UFC boss looks to build in suburbia

UFC mastermind Dana White is planning to build a giant family entertainment complex near his home in Summerlin that could be somewhere around 10 times bigger than a Chuck E. Cheese.

"I'm gonna build a bad-ass, nice, clean place up in Summerlin where people can take their kids and have a blast on the weekends," he told me.

White's complex would offer entertainment diversity on the level of a chain called Dave & Buster's, which some Las Vegans know for its California locations. Dave & Buster's combines a restaurant with scores of interactive games, from boxing to NASCAR simulators, video games, Skee-Ball, billiards and other indoor activities.

But White is thinking bigger. Timeline for construction: Within the next year.

"I'm working on it now," he said. "We're looking for a place to do it, and there's nothing but real estate available."

He doesn't have a name for the complex yet. I suggested Dana's Playhouse.

"That's a good one," he said, humoring me, but he's still brainstorming.

His motivation: He's always looking for new and cool spots in Summerlin suburbia to hang on weekends with his wife, two sons and daughter.

Two weekends ago, his daughter, 3, wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese.

"Dude," White said, "we go to Chuck E. Cheese. There was a line out the door just to try to get in."

So, White whisks his kids all over town to other spots, such as the indoor kart racetrack at Pole Position.

"I take my kids on the weekends to the movies. I take my kids to GameWorks down on the Strip, and we play video games. We go to the park and play football."

There's a ton of things for families to do in Vegas, said White, 40, who grew up here and in Maine. It's just spread around different areas.

"People who think you can't raise your kids here, they're out of their minds. There's no better place to raise your kids than in Las Vegas."

I told him some Las Vegans complain that kids here are exposed to, among other things, billboards with boobs and butts all over them.

(Just to clarify, this isn't my complaint. I don't have kids. I love our billboards. Besides, the always-available Google Images is dirtier than every legal thing in Vegas.)

White said boobs are "part of life."

"Your kids are eventually gonna see a girl's naked ass someday. You hope, anyway," he said and laughed.

But seriously, he said, Vegas offers far more things for kids to do (to stay out of trouble) than where he spent part of his childhood, near Bangor, Maine.

"I still have a house in Bangor," he said. "Let me tell you, kids get into more (trouble) out there than anywhere else," because they're bored, with nothing to do.

"There's a place called Levant, Maine, that's right outside of Bangor. I know so many kids I grew up with that got into drugs out in this small little town. Believe me, it can happen anywhere. It's all about parenting, not about where you grow up."

White said something I hear from every teacher I know:

"You keep your kids busy. You keep them active in positive things. You pay attention to them. And you get involved in their life. That's what it's about."

He said another family event he's working on (May 28-29 at Mandalay Bay) is the UFC Fan Expo, where fans get to mingle with fighters from the UFC, Pride and WEC, and which is expanding by 90,000 square feet over last year, to 300,000 square feet.

Last year's inaugural expo drew 30,000 people. This year, he's hoping for 50,000.

Another news item: He says UFC execs are looking into producing fan expos at other cities around the world, while continuing the Vegas expo.

As for that May expo, it will host another grappling tournament in conjunction with Grapplers Quest, where up to 1,500 amateurs from around the country will compete in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

He said the cool thing is families will once again travel here to grapple and meet fighters.

"And the father and the son -- or the father and the daughter -- compete in these tournaments," he said.

(America in the 21st century: The family that fights together, stays together?)

As for White's family, everyone has their own favorite fighters.

"My wife loves her some Rich Franklin," he said.

One of White's many favorites at the moment is Forrest Griffin. His family also digs Chuck Liddell and Brock Lesnar.

"They're very biased. They like whoever I'm friendly with that week," he said and laughed.

"This just happened: My son Aidan says, 'Dad, do we like Tito Ortiz now?' I said, 'Yes, we like Tito again.'"

Doug Elfman's column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.