Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Life is Beautiful festival gets mixed reviews from downtown small businesses




Las Vegas Container Park


When the “Life Is Beautiful” festival opened the gates at 2 p.m. Sept. 23 for its fourth annual three-day event, it was anticipated that nearly a year of planning would result in a huge economic boost to some of the downtown businesses.

The official numbers were not in as of press time. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, however, the 2015 festival was a huge success for the community. Tallies show that there were 57,000 unique attendees for the event, and over the three-day period the total attendance amounted to 131,500. The direct economic result was a $21.5 million boost to the local economy.

“Over the past several years, music festivals have grown in popularity and have become a major draw among our numerous destination offerings,” said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Life is Beautiful is one of many festivals that have decided to call Las Vegas home, and we look forward to welcoming all of the attendees to downtown Las Vegas.”

During the event, 18 city blocks are fenced off with 2.5 miles of perimeter fencing. “The event is very expensive to produce; we have to build the entire venue,” said Justin Weniger, a co-founder of the event. The venue includes three small stages and a very large main stage, a VIP lounge, culinary villages and art vendor booths.

Although the economic impact has been great over the past few years, the festival has seemed to fall out of favor with some downtown small business owners.

Marchello Tanasi, the owner of Vegas Flip Flop and Vegas Hot Rod and Street Wear stores in Downtown Container Park, did not have a positive experience during last year’s event. “Actually, I think that it catered mostly to the food. The retail side of it, and I can speak for a lot of people; we had no business.” This year, according to Tanasi, was a little better than last but nowhere near an average weekend.

Stella Pappas, the owner of Athena’s Jewelry Box, agreed with Tanasi. From her upstairs window, she could see the festival attendees dancing and partying in the street but did not see any traffic in her store.

Both Tanasi and Pappas, along with a few other shop owners, have asked their landlord, the Downtown Project, if they can close early or not open at all during the festival. Part of their contract with the Container Park required them to remain open during such events.

“People are here to party, they don’t want to be carrying shopping bags around,” commented another shop owner who wants to remain anonymous. “However, even though I did not have any business during the event, I do think that it brought awareness to the Container Park, and I hope that some of the people came back another time to see what we have.”

Kellie Kroplinski, the owner of Art Box, which carries handcrafted jewelry, clothing and art pieces from local artisans, had a better experience.

“I thought the festival was wonderful,” she said. She reported a 20 percent increase in sales and said she is encouraged by the fact that an increased number of locals who never had been to Container Park, visited her shop during the event.

Scott Wurth of San Miguel Collection in Container Park sells home-decorating items, dining, jewelry and other unusual artisan-crafted items. “Last year was pretty good for us during the festival. It was a little difficult because the festival-goers did not want to take things with them because they were busy, so we offered free shipping on everything for the entire event.”

When asked what sort of sales his store had, Wurth explained, “I am not sure that our store is exactly the Life Is Beautiful customer, so our sales stayed the same. We knew that we had to offer free shipping just to make some sales.”

Part of the problem was the fact that on a normal business day, Container Park opens its gates at 10 a.m. During the festival, the gates don’t open until 2 p.m., and only festival-goers who bought tickets are allowed to enter. To make matters worse, the shopping complex is virtually inaccessible for three days before the festival and three days after while crews barricade the streets to assemble and dismantle the stages and booths and other festival equipment.

During this year’s event, in addition to the 80 bands that performed, there were 44 food vendors from restaurants all around Las Vegas. The restaurants of Container Park, while open during the event, were not listed as part of the festival experience.

Co-founders of the event, Weniger and Ryan Doherty, met in 1999 while attending UNLV and have lived in downtown Las Vegas since graduation. In 2001, the pair started WENDO (a combination of their two last names) Media Cos., and in 2006 began publishing Vegas Seven magazine to spotlight the food, entertainment and art culture in Las Vegas.

Weniger and Doherty also opened two bars on East Fremont Street called Commonwealth and Park on Fremont. “Both are designed to be real-life neighborhood community bars,” Doherty said. Their frustrations in trying to entice customers to cross Las Vegas Boulevard, to a somewhat less-desirable neighborhood, turned into the idea behind Life Is Beautiful.

