By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
The City of Sparks downtown area, Victorian Square, will see major improvements in the coming months and years that include an open-air entertainment venue, renovated movie complex and apartment dwellings, said Sparks City Councilwoman Charlene Bybee.
Speaking Wednesday on Nevada Newsmakers, Bybee said Victorian Square is a great place for apartment dwellings for employees at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center since it is near an I-80 freeway on-ramp for an easy drive to work. Apartments are also being built near The Legends shopping center in East Sparks.
“We’re 14 miles from the center. We are the first exits off the freeway, so we have really seen an influx of people who work at the (TRI) center because Sparks is closer,” she said.
Downtown Sparks’ expansion has only just started, Bybee said.
“Over 1,500 people will be living down town when the current projects are completed but there are more projects to come with commercial and retail as well,” Bybee said.
“It’s an exciting time,” she said, adding Sparks is growing it’s own downtown identity.
“I’ve lived in Sparks 54 of my 64 years, so I’m really a Sparks native,” Bybee said. “And we really haven’t had — except many years ago — a downtown, per se. We’ve have the movie theater, a couple of restaurants and the Nugget. We’ve had a lot of parking lots and lots of open space without businesses. The recession hit us very hard and now we are able to build a downtown from the ground up, which is super exciting.”
The apartment-building boom is new for Sparks, Bybee said.
“The multi-family product is market driven,” she said. “And the demand for multi-family has increased incredibly, whether it is empty-nesters who don’t need a home or a yard, to Millennials, to couples who don’t have children yet, and to people who are working out at the TRI Center who are moving into downtown Sparks to Fountainhouse and our other units downtown, right on the freeway.”
The current new apartments downtown, Silverwing Development’s The Bridges luxury apartments and Fountainhouse residential properties, have been pushing for the reopening of the movie complex, which shut down in late 2016, according to the Sparks Tribune.
After a renovation, reportedly costing more than $7 million, the movie complex is expected to reopen by Sept. 30. However, the renovations have been hampered due to a lack of workers in a region where construction is again booming after the recession.
The new movie complex, should be a success, considering the booming business done the Galaxy movie complex at The Legends.
“People love the Galaxy at the Legends,” she said. “It is one of the top draws for movie-goers in the world. One movie there a couple of years ago was No. 1 in the world in its opening weekend. People in London and Rome were asking where Sparks, Nevada, was. So people who go to the Legends will have two theaters to choose from. And we’re excited about this huge addition,” she said.
Marnell Gaming, which owns The Nugget and the Bourbon Street casino building across the street, plans to raze the Bourbon Square building and replace it with the outdoor entertainment venue, Bybee said.
The Nugget is the largest casino in Sparks and is one of the city’s largest employers. The Bourbon Square building was formerly known as the Silver Club but has been shuttered for some time.
“We get a lot of questions about Bourbon Square because it is just sitting there in the midst of all of the construction activity but that will be coming down sometime in this next year,” she said.
Marnell Gaming also had an outdoor venue in Laughlin and Bybee expects a similar look for Sparks.
“That will hopefully be leveled in the next year here,” Bybee said. “The proposal is for an outdoor entertainment venue, which is what they did in Laughlin.”
Earlier this month, Marnell Gaming sold two Laughlin casinos to Golden Entertainment. As part of the deal, Marnell CEO Anthony Marnell is expected to receive an observer’s seat on Golden’s board of directors at closing and be nominated to a voting seat at next year’s annual meeting, according to gaming reports.
Bybee, who called Marnell Gaming, “amazing community partners,” said she is uncertain if the Nugget will be sold to Golden in any future deals. However, city council members have discussed the possibility with the Sparks city manager.
“Right now, it is speculation as to whether the Nugget will be part of that deal with Marnell or not,” Bybee said. “It is a possibility but we have not heard any confirmation, just speculation.”