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Whatever happened to these Southern Nevada newsmakers in 2015?

Light shining at end of long tunnel for Moapa zoo

It’s a good thing the Roos-N-More zoo in Moapa doesn’t have any elephants. This was a year they’d prefer to forget.

The popular, family-owned animal attraction 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas spent all of 2015 closed to the public as it navigated a host of permitting problems with Clark County.

Then in August, it looked as if Roos-N-More was done for good when the County Commission declined to issue a new operating permit, effectively barring the zoo from hosting even private tours and leaving it without any revenue to support its menagerie.

“You know, it’s been a rough year, but I think there’s a light finally at the end of the tunnel,” said Valerie Holt, who owns Roos-N-More with her husband and fellow veterinarian, Jay.

Although they’re still struggling to navigate county regulations, Holt said they are working hard to meet all 34 conditions that were placed on them in October, when the commissioners reversed their earlier vote and approved a permit for the zoo.

The facility has reduced to the size of its collection from almost 300 animals to around 200, including about 125 mammals.

If all goes according to plan, Holt said, they hope to be cleared sometime in 2016 to reopen to the public a few days a month — events that should go a long way toward making the 7-year-old operation financially self-sufficient again.

Until then, Roos-N-More is scraping by on the money it gets from the occasional private tour or a generous donor such as Zappos.com and its founder, Tony Hsieh.

“There’s not enough thank-yous in the world to go around for all that they’ve done for us,” Holt said of Hsieh and company. “Without their help, we would have been done a long time ago.”

— Henry Brean

Woodbury still active in firm, transportation

He sees the signs every time he makes the commute on the 215 Beltway, three times a week from Boulder City to his office in the Wells Fargo Tower in the Howard Hughes Center.

Bruce Woodbury Beltway.

“The truth is, I’m never thinking about it, so it always takes me by surprise to see the sign,” said Woodbury, who at age 71 still puts in a five-day workweek with his law firm, Jolley Urga Woodbury & Little.

“It’s kind of a humbling experience each time,” Woodbury said in his soft-spoken voice. “It generates feelings of gratitude and feelings that I’m somewhat undeserving and that I’d better behave myself. I hope that I can deserve this someday.”

Many of his Clark County colleagues obviously believe he is deserving, having put his name on the 50.5-mile freeway circling three-quarters of the valley.

Woodbury served on the Clark County Commission for 28 years, the longest ever on the seven-member board. He only left because term limits were legislated in and he had reached his limit.

Known as the valley’s transportation guru, Woodbury still keeps his hand in as a member of the Las Vegas Monorail Co. board of directors, a position he has held since 2009.

Woodbury loves living in Boulder City because he said it reminds him of the way Las Vegas used to be, where everybody knew each other and people could leave the doors to their houses unlocked. He has an office in Boulder City but drives to Las Vegas three days a week to work with real estate, corporate and general business clients of the law firm.

He has 22 grandchildren who give him regular opportunities to attend recitals and ballgames, but he always likes to find time to watch his beloved New York Yankees on television, and he will make trips to the West Coast to see them when they play there.

When he has a hankering to get active in a political campaign, he helps his daughter, Melissa, a member of the Nevada Assembly, or his son, Rod, the mayor of Boulder City. And he’s active in Marco Rubio’s presidential bid.

He’s often asked how he likes life in retirement.

“When they ask me that I tell them, ‘Well, I’ll let you know someday.'”

— Richard N. Velotta

O.J. Simpson behind bars in Northern Nevada prison

Former NFL running back O.J. Simpson remains behind bars at the Lovelock Correctional Center, about 100 miles northeast of Reno, serving four to 18 more years on kidnapping and robbery charges.

In September, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Simpson for a new trial in the case.

Convicted on 10 charges in 2008 for robbing two men of sports memorabilia, Simspon was sentenced to a nine- to 33-year prison term. Simpson’s lawyers had argued he was simply recovering his property, including photographs, when he went to the Palace Station hotel room.

In a 100-page post-conviction appeal, Simpson hoped to overturn District Judge Linda Marie Bell’s ruling denying him a new trial. The appeal said Simpson’s trial lawyer in the robbery case, Yale Galanter, was ineffective, had financial and legal conflicts and misadvised the 66-year-old inmate. The appeal also argued that his first post-conviction appeal showed several errors.

Galanter had a conflict of interest in the case, including “hiding his own pre-incident involvement and his failures to admit that involvement, in avoiding possible criminal liability, civil liability, reputation damage and professional discipline, and in obtaining more income and continuing publicity from a high profile case,” said the appeal, which relied heavily on Simpson’s testimony during a hearing in May 2013.

