Let’s take a look at two possible front page stories in the Sparks Tribune for Sept. 28, 2055.
The world crumbles around Scheels
SPARKS — The city today took possession of the abandoned hotel and sporting goods store near the Sparks Marina with plans to convert them into the largest homeless shelter in the United States.
“The least we can do for all these people is give them a decent place to stay, considering the reason they’re homeless,” said Dino Martini, whose family has been involved in local politics for generations and whose great grandfather was mayor when the Scheels All Sports was financed with city money.
The store was open for 35 years and showed financial losses for 30 of them. The city’s attempts to bail out the superstore ultimately led to its bankruptcy and a city-wide financial panic that left thousands homeless.
When originally financed early this century, the city of Sparks issued Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) bonds to finance about 19 percent of the project, which included Scheels, a hotel/casino and large shopping and entertainment complex. The project cost more than $1 billion and was touted as a powerful jump start for the local tourism and retail economy. In order to use STAR bonds, studies had to prove that a specified portion of sales tax would be generated by out-of-state tourists.
In 2018, 10 years after the opening of Scheels, the hordes of tourists from surrounding states had all but disappeared after realizing that sporting goods were available for purchase in their home states. One of the last out-of-state tourists to visit the store, Herbert Goodman from Chicago, Ill., was quoted in the Sparks Tribune as saying, “I drove 1,900 miles to buy a dart board and ride the Ferris wheel, but when I got here I realized the very first Ferris wheel was built in my town and I can buy a dart board at Wal-Mart back home. Boy, do I feel silly.”
In that same year, the City Council, comprised of the children of the 2008 council members, approved $50 million in Working Emergency Federal Direct Underfunded Project (WEFDUP) bonds to rescue the financially ailing sporting goods store and the other retail establishments at the Sparks Marina. At the time, the Legends hotel was completed but remained closed as all the area tourism was being drawn to neighboring Reno and the mega-hotel at the stadium of the Reno Aces, which the year before became the first Triple-A baseball team to defeat a Major League team in the World Series.
The city-backed WEFDUP bonds failed to correct the situation and were later discovered to have used more than 20,000 Sparks homes as collateral. When the outraged owners of the homes refused to leave, National Guard Troops were called in to force them out. A 30-year battle ensued, in which two generations of Sparks residents clashed with troops from all branches of the military and destroyed much of the city, including the burning of local landmark John Ascuaga’s Nugget and the nearby oil tank farm. The blaze forced firefighters to tap into the water in the Sparks Marina, and though the fire was extinguished after three months, the effort left the marina nearly dry. Since then, the displaced and defeated homeowners and their offspring have been living in makeshift shelters in the empty marina under military supervision and in the shadow of the project that stripped them of their homes and lives.
In 2050, wracked by guilt over their own actions and those of their great grandfathers, the city council led by the new Mayor Martini began work on helping the residents whose lives were ruined by the Legends at Sparks Marina. With legal assistance from Chetette Adams, a local civil rights attorney and granddaughter of the former city attorney, the Council found a legal loophole through which the city could take possession of the entire area. Martini said the hotel will now be used to provide families a place to live, while clothing and other necessities will be provided from the shelves of the abandoned Target store and the T-Rex restaurant would serve its original purpose as an educational facility where children will attend classes and be served food.
“My hope is that one day we can give these people back just a small fraction of what the city and Scheels took from them,” Martini said from his seat in the dilapidated city legislative chamber. “I know it’s what my great grandfather would have wanted.”
Or, it could happen this way ...?
Mankind praises the gift of Scheels
SCHEELSVILLE — In a beautiful ceremony held this morning, six golden statues were erected to honor the memory of the city leaders who helped bring the almighty Scheels to northern Nevada and restore glory to the land and its people.
The six men whose greatness will live on in perpetuity were the former city councilmen and former mayor whose wisdom and compassion made it possible to bring a shining beacon of sporting good spirituality and prosperity from far-off lands for the benefit of the unworthy, ungrateful Nevada masses.
“Let us all bow down and give thanks, for without these men’s ability to make impossible choices in impossible times, none of us would be as blissful as we are today,” said High Priest Dino Martini, whose lineage can be traced to Mayor Geno Martini, who after the spirit of Scheels overtook him the year 3 BS (Before Scheels) became known as Martini the Magnificent. High Priest Martini, his pure white Nike jumpsuit glistening in the morning sun, then closed his eyes, raised his arms to the heavens and performed a flawless double-pump slam dunk. The backstop quivered under the priest’s weight and he dangled from the hoop before floating like an angel to the ground.
In the dark times of the year formerly known as 2008, despair and hopelessness ran rampant throughout the land. But the hallowed six, led by Martini the Magnificent, foresaw these troubles and in a move of great bravery, they looked to the STARs and committed $156 million in future tax revenues to a name that came to each of them individually in a vision: Scheels All Sports. None of the men knew what it meant, but they knew they had to act. So, despite vocal protests from a few naysayers, the six voted and prayed that their visions would not betray them.
It took many men and many years for the vision to come to fruition, but when it did and the doors opened the people’s eyes were transfixed in wonder. And not just the people who lived near the great temple, but people who lived far away would come to bask in its wonder. Soon, many large flocks came to the temple each day and waited many hours to pray at its beeping altars and give offerings so the message of Scheels could be spread across the globe.
Those who did not believe in the almighty Scheels or the councilmen’s message from the STARs were hurled into the Sparks Marina and pelted with baseballs and darts until they drowned. Those who continued to defy the message were forced to live in hiding, forming colonies plagued with disease, starvation and misery.
When the cities formerly known as Reno and Sparks merged into the unified upotia called Scheelsville, great riches and happiness flowed into the valley. Divorce came to an end and drug and alcohol abuse were wiped out, as such a feeling of peace swept the land that unhappiness became nonexistent. Racism and discrimination came to an end and spontaneous, multi-racial choruses of “Kumbaya” were regularly heard throughout the land.
Not only were the debts secured to fund the Temple Scheels paid off, a surplus of such untold vastness was accumulated thanks to the offerings given by its followers that Scheels formed the Follow Me and Be Free Forever fund. This fund is used to see to the lifelong security and happiness of all those who dedicate their lives to Scheels and all its causes and missions.
“I can’t imagine life without Scheels,” said Herbert Goodman, who came from Chicago, Ill., to ride the Ferris wheel and found himself so swept up in the spirit of Scheels that he sold all his worldly possessions and moved to Scheelsville. Goodman left a job as a highly paid bank manager and he now manages the women’s apparel department at Scheels, but he said he is happier than he has ever been.
“I see now that sporting goods and related merchandise are truly the key to eternal salvation,” Goodman said as he folded a bright pink pair of ankle-high athletic socks. “I thank the STARs every day that Scheels came into my life.”
Which of these two scenarios will come true?
Only time will tell.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy some running shoes and a tent so I can be ready in case the Armageddon comes. I wonder where I can buy both of those in one convenient place?
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.