Wires marring Las Vegas sign photos need to go

A quick and dirty photo editing process to remove wires from the background of a Las Vegas sign photo. Image by Lorie Shaull/creative commons license.

It’s possibly the most photographed sign in the world.

“There is probably no bigger Las Vegas icon than that sign,” said Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak.

Behind the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign lies the Strip, rows of palm trees, and – depending on your camera angle – up to 12 power lines marring the sky.

The emblem of our city is framed by electric cables splicing the background like a floating music staff. It’s on par with putting a bus stop next to Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The sign appears everywhere. In stock images, marketing shots and some tourist photos, wires are Photoshopped away. But videos, news services and other vacationers leave the strings attached.

Wires everywhere.

Vegas Photography Blog and VitalVegas.com have previously snarked over how much time it takes to scrub out the lines with software. Even Utah-based Young Electric Sign Co., which owns the sign, wipes the wires from its marketing images.

NV Energy estimated that the line dates to the 1930s. The sign was planted in 1959 and the current power line was placed before 1967.

The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign in 1966. Review-Journal archive.

Six years ago, a city-data.com forum member named Brian wrote, “I hate taking pictures of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign as they have so many cables running behind them.”

He asked if the cords could be moved. (Of note, the sign’s power source moved underground two years ago.)

NV Energy told me the high-voltage lines behind the sign keep reliable power on the Strip. The cables are so critical that, if they were buried or re-routed, temporary lines would have to be built.

“At first blush, anyone would say ‘bury those things,'” NV Energy Project Director Mark Severts told me. But who would pay for it? He estimated the cost would easily top $1 million.

Severts said the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada requires the cost of moving or burying lines be paid for by those who request such work.

The metropolitan area must get billions of dollars in free publicity from the destination, so moving or burying the wires sounds logical to me. Clark County already spent around $2 million to add parking and walkways to the site.

Perhaps there’s a less costly solution: moving the sign itself. Not all the way to the actual city limit, but 19 feet closer to the Strip, where the wires would not be in the background of a photo.

Severts and YESCO’s senior vice president, Jeff Young, said they’ve never heard talk of altering the lines. And a county spokesperson told me there is no plan to do so.

Moving the sign, Young said, would have to be a joint decision between YESCO and the county.

Send your questions and feedback to hkeely@reviewjournal.com and follow me on Twitter: @HarrisonKeely.

The wires as seen from Google Street View.
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