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My father made it to the major leagues in 1981. No, he wasn’t a baseball player. He was a sign designer.

In 1981 he got the call to the majors, working for the biggest sign company in Las Vegas – Young Electric Sign Company, better known as YESCO, kind of like the New York Yankees of the sign business. He moved his family to town and I’ve been here ever since.

In the sign world, there is no more sought after place to work than Las Vegas. It’s where the most creative of artists can dream and think of anything, where they can make their imagination come to life through neon and colors, and the casinos in town pay big money for that creative thought process. The Las Vegas Strip and downtown are their canvas. Just like in baseball, Vegas is “the show.”

So I’ve always had this passion for the signs and gained a respect for the history of Las Vegas because of it. My favorite sign of all time was the Stardust just because it had so many brilliant colors flashing, and of course as a kid, the pink Circus Circus clown was one of my favorites. To go up and down the Strip with my father as he narrated like a tour guide about each sign was a treat.

As I’ve grown older, I have noticed some of the creativity from the 1970’s and 80’s has gone away, where the brash colors with flashing lights that tried to attract the attention of every potential customer have been put aside for a more classy elegant look with conservative colors like what we see at Aria and Wynn.

Absolutely amazing pieces of work that truly define what they’re all about, but nothing like the flamboyant entrance to the Flamingo. Yes, times are changing, but some not for the better in the mind of this sign aficionado.

I had the opportunity to walk down Harrah’s new street at the Quad where the old Imperial Palace – another iconic sign – used to be and I loved it. They have an entire row of restaurants and bars planned, which will rival any fun street in the world, that leads to the “High Rollers” Ferris wheel expected to open in the next month. It is one of the greatest achievements we’ve seen in recent Las Vegas history, and the signs are bright and bold, which I love.

However, the Harrah’s group did a complete disservice to the Las Vegas Strip by making the front of the Quad look like an empty silver warehouse. It’s not quite as bad as the eyesore of unfinished properties where the Stardust used to be or the Fontainebleau, but it’s close.

It’s as if Harrah’s said, “We have this great stretch of places behind this silver curtain, come visit.” And they are great, but what about the Strip itself?

Now when you drive by, you see the Flamingo, you see Caesars and the colors are magnificent, and then there is this big block of silver nothing. Maybe it’s not complete yet, which is my hope, but our guests to the city deserve better.

For that kid getting his first drive down the Strip with his parents, they deserve better. Harrah’s spent billions of dollars on this project, and they themselves also deserve better. They have created their own little strip, but forgot about the real Strip.

My differences aside, I can’t wait to ride the High Roller. Each ride is about an hour and will have breath taking views of the neon city. Each cart will hold about 25 people and will also be equipped with a bar. However, there is no restroom on board, which should be interesting.

Tar Heels rising: If looking for some great value on the college basketball futures, you may want to make a visit to the LVH Super Book and take a look at North Carolina at 40/1 to win the NCAA basketball tournament. The Linemakers’ Kenny White says “there are up to 20 teams that have a legitimate shot at winning it all” and the Tar Heels are one of those.

It didn’t appear that way in early January when UNC went through a stretch of losing four of five – they didn’t cover the number in all five games, but since Jan. 29, they have won and covered all nine of their contests.

Their best win over that stretch came Thursday against Duke. On Saturday, they had their largest margin of victory on the season with a 105-72 win over Wake Forest as 13.5-point favorites.

Everything is clicking for UNC right now and that’s what you want to see from a team when investing in futures as we head into the final stretch of the regular season. We’ve seen Connecticut and Louisville in recent years get hot in the same manner and run the table to a title, and from a value standpoint, UNC has a lot to offer.

New sports bar at MGM: I had a chance to visit my favorite Buckeye, Gregg Fisher, a supervisor at the MGM Grand sports book, over the weekend and was surprised to see the Lion habitat that used to be across from the book had been removed.

In its place was a beautiful new sports bar that opened two days before the Super Bowl. Simply called “The Tap,” it has television screens all over the place showing all the games. They had most of my favorite beers on tap, and while it was a little pricier than I’d like, I didn’t mind just because the experience was so awesome.

It was also apparent the staff had been rigorously coached about providing great guest service because all were patient and friendly with a deep knowledge of their menu and beers.

I wish this place was closer to home because I’d be there most nights watching the games. My kind of place. Well done, MGM!

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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