It doesn’t happen often, but when we get something wrong, we admit it. We got the downtown gateway wrong, it’s actually a thing.
“What’s the downtown gateway?” you ask, impertinently. It’s this.
The original Las Vegas sign may not be in Las Vegas (it’s in Clark County), but this one is. Long story.
The new downtown gateway was built by the City of Las Vegas to the tune of about $400,000. It replaces another welcome sign, inspired by the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the south end of The Strip, smashed to bits by a bonehead in a truck in 2016.
When we first saw the gateway display, we thought it was fairly lame. All due respect, City of Las Vegas.
While it featured some of our favorite gambling things—dice, chips and a roulette layout—it very prominently featured two cartoon showgirls.
On the bright side, Googie stars. They’re the things floating over the “a.” You can never go wrong with Googie stars.
Not that there’s anything wrong with showgirls.
It’s just that showgirls are a somewhat antiquated symbol of Las Vegas, the last true showgirl show, “Jubilee,” having closed in 2016. The same year the “Welcome to Downtown Las Vegas” sign was destroyed. Las Vegas has no shortage of metaphors. Or ironies. Or analogies. Take your pick. We can never keep those straight.
If anyone ever asks what Las Vegas ninjas throw, now you know.
There was also a location problem.
The gateway was built where it was impossible to take a photo without getting a billboard in the background with an ad for a restaurant in the background. It was akin to the power lines at the welcome sign on Las Vegas Boulevard.
All the meh.
And we should also mention the fancy “Las Vegas” typography was taken from a logo the City of Las Vegas abandoned less than a year after it was unveiled.
Anyway, we figured the backward-looking display would be ignored by visitors, but over time, we’ve rarely passed the corner of Main and Las Vegas Boulevard without seeing tourists snapping selfies with the sign.
Hey, we can’t be right about everything.
Great perk of this sign over the other Las Vegas sign: No lines.
In a completely cool move, Downtown Grand even changed up its billboard to enhance the photo op.
Props where they’re due, Downtown Grand took one for the team and made advertising secondary to giving downtown Las Vegas a much more “Grammable” photo.
We actually don’t have an adequate supply of props to give to Downtown Grand for this classy move.
The gateway cost about $400,000 to construct, and morons are already finding ways to make it so we can’t have nice things.
Somebody stood on the “L” in Las Vegas and broke it. Word is the City designers are looking for ways to make the display elements more “durable.”
Please, people, it’s only been there three months.
We suggest the City of Las Vegas buy the billboard from Downtown Grand and swap it out with this one.
Seriously, we know a guy who could make this billboard happen.
And, naturally, asshats wasted no time tagging the display.
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman once got into hot water for suggesting people who do graffiti should have their thumbs cut off. We knew there was a reason we’re such a big fan of Oscar Goodman.
We checked all the pips on the dice. They’re good.
The City of Las Vegas isn’t done with its welcoming efforts, either.
The City recently started taking bids for an 80-foot-tall “double arch gateway” to complement the existing welcome display.
The location of the arch hasn’t been determined yet (it’s shown in two different locations in two renderings released by the City), but it’s expected to cost $2 million.
This seems the most likely location, at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara.
The call for bids says construction of the arch will start in June 2019 and be completed by the end of 2019.
While downtown’s welcome display won’t ever be as iconic or popular as the Las Vegas sign known around the world, maybe it doesn’t need to be.
Downtown Las Vegas doesn’t aspire to be The Strip, and its welcome sign has a distinctive vibe all its own.
If you don’t have a chance to stop at the downtown gateway for a photo, we’ve got a back-up plan. This gem outside the new marijuana museum at Neonopolis might do the trick.
No visit to Las Vegas is complete without a metric ass-ton of photos, so get busy.
Make sure to check out our list of 25 Offbeat Las Vegas Photo Ops.