Stacks of little pointy steel ears signify success.
Don't believe me? Check out Ramon Sanchez. The Las Vegas businessman, scanning a pile of ears, indicated they represent his diversity and ability to adapt to a changing market, which in turn allows him to keep his 40 workers employed during rough times.
Now don't go piling up ears in the living room expecting success. This isn't some feng shui thing.
The ears belong to a burro, I believe. I am actually not sure; they could eventually be attached to a stallion, but certainly not a bighorn sheep.
Regardless, the body part belongs to one of the 48 steel landscaping creatures that eventually will be hauled to the southern part of Interstate 15, between Tropicana Avenue and Blue Diamond Road, and placed along revamped interchanges and along the freeway.
"I think they will be very pleasing to the eye," Sanchez said. "It's almost like a welcoming for people coming from California. It shows we take care of our freeways."
Sanchez is obsessed with steel. He thinks it is beautiful and has great potential. At that point, I was relieved we didn't watch the Super Bowl together, because I think Packers are beautiful and have great potential.
Sanchez has dabbled in steel sculptures his whole life, but he had never created animals, especially multidimensional sculptures that weigh a ton and stand between 12- and 15-feet tall.
He convinced the Nevada Department of Transportation that his company, P&S Metals & Supply Co., could do the job and landed the $1 million contract to provide the animals. As a side note, the federal government strongly suggests that 3 percent of the total cost of a road project be dedicated to landscaping. The I-15 project is estimated to cost $250 million.
As he has over the years, Sanchez adjusted his business to the needs of the community.
In the early years, the company provided materials at the Nevada Test Site. When work at the site died down, the casino boom exploded and he began building the steel structures that support massive casino signs. He has done about 90 percent of them.
When the construction of resorts slowed, he began shipping steel to California and also survived by supplying materials to CityCenter and The Cosmopolitan. Then came the bid to build animals.
That contract is not only essential in keeping his employees' paychecks coming, but it is important to Las Vegas as a whole. Sanchez's company is locally based and benefits local workers.
Previously these types of projects were awarded to companies out of Utah or California, said Erick Sanchez, Ramon's 32-year-old son who was born the year the elder Sanchez opened his business.
"There is still this misperception that we are behind the times and that we aren't capable of doing projects like this locally," Erick said.
To be perfectly honest, the Sanchezes weren't positive they could accomplish the feat, but they were confident.
The entire Interstate 15 south project is design-build, meaning there is no bidding process, which means the Sanchezes really didn't know what the heck they were getting into until they were under contract. They fabricated a few mini-burros and decided they could do it on a full-scale level.
The company had the technology in place, a platform where a 10-by-20 foot plate of steel could be cut using a computer-guided laser. The same design is mimicked in smaller pieces a few more times. A welder pieces them together side-by-side nearly a foot apart, giving the sculpture a three-dimensional look. Each creature takes about four days to assemble.
The critters are coated with an anti-graffiti material so if any of those kids that Mayor Oscar Goodman threatened to de-thumb strike, the paint can simply be brushed off.
The massive bighorn sheep, burros and horses are being held in a stable of sorts outside the Sanchez business. Late this year, there will be a big round-up, but this one won't likely generate controversy. The big guys will be taken to their new homes along the freeway, where all motorists can enjoy some local creativity.
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