When the original rally, held in the fall in downtown Reno, began to grow and needed room for expansion they turned to The Nugget, its open parking lot and center-stage location in downtown Sparks.
“When we moved the event out to Sparks it was really a nice change for the event, which had always been profitable for us as far as room rates and reservations,” said Beth Cooney, Marketing Director for The Nugget. “The vendors and guests of the event were really happy with it. Downtown Reno has so many advantages, but the difference between there and Sparks is that we have a little more open space. Victorian Avenue itself is not so hemmed in with tall buildings so there was more room and parking lots spread out for factory big rigs to display.”
Street Vibrations is in its 18th year in the Reno-Sparks area and sees more than 50,000 people in the five-day event. The event’s popularity has become more and more known each year and Cooney said much of it is due to their partnership with Burke and Roadshows Inc.
“We like having a producer because they bring fresh ideas and a fresh way of looking at things,” she said. “We always learn something from the way Randy Burke lays out his event. We like partnering with people like Roadshows because they are always looking to improve and have that mindset that we take into our events.”
With several summer events rolling in and out of downtown Sparks this year, Cooney said The Nugget approaches each one with the same preparation and follow-up in its efforts to continually keep swarms of people coming to Victorian Square.
“When an event is finished, we critique it down to the last gnat, from setup to cleanup to entertainment to pricing,” Cooney said. “Every single aspect of the event is looked at and, honestly, it is probably overkill. We want the experience, from all angles including the guests, the vendors and our crews, to be better.“
The newest alteration to Street Vibrations comes from The Nugget’s “no colors, no weapons” policy following last year’s casino altercation between rival bike gangs that resulted in the death of a Hell’s Angels president.
In addition to the safety policy, The Nugget will fence the event around the West parking lot of the hotel, which has played host to the Hot August Nights Drag Races and the Yamaha Motorcycle Convention, and will screen all attendees for “colors” of gang affiliation.
“We didn’t want to lose the event,” Cooney said. “We didn’t want the incident to ruin it for everyone else because 98 percent of the people who come are families or motorcycle enthusiasts who have no affiliation with those groups.”
Cooney said the decision to move to the West parking lot “was not a decision done lightly” and she said The Nugget worked with law enforcement, City of Sparks staff and other groups before ultimately deciding to contain the event to private property.
“We want everyone, our guests and our vendors, to be safe. As we worked with every possible group over the past year to figure out what we should do what we ran into was some potential issues, not actual issues, having the event on public land,” she said. “The rules are a little different and you get into politics and it becomes the willingness of the city attorney’s staff on how far they want to push something with the fear of lawsuit. What became pretty apparent to us was that it wasn’t going to be an easy road or a quick road to keep it on public land.”
With Street Vibrations being held on private property, The Nugget will have no problem having someone arrested if they do not obey the “no colors, no weapons” policy, Cooney said. Event and Nugget security, along with local police forces, will be controlling the traffic inside the casino, parking garages and lots and entrances to the fenced-in West lot.
For Cooney and The Nugget, safety is of the utmost importance. Yet, Cooney has been amazed with the ability of The Nugget and the City of Sparks to coordinate a teamwork effort to bring several summer events to the downtown area. She said finding ways to not only improve these events, but draw more people.
“The Nugget has been in Sparks for 57 years and it has never necessarily been an easy road for us. We are outside of downtown Reno and it is a bit of a hard sell, even though it is close by, because we are on the outskirts,” she said. “We use the strategy of making events because we want to make it a fun place to come and we want to get Sparks on the map. I think through our diligent efforts and sticking through it in the long term, what we’ve created is really special. We hope to be able to continue to grow that. We love the fact that the City of Sparks has embraced special events and we hope to continue that tradition as we go forward.”