The post-conviction appeal filed in June 2014 included arguments of misconduct prejudicial to Simpson when prosecutors brought up his acquittal in the killings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

But the state high court wrote that “Simpson has failed to demonstrate deficiency or prejudice.”

— David Ferrara

Damaged passenger jet paying rent at McCarran

Airplanes make money for airports all the time. Sometimes, they even make money when they can’t fly.

That’s the case for a Boeing 777-200ER jet, registered by British Airways as G-VIIO, which has been parked at McCarran International Airport, now minus its engines, since the evening of Sept. 8.

G-VIIO was the aircraft British Airways was using for Flight 2276 from McCarran to London’s Gatwick International Airport.

With 157 passengers and 13 crew members aboard, Flight 2276 began its takeoff roll from McCarran’s Runway 7L about 4:15 p.m. Before the plane lifted off the ground, the jet’s left engine experienced an uncontained failure that started a fire. Debris spewed out of the engine and onto the runway.

The pilot shut down the engine and aborted the takeoff, and while McCarran’s emergency response crews sped to the burning plane, passengers began evacuating on emergency slides.

Officials reported 14 people suffered minor injuries, most of them a result of a rough ride down the emergency chute. The runway was closed for four hours.

The damaged plane was towed to a location near the airport’s freight terminal, and Clark County Aviation Department officials began charging rent of $375 a day for parking.

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report in October said the “left engine and pylon, left fuselage structure and inboard left wing … were substantially damaged by the fire.”

For now, it’s unflyable. But representatives of British Airways said in mid-December that crews would be dispatched to McCarran to repair the fuselage damage and make it airworthy again.

In the meantime, it stays parked, and if it stays through the end of 2015, the airline will have paid $31,000 in parking fees.

— Richard N. Velotta

Jackie Robinson’s plan for Strip arena in limbo

When Las Vegas businessman Jackie Robinson pitched his idea to build a $690 million retractable-roof arena on the Strip, there were arena industry leaders who were privately skeptical that the former UNLV basketball player could pull off a project of that scope.

But on Oct. 29, 2014, Robinson went ahead with a groundbreaking for his proposed arena on the vacant 27 acres next to SLS Las Vegas. Robinson does not own the land, which was the home of the former Wet ‘n Wild water park on the Strip’s north end.

The groundbreaking was attended by Robinson’s former UNLV basketball coach, the late Jerry Tarkanian, and former basketball stars such as Spencer Haywood and Reggie Theus. Four Clark County commissioners also attended the groundbreaking more than a year ago.

Robinson said his plan was to build the 22,000-seat arena as part of a $1.4 billion All Net Arena and Resort project that included a 500-room nongaming hotel. He said the project would be privately financed.

But the land remains empty. Construction has not started.

“I haven’t heard anything from them in months,” said Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who attended the groundbreaking and whose district includes the site. “His heart is in this, I’m sure.”

County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who also attended the groundbreaking, said, “They’ve hit some hiccups and are kind of stuck. I have not heard anything.”

Robinson was not unavailable for this article.

His project public relations representative, Denny Weddle, said Robinson was working through some financing issues.

Robinson, who was a 1970s-era UNLV basketball star who played in the NBA from 1978-82, is still working on the arena project, Weddle said.

— Alan Snel

Downtown’s Bunkhouse doesn’t go dark for good

It was an up-and-down year for the Bunkhouse, which is owned by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project.

After Downtown Project bought the old dive bar property at 124 S. 11th St., it closed and gutted it before reopening it in August 2014 with high hopes of making it a cool music venue equipped with an upgraded sound system to host both touring groups and local performers.

But less than a year later, Bunkhouse fans were stunned to find out that Downtown Project had closed the rehabbed bar and property July 20.

That day, Downtown Project Ventures CEO Mark Rowland, who oversees Downtown Project properties, issued a statement: “The Bunkhouse Saloon has closed, effective Monday, July 20. We’re proud of the committed employees and all of the artists who rocked the stage of the Bunkhouse Saloon, and we’re engaging in conversation with potential new operators and considering new concepts. Ticket holders will be contacted automatically through Ticketfly.”

But the Bunkhouse didn’t go dark for good.

Its operator, Corner Bar Management, left, and a new operator, Jillian Tedrow, reopened Bunkhouse on Nov. 12.

