Guest Commentary

Downtown Tucson could learn some fine lessons from Sin City

As a Tucsonan, I know that there is a big problem downtown. After going to Las Vegas for the first time, I realize our neighbor to the north has the answers for redevelopment: theme-park casinos, grandiose hotels and fabulous shows.

People say there is nothing to draw people downtown. If downtown only had some chain stores, they say, like we have at La Encantada, Park Place, El Con and Tucson Mall--not to mention in all the ubiquitous strip malls--people would go downtown. If only there were a Starbucks there, people would drive in from all over town to have coffee there.

However, that is not going far enough. With the right plan, we can bring people from all over America to Tucson.

The only people who go downtown right now are youth, music lovers, movie lovers, artists, diners and the unwashed goth and fetish crowds. We need a more distinguished crowd going downtown, such as gamblers and heavy drinkers trying to forget their lives in other parts of the country. We need more of what Vegas has.

The first casino to open should be Ronstadt's, which would feature a 2,000-square-foot atrium with left and right pathways to different parts of the casino. To the left would be the Blue Bayou Bar, where Linda Ronstadt would sing Thursday through Sunday. The Stone Pony Theater would feature The Doobie Experience, with Tucson's own Wayback Machine playing all Doobie Brothers, all the time. Why let our resources go to waste by allowing Wayback to play whatever they want, whenever they want?

To the right, the patrons could gamble away Tucson's future with the Rio Nuevo and CAP Water slot machines. Rifles would be the name of the NRA-themed restaurant, featuring all-day shooters and the desert kill of the day. The Pulte Home and Family Theater would have the Hunks of Construction All-Male Revue. Watch Jesus and Juan sweat while roofing and gardening to Toby Keith singing "Proud to Be an American." Meanwhile, the Click and Diamond County Manager Dancers will gyrate at the front of the stage as money is shoved into their G-strings by kneeling developers.

Everyone loves the circus, so we will have the Flam Chen Flam Chen casino. Museums in the Flam Chen Flam Chen would include the Linda McCartney Memorial Museum, the Mo Udall Honest Politicians Museum and the David Spade Gallery of Unfunny Comedians.

Garry Shandling's Night Club would feature comedy inside the Old Tucson Casino. Gunfights supervised by Maricopa County's own Joe Arpaio would run on the hour, alternating with the Salute to Mining Fountains of Mine Tailings, sponsored by Asarco (to compete with the Bellagio's water-fountain display in Vegas) on the half-hour.

Vegas has its New York New York and Paris hotel-casinos, and we would have L.A. L.A. and Nogales. L.A. L.A. would feature the Pasadena Expressway coaster that would get to the peak of the first hill, and then wait in a line of other cars, moving a foot every hour. The Nogales Hotel and Resort would have a border-fence replica. Patrons would enter through tunnels or gaps in the fence and pay coyotes to take them to the Detention Center and Sweatshop nightclubs.

Club Congress could be a great profit center if it took on gambling and became Capone's Casino and Wedding Chapel. Burlesque shows would run on stage featuring the Gangster Goth Girls 24 hours a day and cater to bachelor parties. Instant marriage is a great way to attract people to downtown, so men from all over America will reserve the "Offer You Can't Refuse" suite at Capone's, where they could propose to their girlfriends.

There are many benefits to this development plan. Artists would have no trouble getting work painting murals and creating neon art for the casinos. We could eliminate grants to UA students, who could instead get jobs at casinos. The Fox could be used as a casino/movie theater once the seats are removed.

Tucson could draw Americans from all over the world. Texans, Mexicans (New and Old) and Phoenicians would love to gamble in the Old Pueblo. If you build it, they will come.

It's at least as logical as putting a rainbow bridge, an aquarium, Gucci or Donna Karan downtown to draw crowds.