This expert, Roger Brooks, of Destination Development Inc., used the example of Las Vegas’ recent successful marketing campaign to return to its reputation as an adult playground after trying for years to market itself as a family destination. Say it with me, you know the words: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” He showed clips of the phrase being used over and over on television by hosts or even by characters in scripted shows. There was even a clip of First Lady Laura Bush repeating the phrase. Not only was it a catchy string of seven words but it had a lurid appeal that even uptight conservatives could appreciate.
If you want to read the full report on Brooks’ suggestions, read the June 19 issue of the Tribune, or go to www.dailysparkstribune.com and search “identity.”
City officials have said they want to promote Sparks as a family destination. It didn’t work for Vegas because, let’s face it, when we go to Vegas we want to create our own dirty little secrets. It’s kind of like our Disneyland, except instead of going on the Alice in Wonderland ride we can consume the necessary intoxicants to create our own wonderland and the Snow White puts on a risque show involving all Seven Dwarfs — and possibly Roger Rabbit.
By contrast, Sparks is a much less lurid kind of place. The motivating factor behind this need for a slogan that sells is, of course, the big bucks being spent on the Legends at Sparks Marina and all it entails: the Scheels All Sports, the new hotel-casino and all the dining and shopping attractions that will be built. Then there is the marina itself, with all of it’s, um, water. No matter how hot it gets, though, I have been warned by a few folks that the water in the marina is not the best for swimming.
Being from Orange County, Calif., and having grown up in the shadow of The Magic Kingdom, I have a pretty grandiose notion of a “tourist destination.” For a long time, there was just Disneyland, which was a big enough draw in itself. A few years back the guys in suits at Disney decided there needed to be more, so they built the California Adventure theme park right next door to Disneyland, complete with more rides and attractions all paying homage to the various natural and man-made wonders of the Golden State. As if that wasn’t enough, in between the two parks they put in Downtown Disney, replete with a movie theater, shops and mega-restaurants where tourists and locals could mingle while waiting two hours for a table at which to eat over-priced food.
It sounds like the Sparks Marina development will be comparable to the Downtown Disney development, but lacking the number of local residents to patronize the Legends businesses. I am thinking the city fathers need a darn good slogan to catch the attention of tourists. Something that will be catchy and has a little bit of its own sex appeal. I’m not saying to go for Vegas’ adult playground theme, since we want to draw in moms and dads with kids in tow. Perhaps something drawing on the people and interesting history of the city. The railroad thing is cute and all, but it lacks pizazz, and it would be cheating to steal the Wild West history of Reno (or “West Sparks,” which makes Mayor Geno Martini laugh while the rest of us groan and roll our eyes). I was straining to come up with something when a news story from this week gave me an idea.
You may have read about the Los Angeles traffic cop who is suing Victoria’s Secret for creating dangerous underwear. As the story was reported on the “Today” show, 52-year-old Macrida Patterson was putting on the offending undergarments in the locker room after a grueling shift of writing parking tickets when a piece of metal that created a rhinestone heart on the underwear “popped” and hit her in the eye. It hit her so hard, Patterson’s attorney said, that it cut her cornea and she had to — gasp! — apply a topical steroid to repair the damage.
It is taking a great deal of intense willpower to not spend several paragraphs mocking this woman, but I will overcome and get to my point. Lawsuits always manage to garner some attention, and Sparks has them to spare. Ever since I came to the Tribune a year ago I have heard about people suing the city, businesses suing the city, businesses suing each other, counter suits, bathing suits, birthday suits, every kind of suit. Each lawsuit has a story behind it with some interesting characters and scenarios, so instead of capitalizing on the usual Western histories involving cowboys or gold mining, why doesn’t Sparks promote its glorious, proud and fun-filled reputation of litigation? The slogan could be “Sparks: Land of the Lawsuits” or “Sparks: Litigationland.” With the latter, the city could build a theme park, a la Disneyland, complete with rides and shows. Sure, some of the stories may need to be exaggerated a little for flair, but there is plenty of truth to put on display, too. Picture this: A ride going through city hall where patrons sit in little cars and get to see city council members behind closed doors settling $100 million lawsuits, maybe adding a gunfight for some drama. As the car moves through a set of automatic doors, we see a city attorney chasing a female secretary through the office (imagine the pirates chasing wenches on Pirates of the Caribbean). At the end of the ride, would be a cheerful, plump mayor waving goodbye while he sucks down noodles from a huge plate of pasta, his face covered in tomato sauce.
Elsewhere in Litigationland, families can visit the print shop where a councilman printed the materials that got him embroiled in a lawsuit involving a local villain who sues everybody. Again, to add some drama to the story, two robotic likenesses of the characters could be added, maybe hurling bottles of ink at each other. After that, families could visit the castle of Good King Ascuaga to see a reenactment of he and his lawyers battling developers who have tried to usurp his power. At the marina there could be a roller coaster that zooms by the houses of residents who sued the city for blocking their views. After dinner, families could take in a show featuring the singing and dancing talents of former employees of the city attorney’s office.
It’s a no-brainer. Sparks has plenty of fun and adventure for the entire family. Not only will there be rides and shows for the kids, but mom and dad will appreciate both the humor and horror of the the situation.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go call my lawyer.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at norme@dailysparkstribune. com.