Nugget executives, City of Sparks officials and many others mingled inside the Polynesian paradise-themed restaurant Monday evening, paying their respects and helping usher the business out on a high note. The restaurant and bar opened on B Street in 1958 before moving inside the Nugget in 1973, and it will celebrate its final week in business with discount food and drink specials.
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said he was sad to see Trader Dick’s close its doors after so many wonderful memories.
“I remember going to Trader Dick’s when it was across the street many, many years ago,” Martini said Monday. “I had dates I brought here, family dinners, birthdays, wedding anniversaries and all kinds of memories here. It’s been a wonderful place and I really enjoyed Trader Dick’s. It holds a special place in my heart. It is sad in one respect to see it go, but it’s exciting to see something new come.”
Nugget President and CEO Carlton Geer said he too was sad to see Trader Dick's go having brought dates to the restaurant in the early 1980s before he was married. Despite the sorrow present for the restaurant’s final week, Geer said looking ahead gives locals reason to be excited.
“People have to look toward not just what we are losing, but what the community is gaining,” Geer said, "And Gilley’s is a huge asset, I believe, to the community.”
Gilley’s Saloon, Dance Hall and Bar-B-Que will be created behind the construction walls in the 10,000 square-foot space where Trader Dick's currently sits. Geer said the country western vibe of Gilley’s will offer existing customers an exciting atmosphere while enticing others to choose the Nugget for entertainment.
“We want to be the Sparks hometown hangout, but we also want to appeal to out-of-town guests and those who are visiting other hotels,” Geer said. “I think Gilley’s is an important cornerstone along with the other renovations and amenities we are adding to the property.”
The renovations slated for the Nugget range nearly property wide and include more than 100,000 square feet of carpet replacement, a new sportsbook and sports bar, a new bingo parlor, a new gift shop and ceiling improvements. The renovations were announced following the property changing hands and Geer said the nearly $50 million investments will breathe new life into downtown Sparks.
“Gilley’s really gives us an opportunity to leverage country music in other ways,” Geer said. “Country Crossroads, Reno Rodeo and events in the showroom or upstairs will be just some of the things we can create with this investment. I think that Gilley’s is an important transformation of our entertainment concept for the future.
“We will have an exclusive within a 100-mile radius of here so we are very fortunate. Having a ground-up country western thematic entertainment concept is going to be difficult to duplicate.”
Mayor Martini said the investment made by the Nugget’s new ownership group shows faith in the downtown product and Martini hopes it will not only benefit the casino but the businesses that have been staples in downtown Sparks for several years.
“I am excited for all the new things we have done in downtown and some of the things we have planned as well,” Martini said. “I think all our (aesthetic) improvements, the addition of Bourbon Square Casino and the improvements to the Nugget will make for a new and vibrant downtown.
“I don’t want to forget about the businesses that have stuck with us for all these years downtown. All the places down there have done a great job and hung in there. I am hoping this will be their reward and get more people coming down here to give them business as well.”
Construction for Gilley’s begins Monday while the new sportsbook will begin construction near the end of March. Carpet replacement will happen in the August through November range, according to Geer’s estimation, and the ceiling work must be completed before the new carpet goes down. Geer said the Nugget will have to “be careful” not to have major projects happening during its many summer special events, but he said Gilley’s will be here sooner than most people think.
“They (the construction contractor) have given me a commitment of having this opened by June 1, which is important because of the Reno Rodeo being right around the corner,” Geer said. “We will need time to have our test markets and invite a few people in to work out any kinks, but we hope to be open to the public by the first week of June.”