By Carla O’Day
Sparks received approval for $90,000 on Thursday from the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) to have over-sized letters identifying the city installed at two parks to better promote its individualism.
Rather than being known as a distinctive place, Sparks is often considered part of Reno, Sparks Councilman Ron Smith said. When nationally-televised water sports events take place at Sparks Marina Park, TV cameras show shots around Reno, he said.
“Tune in and you’ll see the Reno Arch,” Smith said.
Signs will go up at Sparks Marina, 300 Howard Drive, and Golden Eagle Regional Park, 6400 Vista Blvd.
Both sites collectively draw about 1.6 million visitors annually, Smith said.
Boating events scheduled this year at Sparks Marina include U.S. Open of Watercross and the International Dragon Boat Festival, and Smith said the city needs some good ways to brand itself.
Also, Smith said the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off held each year in Victorian Square is often incorrectly referred to as the “Reno Nugget Rib Cook-off.”
“Televised events will automatically zoom in on these letters, identifying Sparks as the location of these events,” Smith said.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve noted the BELIEVE word sculpture at City Plaza has attracted more attention than expected and that Sparks could benefit from something similar. The 12-foot-tall piece was made by Northern California artists Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg as an art piece at the Burning Man counterculture arts festival, which is held each summer in the Black Rock Desert.
RSCVA Chairman and Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey suggested partnering with the Burning Man collective, which has set up art at the county facility.
“Burning Man is one of those signature, legacy events that draws people from all across the world,” Lucey said. “I’d like to see that stuff in Sparks, at Aces ballpark, at the convention center…”
RSCVA board member Nat Carasali supported the funds but suggested a formal stance be put in place for future solicitations to be sure all municipalities are treated equally.
“Going forward, before approving something like this, we should have a policy for requests like this,” Carasali said.
Reno recently got almost $90,000 from the RSCVA to repair its iconic arch downtown on North Virginia Street.
The population in Sparks was 96,094 in 2015, up 6.5 percent from 5 years prior, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, Reno’s population was 241,445, up 6.8 percent during that same time frame; and Washoe County’s total population was 446,903, an increase of six percent.
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.