april fools hoax story
I wrote this story for Las Vegas Weekly, but we couldn't use it. Enjoy:
On March 13th Clark County nominated the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Just two week’s later the sign’s fate hangs in the balance. Empress Expansions Co., a Shenzhen-based development company opening an American-themed casino in Macau, offered Clark Country $28 million for the historic sign, and the offer is making waves.
“Under normal circumstances we’d never consider an offer like this,” said County spokeswoman Valencia Herman at a press conference held on Tuesday. “But let’s not fool around here: we need money, and twenty-eight million dollars is a lot of it. For starters, we wouldn’t have to put off opening the low-level criminal offender jail by Nellis Air Force Base. Remember, that jail is going to employ more than a hundred.”
To sweeten the deal, Empress Expansions. has offered to replace the 70-year old sign with an exact duplicate. Empress paid contemporary Chinese sculptor Chuck Xu $120,000 to create the replica. Xu completed the sign in late February.
“[The new sign] is indistinguishable from the original,” boasted Empress chairman Wei Zhao. “We’d use the duplicate ourselves, but unlike Americans, the Chinese people are very concerned with authenticity. Everything must be as it is.”
Last week Empress invited Kimberly Batting to inspect the duplicate sign. Batting oversaw the creation of the duplicate Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign that was erected on Boulder Highway near Harmon Avenue in 2006.
“It’s very similar,” said Batting, “but I wouldn’t call it an ‘exact replica.’ It’s got no wear and tear, and it lights up too bright. The real sign isn’t actually that bright—most people don’t realize that.”
In a private meeting, Zhao assured Batting that these inconsistencies could be remedied.
“Oh I’m sure Empress can fix them,” Batting said. “They can do anything over there. But that’s not the point. I know it’s not my place to say this, but I’m going to say it: the offer is an insult. The Chinese think they can buy and sell anything they want, and I’m sorry but that’s not true.”
The Association of Asian Americans issued a press statement calling Batting’s comments “uneducated and unfortunate,” but Batting isn’t alone. In the past few days, the Preservation Association of Clark County, the Friends of Classic Las Vegas, and the Atomic Age Alliance have all come out against the sale of the sign.
“I completely understand where Batting and the [historic preservation] groups are coming from,” said Clark County spokeswoman Herman, “but remember, Las Vegas is a city of replicas. We’ve got a replica Statue of Liberty, a replica Eiffel Tower, a replica Bridge of Sighs, so why not start the strip off with replica Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign? It’s consistent.”
Herman assured Clark Country residents that the commissioners will respect the opinions of the citizens: “The commissioners and managers recognizes that many of you feel strongly about the iconic sign, and they want to hear your input.”
Clark County residents can voice their opinion on the potential sale of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign at WelcomeSign.ClarkCounty.Gov@gmail.com.
“I plan to read every email myself,” said Herman.
Empress chairman Zhao wants a final decision by April 10th. “I will respect the county’s decision, whatever it may be,” said Zhao, “but as a businessman—a successful businessman who understands what you people are going through right now—I must say, rejecting this offer would be foolish and prideful.”