EDITORIAL: Projecting success at Neon Museum

Unreasonable expectations are common in Las Vegas, especially among public project planners. Think Las Vegas Monorail and the Springs Preserve.

Thankfully, those who envisioned the Neon Museum had realistic expectations, and as a result, the museum’s first full year of operation was a success. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Jane Ann Morrison on Saturday, the Neon Museum set a cautious visitation estimate for 2013, at between 45,000 and 50,000, a figure later revised to 60,000.

The final tally: 60,461 visitors to the museum and the Neon Boneyard Park. “It’s what I expected it to be,” said museum board Chairman Bill Marion. Better still, Mr. Marion told Ms. Morrison the museum has been operating in the black since its official opening in October 2012. That prompted Mr. Marion, appearing before the Las Vegas City Council last week, to say something rarely heard in City Hall: “The good news is that we’re not asking you for anything.”

That might put the Neon Museum in the shortest line around — one that isn’t seeking subsidies. Credit the private-sector savvy of Mr. Marion, a principal partner of Purdue Marion &Associates, a Las Vegas public relations firm, and the city, which saw the museum’s potential and leased the land for just $1 a year. Ms. Morrison also noted the major contributions of the Las Vegas Centennial Fund ($1.1 million) and the National Scenic Byways program ($800,000).

The investments are paying off at the independent, nonprofit operation, with 2013 revenues of $1,956,903 and 80 percent of the visitors being nonresidents. And of that 80 percent, 25 percent were international visitors.

The Neon Museum is a great addition to the city’s cultural landscape, a celebration of the city’s history and a symbol of a revived downtown — built on realistic expectations. “It was an internal evaluation of what we thought we could realistically achieve,” Mr. Marion said.

On Wednesday, the Review-Journal’s Richard N. Velotta reported that Tom Skancke, who heads the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, outlined some mass transit proposals at a meeting with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Mr. Skancke’s ideas included light rail and an expansion of the monorail. Mass transportation projects, in Nevada and nationwide, are notorious for inflating their ridership projections to justify construction. So here’s an idea: valley transportation planners should get on the phone with the Neon Museum’s people for a lesson in reasonable expectations.