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We all have our wish lists, those five or six things we could add to our lives, or change if we had the power.

Mine today would include greater funding for schools and teachers, turning every casino and restaurant into totally non-smoking zones, and eradicating the ridiculous parking charges at Strip hotels.

Oh, I could add a dozen more to my list, but I’m on a tight word-limit here.

When I arrived in Las Vegas in the late 1970s, the wish list of most concerned citizens might have included the following:

• That the city would increase its appreciation of the arts and culture and shake its reputation as the place many Americans visited to commit all those venial and mortal sins they wouldn’t think of engaging in back home. Our one museum of note was the Liberace Museum, which was great if chinchilla coats were your thing.

• That the food in our restaurants was better than could be found in the place from which they departed. Oh, there was a French restaurant downtown, Andre’s, that was special, and a few gourmet rooms on the Strip, but that was about it. If you just wanted to fill your gut, the buffet at Circus Circus would give you gas pains for weeks for less than ten bucks.

• That civic leaders would hurry up and finish that Bullet Train to Los Angeles that then-Mayor Bill Briare had been touting as his number-one campaign promise. We’re still waiting on that one …maybe in my grandchildren’s lifetime.

• That the many home and store burglaries, thought to be the work of organized crime, could be curtailed. When the Hole in the Wall gang was curtailed in the early 1980s, that wish was partly fulfilled.

• That we could have an athletic franchise other than UNLV basketball to root for. When the 1977 Rebels made the NCAA Final Four, that was our Super Bowl moment.

Staring hard into our community’s rear-view mirror, I am delighted and amazed at the advances Las Vegas has made in these areas and so many others.

Looking at that early wish list, item by item, our report card of improvements deserves an A-plus.

The Smith Center is regarded as one of the finest performing arts centers in the U.S. and the world. Virtually every top performer or company that plays here raves about it and promises to return. We also boast fine art museums and galleries throughout Southern Nevada. Sadly, Liberace and his museum are long gone.

Move over San Francisco, as Las Vegas now has an offering from the top celebrity chefs in the world: Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, Wolfgang Puck, Giada de Laurentiis, Julian Serrano and Bobby Flay. The fact that I can’t afford to take my family to any of them should in no way diminish the advances we’ve made in the culinary world.

O.K., we’ve totally whiffed the third offering on that old wish list, but not without half a dozen honest attempts. I don’t sense we’re any closer to building a Bullet Train to Los Angeles than we were back then. Maybe the lobbying efforts of civic officials in Baker and Barstow to avoid their towns’ being bypassed are just too strong to overcome.

While Mob activities have clearly been curtailed since the mid-1980s, and we don’t hear about organized gangs burglarizing upscale homes and businesses, we certainly have a full plate of other criminal activities to address. That’s a column for another day.

On that final wish-list item, seeking teams to root for, we’ve surpassed everyone’s wildest dreams. Because so many smaller sports franchises had failed in Las Vegas through the years, in a variety of sports from football to hockey to soccer to basketball, if you’d had told us in 1980 that in 2020 we would have an NHL team that would make the Stanley Cup Final and that a legendary NFL team would transplant here, there isn’t a person in town that would have bought that dream. That wish would have to have come from a genie.

Yet here we are, proud home to the Golden Knights and soon, the Raiders. Odds are we’ll have an NBA team and a Major League Baseball team in the next decade. I’d give 7-5 on that action.

As for the Bullet train? Don’t hold your breath.

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About the Author

Jack Sheehan

Vegas Vibe columnist Jack Sheehan has lived in Las Vegas since 1976 and writes about the city for Gaming Today. He is the author of 28 books, over 1,000 magazine articles, and has sold four screenplays.

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