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September 5, 2015

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Tourism officials updated on progress of Mob Museum

New attraction on track to open next year

Mob Museum

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, left, and former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.) prepare to open the doors to the Mob Museum during a news conference at the museum site in downtown Las Vegas this morning. Launch slideshow »

Mob Museum Media Tour

A third-story room is shown during a media tour of the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (the Launch slideshow »

What a difference 20 years makes.

In October 1990, Dennis Barrie was battling an indictment for pandering obscenity as director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati over his display of controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s “The Perfect Moment.”

Today, Barrie is celebrating criminal indictments, sort of.

As creative director of the Las Vegas Museum of Law Enforcement and Organized Crime, Barrie is the point man for downtown Las Vegas’ Mob Museum, a new tourist attraction expected to generate between $8.5 million and $13.9 million revenue a year when it opens in 2011.

Barrie, who jokingly said that he just got an anniversary card from his Cincinnati lawyer, spent about 15 minutes Tuesday giving a progress report on the museum to the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“We’re telling the true story of organized crime,” Barrie told LVCVA board members, including its chairman, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who said he presented his first case as a criminal defense lawyer at the building that was once a federal courthouse.

Interactive high-tech audio and video displays are expected to be a part of Mob Museum experience.

Barrie said the museum, which is expected to charge an admission price of between $10 and $15, will trace the history of organized crime in America. The museum will have exhibits explaining how the mob skimmed from casino profits; “mob mayhem” — a look at mob hits by rival gangsters; how law enforcement brought the mob to justice with wiretaps and surveillance; and how Hollywood has portrayed the mob over the years.

Organizers of the non-profit venture that is being funded through local, state and federal grants and $35 million in Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency bonds, said the museum wouldn’t glorify the mob, but that its story would be fascinating on its own.

One of the exhibits will include a section of the wall from the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, a Feb. 14, 1929, Prohibition-era incident in which seven members of Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang in Chicago were shot to death by persons believed to be gang members and associates of Al Capone. The only gun found at the St. Valentine’s Day massacre site also will be part of the display, Barrie said.

A display also will include a restored courtroom and an explanation of the significance of hearings conducted by Sen. Estes Kefauver, whose committee traveled to 14 cities in 1950 and 1951, seeking to expose and control organized crime.

Barrie said workers are concluding a seismic retrofitting of the building. In April, exhibits are expected to be moved into the museum.

“The building is wonderful, but it’s a challenge to restore,” Barrie said of the three-story historic site on Stewart Avenue that also once housed a U.S. Post Office.

The museum is expected to generate 92 jobs, including 60 full-time museum workers and several ancillary positions at small businesses that are expected to spring up around the museum after it opens.

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