At a meeting several years ago, then-Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid asked Sheriff Doug Gillespie about the progress of a new Las Vegas police headquarters.
Gillespie said he couldn't find the land to house one of the nation's largest police departments.
Reid looked out his window atop the County Government Center near downtown Las Vegas and pointed to 14 acres of dirt nearby. Why not there? he asked.
On Wednesday, Gillespie stood on that spot. Except the empty dirt lot was now a trio of gleaming office buildings and the new home of the Metropolitan Police Department.
"I'm very proud that after 38 years, we are moving into a building we can truly call our own," Gillespie said at the grand opening ceremony for his agency's new headquarters at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Alta Drive.
With former sheriffs Ralph Lamb, Jerry Keller and Bill Young in the audience of several hundred people, including elected officials from Las Vegas and Clark County, Gillespie said he was both nervous and proud as he officially opened the new headquarters.
Keller called the new complex "fantastic."
"This has been a dream ... since we began in 1973," Keller said.
Keller began exploring the idea of a headquarters in 1998, and when he left the agency in 2003, it was spread among 29 locations in the valley.
Young carried on those efforts upon following Keller into office and worked with then-undersheriff Gillespie to look at their options.
"We put the pencil to many projects, but we just couldn't make it work financially," Gillespie said.
After ruling out other options, including taking over City Hall after the city offices moved into a new building, the Police Department approached developer Mark L. Fine, who owned the empty lot Reid had spotted. The two sides reached an agreement in 2008 for Fine to build the complex and rent it to the Police Department for $12.2 million a year.
The county has the option to buy the property after three years at the larger of two figures, $167.4 million or fair market value, according to the contract.
The headquarters' annual rent is about three times the $4.2 million the Police Department paid to rent office space, but Gillespie said the improved efficiency and communication make up for the roughly 2 percent bump in the overall budget.
The Police Department in July began moving into the 370,500-square-foot complex, which puts more than 1,200 employees from 27 bureaus in one place. It also will serve as a one-stop shop for the public for many police services, including fingerprinting and records.
The complex consists of a five-story main office building flanked by identical four-story buildings, each covered in mirrored glass and fronted by palm trees.
The main building houses the Police Department's administration, including the sheriff's office, and other units including the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center. The outside buildings' tenants include the detective bureaus and records.
The agency's eight substations remain home to patrol officers, while sensitive undercover operations, such as vice, narcotics and gangs, stayed in their previous offices.
The complex includes a secured 1,600-space parking garage for employees and 500 surface parking spaces where visitors can park for free, a change from the parking meters surrounding City Hall.
Another change that will be obvious to the public is the large waiting lobby for the records and fingerprint departments instead of the cramped space at City Hall.
Public access to the rest of the complex requires a police employee escort. The secured floors look like typical offices with cubicles filling most of the open floor space and enclosed offices along the edges.
Gillespie has acknowledged criticism, including from the police union, of opening a new headquarters during Southern Nevada's deep economic woes, which have also hit his agency. He said he believes in pushing his agency forward, even during lean times.
In the past three budget years, the sheriff cut his agency's budget from $549 million to $501 million. Much of the savings came from keeping positions vacant, eliminating 435 positions, including 238 police officer slots, and securing pay and benefit concessions from the agency's three employee unions.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.