“The inspiration stemmed from the idea that if we combined art, music and culinary together that it would drive the community around the idea of revitalizing downtown, and at the same time build art, culture and community,” Weniger said.

The partners teamed up with Tony Hsieh, who owns Downtown Project, to form Life Is Beautiful LLC. Hsieh has for the past few years been acquiring property along East Fremont Street and several blocks to the north and south. This area is the site for the Life Is Beautiful festival. Downtown Project also owns Container Park at 7th and Fremont streets.

Tickets for the event started at around $125 for single-day general admission and $285 for all three days. VIP tickets start at $655 for the three days and as much as $15,000 for a package that included 10 VIP passes, a bucket of beer, two bottles of hard liquor, a dedicated concierge and cocktail server, private viewing areas and shaded relaxation areas with flushable restrooms among other perks.

Both Life Is Beautiful and the iHeart Radio Music Festival, which was held Sept. 24 and 25, were competing for music lovers. iHeart reported a sellout of 15,000-seats at T-Mobile Arena and a capacity crowd of 25,000 for Saturday’s daytime festival at Las Vegas Village.

Weniger and Doherty are hoping to increase attendance by 40 percent this year. “Early numbers show that occupancy was up in Downtown Las Vegas and spilling over to the Las Vegas Strip,” said Weniger.


Entrepreneur opens production studio

The price of being a media producer is coming down.

Ian Harrington, president of ShowCreators, said he set a goal for providing a high-quality studio production space for locals who want to produce their own radio or television programs.

Harrington and his staff have spent the past four years producing professional audio and video products such as commercials and corporate videos for various clients in Las Vegas and around the country. However, as the lines between mainstream media and online media have blurred and fused together, Harrington saw an opportunity to expand.

Opening studio time to the public, Harrington said, “allows anyone to express their opinions, talents or views, and have it captured using high-quality audio and visual equipment for distribution over the Internet or to one of the over-the-air broadcast radio and television stations.”

Content Creation Studios is located at 4465 W. Sunset Road. The studios are state-of-the-art with high-definition-quality audio and video equipment and production engineers that allow those with very little experience to create the highest quality product possible.

Of course, Harrington is only talking about the production; the talent side is whatever the client brings to the table.

One of the talents looking at the new studio is Penn Jillette, who is considering moving the production of his weekly podcast “Penn Jillette’s Sunday School,” to the Content Creation studios. Jillette has a weekly following of several thousand listeners and some paying sponsors.

The facility has the ability to live-stream each production over the Internet or record and edit for a delayed broadcast.

“We want to create a community here and create a studio where people feel they are connected,” said Harrington.

A monthly membership in which a person can create one 30-minute radio show per week for four weeks will run $350. The company is still defining the price of a video show, but it will still be affordable, Harrington said.


– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/small-business/entrepreneur-opens-production-studio#sthash.CbhQvMIZ.dpuf

Recycling gets a boost

The all-too-common photos of garbage dumps filled to capacity, nearly overflowing with plastic trash bags, put a visual explanation point on the fact that Americans produce a lot of waste.

That being said, the recycling movement started several decades ago by hard-core environmental activists to help save the environment is now becoming a necessity as we start running out of places to dump the accumulated waste.

In the Las Vegas Valley, both household participation rates and the amount of material being recycled are increasing. And for businesses that recycle, they are able to see a significant cost saving on their monthly bill from Republic Services.

Let’s start with your standard office building.

The majority of office waste, 75 percent or more, consists of paper products and plastic water bottles, both valuable commodities sought by waste recycling companies. By implementing a recycling program, a business can decrease the amount of its annual garbage collection bill by adding one or two less expensive recycle bins and eliminating multiple trash containers as well as reducing the number of trash pickups.

The cost of a standard 3-cubic-yard container with two pickups per week is $288 per month. The charge for a once-a-week pickup is only $144. In contrast, the cost of a 3-cubic-yard recycling container is around $130 per month, for two pickups per week. It is possible for a business to save $3,000 to $5,000 per year on trash removal by establishing an office building-wide recycling program.

The two challenges for business recycling are making sure that each employee participates and that the recycling stays clean, meaning that food-contaminated trash must be kept out of the recycle stream.

