtown Reno and the recent robbery of Sundance Bookstore, among others.
Although, that particular robbery gave me a glimmer of hope that even thieves are optimistic about Reno’s passion for the written word (a cause close to my heart).
It seems we really are two cities occupying the same space. We are Disney World with a dark side. Sure, many of you loyal hometown defenders are screaming that every town has its dark side and every city its dirty secrets. But does the average Main Street USA have just so much of it? How can our Disney World West keep out the drunks, hookers and hoodlums?
I remember once asking a groundskeeper at a Disney resort how the Disney properties literally are the only parts of Florida that are completely reptile and mammoth-sized bug free. He told me that the entire land mass that is Disney is surrounded by some sort of invisible ultrasonic perimeter that keeps the pests out. I’m not sure if he was messing with me or not, but it reminded me of those invisible fences that keep dogs from running away.
Does Reno need its own invisible fence to protect our better interests and the dream of a better city? Or maybe we should embrace our eccentricities and start charging admission? (Note to politicians: I think admission is approaching $100 a day at Disney World so this could be a very lucrative proposition.) In the meantime, how about a new sign: “Welcome to Reno — aka Disney World West — aka The Biggest Little City in the World — aka America’s Adventure Place — aka Two Cities for the price of one.”
Christine Whitmarsh is a freelance writer in Reno. She can be reached at email@example.com