Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Map of Broadacres Marketplace & Event Center
2930 North Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas
Before noon on Sunday, the busiest day at the Broadacres Marketplace & Event Center, the 22-acre parking lot was packed.
Drivers wiggled their cars into any available space, whether marked for parking or not.
Some people had already been at the market for hours and were filtering out as more shoppers – mostly families – steadily streamed into the complex at 2930 Las Vegas Blvd. North.
A man walked out munching on a bag of roasted peanuts, carrying a hedge trimmer and a framed oil painting under his arm. Right behind him, a young boy bounced a soccer ball, gripping an action figure tightly in the other hand.
On the other side of the fence were 22 acres of concrete lined with 1,150 vendor stalls, food stands and an events area visited by tens of thousands of people each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The market was founded in 1977, and the new $200,000 stage and food court in the middle of the expansive space are a prime example of the recent improvements and the general spirit of Broadacres. The place has something for the whole family.
On Sunday, a mariachi band played on the stage while a clown off to the side made balloon animals. In front of the stage, children engaged in duels with balloon swords while adults ate barbeque and tacos, drank beer, and watched the Dallas Cowboys pull out a come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota Vikings on one of 10 flat-screen televisions in the steel-canopied courtyard.
More Pacifico, Modelo, Corona and Victoria is consumed here than anywhere else in the valley, according to Broadacres marketing director Evelyn Sanchez. The consumption of Mexican beers at Broadacres is an indicator of the 85 percent Hispanic clientele at the market.
Looking to expand its reach, the market has started to book country music acts and advertise on local country radio stations. The new stage and dining area is part of the market’s renovation undertaken by Greg Danz, who bought the property in 2007. Danz, who also owns a handful of similar businesses in Southern California, bought an adjacent plot to expand parking (the lot is said to be the largest solar-powered lot in the West), opened the market on Friday evenings, improved the market’s recycling program, repaved the lots and upgraded the infrastructure.
The market employs 180 people, including security guards, carpenters, electricians and plumbers.
And Danz isn’t done. He is seeking a permit from North Las Vegas to add mechanical rides to the growing children’s play area, which features several bounce houses.
Chaos rules many of the vendor stands. Shoppers often have to sift through boxes of tangled cellphone chargers or piles of unorganized toys or tools. You can get two pairs of jeans for $15, once you ferret out your size and style from the 4-foot-tall piles.
Management unclutters the experience as much as possible. Maps of the market with stall numbers can be easily found at the end of several rows. Drawing on a Disneyland study, the market placed trash cans a specific distance from one another based on an analysis of how far people will walk in search of a trash bin before littering.
Sanchez, while walking the grounds Sunday, spotted a man leaning against a trash can that was 2 feet off its white spray-painted “X.” She politely asked the man to move before she dragged the trash can back to its scientifically determined ideal location.
“We’ve done a lot of work to make the market more environmentally friendly,” Sanchez said. “Monday and Tuesdays are dedicated to cleanup. We recycle cardboard, plastics, grease from the restaurants, as much as we can.”
The market also offers more traditional businesses. There are nail and hair salons, plus a Realtor, and several car dealerships either have stands offering information or even a few cars on site for sale.
The changes appear to be paying off. Attendance has increased each of the past three years, and the market sees 20,000 visitors each Sunday. Vendors and regular visitors alike said they have noted the improvements in the past five years. Organizers said traffic was up about 30 percent.
The market is focused on being family-friendly. Children below 5 feet tall get in free with a paying adult. Admission is $1 on Fridays, $1.50 Saturdays and $2 Sundays. The market does a brisk beer business, but Sanchez says each adult is limited to two beers and officials make sure to cut off the inebriated and maintain a family atmosphere.
“What else are you going to do in Las Vegas?” asked Ruben Ramirez, a vendor who has been coming to the market for 18 years. “If you have a family, either you go to a park, you go to a casino or you come here. This is way more family-friendly than the casinos.”
Vendors tend to specialize in an area, such as toys, clothes, shoes, furniture, tools, hats or bulk-food items. Some tents, on the other hand, offer a random selection of items you might find at a neighborhood yard sale. Horse saddles hang over used video games selling for $10 to $20. At one stall, a leaf blower sat on a tarp next to a baby car seat, a rake, a propane tank, a weed trimmer and a pair of inline skates.
Some vendors, such as Paco Alvarez, who was selling a mix of toiletries and random knickknacks, team with others and take trucks to Los Angeles’ factory district, where they buy boxes of common items and haul them back for the weekend market.
Others, such as peanut salesman Hector Escobedo, make the trip each weekend from Los Angeles because the Broadacres market is better than anything in Southern California.
“There are a lot more people here, especially on Sundays,” Escobedo said. “There is music, there are lots of things to do, and it’s cheap.”
In October, Metro Police raided Broadacres and arrested several vendors suspected of selling stolen goods.
“That’s the first time we’ve had anything like that under the new management,” Sanchez said. “We have the vendors sign our rules and procedures, and we work to be in compliance with all regulations, including inspections for food vendors and other items.”
There is more to the market than just food and consumer goods. Tucked up against the western fence, there is a pony ride. Not far from there, shoppers will find Tony Monda, who has been entertaining people at the market with his monkey for almost two decades.
Monda brings one of his three Capuchin monkeys to the market every weekend. On Sunday, his monkey Don Juan tipped his hat and high-fived spectators who handed over dollar bills for the monkey to deliver to Monda.
“This is the kind of place where you can find anything,” Monda said. “If you look hard enough, you’ll find it.”
The market opens at 4 p.m. on Fridays and 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. About half of the vendors are permanent; the rest rotate in and out. Vendors arrive in the predawn hours to claim their spots — leave your spot vacant past 6:30 a.m. and it’s lost.
While children ran around comparing the used Barbie Cadillac SUV to the Barbie convertible and sifting through the piles of '80s and '90s action figures at the next-door stand, the adults shopped at stands offering deals on cologne, computers, mattresses, vacuum cleaners, kitchen utensils and household appliances.
Miguel Alvarez, who just moved to Las Vegas with his wife and son, found a stand selling Mexican wrestling masks and tested several before finding the right one for his boy. A friend told him about the market as a good weekend family activity.
“This is great. It reminds me of home,” Alvarez said. “Back in Texas, we had a huge market like this. It’s cheap, there’s plenty to explore and it’s something to do with the family on a Sunday.”