According to Bob Coyle, a government relations and recycling consultant for Republic Services, all of the hotels in the resort corridor and downtown Las Vegas participate in recycling.

Outside of the resorts, Republic serves about 20,000 commercial businesses, and of that number, there are about 3,500 recycling customers. But among those 20,000 businesses, there are auto repair shops, restaurants and other type businesses that don’t generate a lot of recyclable material because of food waste, grease and oil contamination. Because Republic does not break out office buildings separately,”we feel that the current business recycling customer base is a pretty good number, and we have significantly penetrated the available market,” Coyle said.

As a business, one of the advantages of recycling is the appeal to the environmentally conscientious customer who is looking to do business with companies that care about the environment.

The largest gain in recycling participation has come from individual residents.

Before 2009, each residence was provided with three “milk crates” — the familiar red, white and blue containers that hold 12 gallons of recyclable material each for a total of 36 gallons of capacity. The crates took up a lot of storage space in the garage, compounded by the fact that they were emptied every other week only and required three trips to the curb on recycling day. Also, the containers were open and on windy days were a challenge to residents to keep the paper and plastic contents from blowing away.

And those residents that had watched the recycle truck go through the neighborhood were frustrated by the fact that they took the time to separate the paper, plastic, and glass material, only to have it all co-mingled in the recycling truck. Needless to say, participation in the recycling program was low.

In December 2009, North Las Vegas approved the citywide implementation of single-stream waste recycling. Henderson followed suit in March 2013.

In just those two cities, “We have seen roughly a 500 percent increase in recycling,” Coyle said. “We used to get 2 to 3 pounds per week on average per home, and now we are seeing between 12 and 14 pounds on average per home.” The reason for the increase is convenience.

Under the single-stream recycling program, each home receives a 96-gallon container with wheels and a lid that is emptied on a weekly basis, nearly tripling the recycling capacity and convenience to the residents. Because of the weekly collection of a single bin on wheels and the elimination of recycling day confusion (on the same day as normal trash pickup each week), Republic Services has seen an estimated 90 percent participation rate.

In November 2013, Clark County commissioners approved single-stream recycling for the unincorporated areas of the county. There are approximately 235,000 homes in Clark County, of which approximately 25,000 homes are in the program. The holdup to implementing the program into more homes has been a capacity issue on Republic Services end.

But the capacity issue has been resolved with the Dec. 2 opening of a new 110,000-square-foot recycling center with advanced recycling technologies. The new recycling center is capable of separating and processing 70 tons per hour, up from the 25 tons per hour capacity in the old building. The new facility was designed and constructed based upon estimated valley-wide recycling needs, about 150,000 tons annually based upon the current population, and the estimated growth in recycling for the next 10 to 15 years and the ability to process up to 265,000 tons of material annually.

Starting in January 2016, the goal is to bring 10,000 new homes per month throughout Clark County into the single-stream recycling program. It is anticipated that Las Vegas will approve a new contract by January or February 2016 to allow single-stream recycling for residents within the city’s jurisdiction.

Coyle said, “That all depends on what is happening with the medical marijuana business applications. Our agenda item has been pushed back a number of times due to the soccer stadium at the tail end of last year and on-going medical marijuana licensing issues this year.”

Approximately 15,000 homes out of the 165,000 total homes in Las Vegas are on a pilot program.


– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/learning-curve/recycling-gets-boost#sthash.72rRFwqI.dpuf

On to Mandalay Bay

What is next for the Las Vegas Monorail?

When it comes to transportation options along the Strip, perhaps the most visible yet misunderstood is the Las Vegas Monorail.

Yes, the Las Vegas Monorail Co., a privately held 501(c) 4 not-for-profit company, went into voluntary bankruptcy during the recession when it couldn’t pay the interest on more than $400 million in capital debt.

But today the 4-mile line hauls more than 15,000 tourists a day, turns an operating profit and it has an appetite for expansion.

On Nov. 7, 2012, the company emerged from Chapter 11 under a reorganization plan that canceled the prior debt. In exchange, the bondholder received two series of current interest bonds, Series A totaling $10 million due in 2019, and Series B totaling $3 million due in 2055. Today, the company earns enough money from ticket sales and advertising to completely pay for all of the operations, debt obligations, and maintenance of the entire system.