In October, Tedrow, a former bartender at Artifice, told the Review-Journal, “I just want to keep it locally focused. I want people to think about going there for a drink, even when there’s not a show going on, basically. I want it to be a local bar and venue, not just a venue.”

The most recent version of Bunkhouse also enlisted downtown restaurant chef Natalie Young, owner of downtown restaurants Eat and Chow, to run the kitchen. The new operator wanted Bunkhouse to be a downtown hangout even when live music was not playing.

“I am certainly very excited to see Bunkhouse open, and I wish the team every success,” Rowland said.

— Alan Snel

Items left at Strip resort after 9/11 attacks stored

Within a day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a makeshift memorial of T-shirts, hats and letters grew outside a Strip version of New York City.

The gifts were mostly T-shirts from police and fire departments across the country that accumulated quickly on a fence along the glittering resort corridor at Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, near New York-New York’s miniature Statue of Liberty replica. Over months, the memorial ballooned to include about 5,000 items.

More than 14 years later, every memento remains carefully cataloged at UNLV’s Lied Library, about 2 miles east of the casino. The university’s Center for Gaming Research collected and stored the items in 2002, bringing some pieces out for display as recently as two years ago at the request of MGM Resorts International, which owns New York-New York.

The temporary display has since been removed to make way for construction crews building a $375 million arena behind the casino, which broke ground in May 2014. MGM officials say the company doesn’t intend to bring the items back out of storage.

“The plans are to keep the artifacts where they are so they’ll be available for future generations,” said David Schwartz, a UNLV history professor who serves as director for the Center for Gaming Research.

— Ana Ley

Longtime RJ Washington bureau chief moves on

WASHINGTON — Steve Tetreault, the longtime Washington bureau chief for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, left the newspaper earlier this year and is working on the communications team at the U.S. Energy Department’s environmental management office.

As a “senior adviser for policy, executive communications and media relations,” Tetreault responds to questions from the media and helps develop materials to communicate what’s going on with cleanup efforts. He also helps facilitate the flow of information among parties of cleanup projects within and outside the Energy Department.

Trading his desk in the National Press Building for an office inside the Energy Department’s Forrestal Building near the National Mall and Smithsonian museums, was not an easy decision for Tetreault, who joined the R-J in Las Vegas nearly 35 years ago after a brief stint as a reporter in Massachusetts.

“I greatly enjoyed covering the Nevada members of Congress and the many fronts where federal government activities affected the state. I wrote many, many, many stories about Yucca Mountain. I continue to follow Nevada issues with interest though now as a layman,” he said.

Tetreault began in Washington in the early 1980s as a reporter and worked his way up to Washington bureau chief. The newspaper was owned at that time by Donrey Media, a media empire begun by Donald Reynolds in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was sold by his estate in 1993 to the Stephens family of Little Rock. Stephens Media was sold earlier this year to News Media Investment Group, which sold the Review-Journal and several sister publications to News + Media Capital Group LLC in December.

“I am very proud of having worked alongside many talented journalists in Vegas and on our D.C. staffs,” Tetreault said. “I also will recall fondly the Saluting American Valor project that I headed in 2009, and that eventually was published into a book. It was a major commitment by Stephens Media to tell the stories of dozens of servicemen and women decorated for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Tetreault lives in suburban Virginia with his wife, Mary, and twin 9-year-olds Aidan and Philip. They have three adult children and three grandchildren.

— Peter Urban

Ex-governor retreats from public scrutiny

CARSON CITY — Former Gov. Jim Gibbons never did like the glare and harsh scrutiny of life in the Governor’s Mansion.

Now that he has left office, he’s seemed to have retreated into the shadows of private life.

The one-term Republican who lost his re-election primary election in 2010 to Brian Sandoval, who then won the governor’s race, has kept a low profile since leaving office. Friends and former colleagues say they sometimes see him at the grocery store or out-and-about Reno, but for the most part, he has stayed from politics, public appearances and the media.

He could not be reached for comment.

Gibbons did accompany Republican Assembly candidate Lisa Krasner in 2013 when she met with the GOP Assembly caucus leader. Krasner ran unsuccessfully against Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, in 2014.

Gibbons had a tumultuous term as governor, battling a shattered economy and personal life. He divorced his wife, Dawn Gibbons, while in office — a nasty affair of public sparring over whether she could stay in the mansion and his being seen with other women about town.

According to his bio on LinkedIn, he is owner of JA Gibbons LLC, and acts as an adviser and consultant to mining and energy concerns.

— Sandra Chereb

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