Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Spread over two lots in downtown Las Vegas, gated behind chain-link fences, sit more than 150 pieces of vintage Vegas. The relics belong to the Neon Museum, which has been collecting old signs since 1996 and showcasing them throughout the city and at its Neon Boneyard.
But with no place to adequately display its vast collection, the Neon Museum for years has been forced to operate on an appointment-only basis.
That will change with construction of the Neon Boneyard Park, which gets under way on Monday.
The park will be located on the corner of McWilliams Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard and will back up to what is now part of the Neon Boneyard. The project has been nearly five years in the making, Public Works Project Manager Gina Venglass said.
The $1.9 million improvement project will include development of the half-acre park and paving part of the Neon Boneyard for a parking lot. The Bureau of Land Management funding the project.
When the park is completed, Venglass said, visitors will find landscaping, benches, picnic tables, a stage and informational kiosks.
A sign made up of replicas of old neon letters will welcome visitors to the new park.
The company building the sign, Federal Heath, chose iconic letters from the old Horseshoe, Desert Inn, Caesars Palace and Golden Nugget signs to spell out the word “neon” in LED lighting.
“It’s not going to be a park that visitors drive across town to use. It’s really supposed to work hand-in-hand with the Neon Museum for visitors to use,” Venglass said.
The park will be located along the section of Las Vegas Boulevard that was recently designated a National Scenic Byway and is at the heart of the Las Vegas cultural corridor.
The corridor includes a concentration of the city’s cultural institutions such as the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park and the Reed Whipple Cultural Center.
“I think it’s a great example of how supportive the city is of the Neon Museum project and the cultural development of the downtown area,” Neon Museum Director of Operations Danielle Kelly said.
Because the city is resurfacing parts of the Neon Boneyard and moving signs in the process, it gave the museum the opportunity to bring its signs to the future fully-functioning museum, Kelly said.
The Neon Boneyard will move across McWilliams Avenue, behind the restored La Concha Motel lobby, which will serve as the visitor center.
The change will allow the Neon Museum to better serve visitors, expand public hours and operate under a general admission format, rather than visitors making appointments for tours, Kelly said.
In light of the construction, the Boneyard is closed to the public temporarily but will reopen in the spring for modified tours. The new facility should be up and running by the summer.
“So many great things are happening down here in the cultural corridor and downtown. We hope that the park is part of that,” Kelly said. “It’s is all a part of continuing to put energy into this area for people in the whole community to get some here and get to know their museums.”