Mirabelli Community Center’s namesake advocated for parks, recreation

If you don’t live near Mirabelli Community Center, 6200 Hargrove Ave., you may have never seen it. The large community center is one of the valley’s oldest, and it was named for Philip M. Mirabelli, a Las Vegas city councilman in the 1960s who championed parks and recreation.

Mirabelli was born in 1928 and came to Las Vegas in 1940. He was a second-generation Italian-American and the son of Filomena “Mom” Mirabelli and Carmine “Pop” Mirabelli. Carmine Mirabelli ran Mirabelli Cleaners until his death in 1980.

“The Mirabellis were here forever and related to the Silvagnis (prominent business leaders from the early days of the city),” said Michael Green, an associate professor of history at UNLV. “They were truly part of the fabric of the community and especially the Italian-American community.”

The family had six children, including Frank Mirabelli, who expanded bowling at the former Showboat casino, making it the premier bowling facility in town for a time, and Mike Mirabelli, who was state treasurer from 1963 to 1978, overlapping with Phil Mirabelli’s time on the City Council, which ended in 1970.

“The Mirabelli family members are always referred to by the shortened, familiar form of their names in newspaper articles of the time,” Green said. “This very likely indicates the casual and close nature of the family to the community. Many of our city fathers were commonly referred to in the press by nicknames.”

The Mirabelli Community Center, originally named the Mirabelli Teen Center, opened in 1964. The practice of naming a building after a seated councilman wasn’t uncommon in the ‘60s.

Following his time on the council, Phil Mirabelli returned to his law practice and invested in several businesses in town, including Frankie’s, the bar on Charleston Boulevard that later became Frankie’s Tiki Room, and the ill-fated El Inca motel and casino, which was near Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue and closed in 1979 two years after it opened. He also served as the president of the Italian American Club from 1973-75.

He died in 1993, not living to see the community center and park drastically altered in 2006. The original structure was razed and replaced with the current east parking area.

Several members of the Mirabelli family are still in town, but the center’s staff said that they have only seen Mirabelli family at the center a few times in recent years. Roney Fuller, facility director for the center, said that when she worked at Centennial Hills Active Adult Center she saw Philip Mirabelli’s son, Frank, frequently. She guessed that other family members use the recreation facilities nearer to their homes.

It’s likely Mirabelli, who considered recreation his domain during his time on the council, would be pleased to see what the center has become.

“It’s a very active community center,” Fuller said. “Our Wednesday and Friday nights are huge because of our gymnastics program and our award-­winning gymnastics team, the Mirabelli Maniakz. On the weekends the gym is full with basketball. We have flag football, dance (and) licensed preschool.”

Another addition planned for the center is a trailhead that will connect to the Bonanza Trail and eventually the entire Las Vegas Valley trail system, which could also be named for the early advocate of recreation and community centers.

Contact F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532. Follow @FAndrewTPress on Twitter.

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