The success of the system has brought quite a lot of interest from various people, places, organizations, and groups who want to see the monorail expand. Perhaps the most asked question is about the extension of the monorail to McCarran International Airport.

About 70 percent of the people that arrive at the airport are going to the Strip. The only option from McCarran to the Strip is surface transportation, which is a major livelihood for the cab, limo and shuttle drivers. However, at peak times, there are delays.

“From a bigger picture standpoint, we need to look at all of the options on the table and what is best for the community,” said said Ingrid Reisman, vice president, and chief marketing officer for the monorail. “We (the monorail) are so close to McCarran, yet so far away with a station at the MGM Grand … I don’t think that there is just one solution that will solve that particular traffic movement. I believe that there should be multiple solutions and that the monorail should be one of them.”

Other ideas have included the expansion of the monorail north to Fremont Street, and most recently to UNLV.

“Could that be something in the future? It could be, but we need to look at our most critical transportation needs and prioritize them,” said Reisman. “Right now, as a not-for- profit company, those two expansions are not something that we could fund and expect for it to pay for itself, but they might be viable extensions in the future.”

Recently, the monorail company joined the Regional Transportation Commission in a study to look at the resort corridor and identify transportation shortcomings. The result of that study is the Transportation Investment Business Plan and one of the recommendations is to extend the monorail service to the Mandalay Bay.

“Obviously we agree with that, it makes sense as the primary expansion of an existing 4-mile system to the newly expanded Mandalay Bay convention facility. It would give Las Vegas a huge competitive advantage in the convention market,” Reisman said.

Sketch level plans for an extension from MGM to Mandalay Bay are already being developed by the monorail’s planning team with an alignment and ridership study included. Initial estimates are that $100 million would be needed to construct the 1-mile of track, the station, and electronic infrastructure. A good portion of that money is projected to be in the form of debt, but the actual financial plan has yet to be determined.

Also, the Transportation Investment Business Plan is recommending that the monorail add a stop at the Sands Expo and Convention Center so that all three major convention facilities would be connected.

The monorail is on track to carry 4.7 million people in 2015. This system is unique compared to other similar transportation systems in the country, in that it does not have regular commuters. The entire customer base changes approximately every three days. Because of its popularity with the tourists, the system also reduces the number of vehicle miles traveled in the resort corridor by 2 million, along with a reduction of the accompanying exhaust emissions (carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxide), emitted into the air by 26 tons annually.

The monorail configuration is four cars per train with an average of five to eight trains running during the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. On Saturdays, service is extended to 3 a.m.

During busy convention periods, the trains can be expanded to eight cars if needed, but the company has found it to be more convenient for the riders to increase the number of trains on the track, which shortens wait times at the stations. The average wait time at each station is four to seven minutes; the entire trip from the SLS Station at Sahara Avenue to the MGM Grand is approximately 15 minutes.

It is interesting to note that while the monorail only serves the east side of the Strip, according to customer surveys, 40 to 45 percent of the customers stay in hotels on the west side of the Strip. Those surveys also rank “customer satisfaction” highest for convenience, cleanliness and safety.

The maintenance teams regularly service the trains to make sure they are in smooth operating order. Malfunctioning parts are diagnosed at the facility or sent back to the manufacturer for replacement. Photo by Craig A. Ruark

The maintenance teams regularly service the trains to make sure they are in smooth operating order. Malfunctioning parts are diagnosed at the facility or sent back to the manufacturer for replacement. Photo by Craig A. Ruark

And safety is important to all involved. There are 96 cameras throughout the stations, capturing all areas of the system. Each train has eight cameras to cover all areas of each train car. Also, each car has an ‘e-tel’ button so passengers can communicate directly with the central control room at any time if needed.

Should a train develop a mechanical problem, there are more than 400 sensors and switches on every station platform level monitoring the health of all systems at all times. While there is a place for a driver to sit, each train is unmanned and operated remotely by a “wayside control unit” in the main computer server room. There are also additional control units throughout the system, which regulate and track the position of every train at all times and regulate the spacing of trains.

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/gaming-hospitality/mandalay-bay#sthash.W32VB38C.dpuf