Las Vegas centennial panel watching its money closely

Las Vegas’ centennial celebration was 2005, but the Las Vegas Centennial Commission still has money to give to worthwhile historical projects — about $1.6 million a year.

The sale of the centennial commemorative license plates raises money to support history, and insiders know how to apply for the moola, whether they’re asking for a little or a lot.

At the May 5 meeting, commissioners did something unusual for them. They turned down applicants or reduced the amounts they’d allow.

They even questioned the generous backing the city of Las Vegas has provided the Helldorado rodeo and parade, which is this weekend and is already in the budget for $430,000.

Helldorado officials asked for an additional $134,000, saying specialized environmental costs for moving the rodeo to Symphony Park created the need. The commission authorized an additional $98,500. Duane La Duke said that moving the rodeo from spot to spot costs more than if Helldorado was in a permanent location.

He mentioned that ticket sales of about $10,000 for each of the five nights go to local charities.

Commissioner Bob Stoldal pointed out that if the ticket sales were used to pay some of the costs, that would reduce the amount that city taxpayers spend. Essentially, taxpayers are subsidizing charities. Commissioner Richard Bryan concurred. “Maybe we should not be responsible for giving to charities.”

Two other proposals also were carefully scrutinized.

Sarann Knight Preddy applied for a $66,500 grant. Part of it would help her finish, publish, promote and distribute 1,000 copies of her unfinished book “72 Years in Las Vegas.” Preddy was the first black woman to hold a gaming license in Nevada and was the longtime owner of the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated casino in Las Vegas.

After discovering that about $22,000 would go toward a birthday party at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate Preddy’s 94th birthday July 27, the commissioners reduced the grant to $31,000 for preparation and printing of the book.

The Las Vegas Leadership program, sponsored by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, was turned down for $10,275 it sought for the annual program for 40 or 50 people a year. The money would have been spent on materials for the group’s history day.

Commissioners Bryan and Stoldal didn’t want to get into the position of funding $10,000 every year for so few people.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was frank. “The chamber shouldn’t be coming to this body for this. The chamber of commerce is pretty well off. This is not a great deal of money but it would establish a precedent.”

The commissioners voted 6-4 to deny the grant.

Other applications were approved exactly as requested.

The Mob Museum asked for and received $61,740 to create interactive 40-minute audio tours in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Rental for the audio tours will increase the entrance fee between $5 and $10, according to museum Executive Director Jonathan Ullman, who said the tours should be a money-maker for the museum. Ullman selected a company with a good reputation rather than the lowest bidder and commissioners asked him to explain how that company was chosen in a no-bid process. Afterward, they approved his request.

Desert Companion, the magazine affiliated with KNPR radio, received a $14,000 grant to hire freelancers to write historical pieces for future editions.

Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Las Vegas, received $15,198 as startup money so the Nevada Preservation Foundation can create walking tours for the Beverly Green and Paradise Village neighborhoods and help them become named to the Las Vegas Historic Property Register. The entire project will cost nearly $23,000.

The neighborhoods built in the 1950s are between Oakey Boulevard and Sahara Avenue off Las Vegas Boulevard near the Stratosphere. Former residents of Beverly Green include entertainers Louis Prima and Keely Smith and restaurateurs Lou and Angie Ruvo. The preservation foundation promotes appreciation of architectural heritage.

Yet to be resolved is whether the Centennial Commission will dip to its lowest funding balance ever by approving a $1 million grant to buy one-third of an acre underneath the Huntridge Theater.

Contact Jane Ann Morrison at or 702-383-0275.

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