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Vegas opens museum to examine its mobbed-up past

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Steve Marcus

Members of the San Diego Police Museum Association pose on a 1928 Ford Model A before the Mob Museum’s grand opening in downtown Las Vegas, Tuesday February 14, 2012. The building, a former federal courthouse and post office, was completed in 1933 and is listed on the Nevada and National Registers of Historic Places. It is also one of 14 sites in the nation that hosted the 1950-51 U.S. Senate Special Committees to investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, also known as the Kefauver hearings.

Mob Museum Opens

Members of the San Diego Police Museum Association participate in the grand opening of the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Mob Museum opening triggers mixed reaction

KSNV coverage of the grand opening of the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas, Feb. 14, 2012.

Visitors doing time inside the newly opened Mob Museum on Tuesday were in no rush to escape and a few even relaxed — in an electric chair.

“I had fun with the machine gun,” said Valerie Landau, 58, of Las Vegas.

“I thought it was incredible and as soon as I get people back to visit, I’m taking them here,” Landau said of her relatives in New York.

Landau wasn’t the only one who thought the exhibits were to die for.

“The shovel for a weapon, that was dope,” said Anthony Tagle, 20, whose favorite aspect of the museum was, “the graphic part where I can see a lot of death and gore.”

Other exhibits on display inside the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement included interactive displays, films and photographs of mobsters from the historic era.

The museum at 300 Stewart Ave. was set up inside a renovated post office and federal building, a project that used $42 million in federal and state tax dollars.

Supporters of the museum and City Council members who secured the funds during a down economy expect the downtown museum to attract tourists.

“It was interesting,” said Darla Poe, a 50-year-old visiting from Oklahoma. “I liked that the courtroom was original and restored.”

Those who live in Las Vegas, like 38-year-old Luke Littell, hope the museum is just another step in the redevelopment of the downtown area.

“I think it’s great to see the rehabilitation of downtown coming to life,” Littell said. “Getting to see rumors turned into reality is a fantastic thing.”

Visitors exiting the museum after the grand opening weren’t all raving.

“I got a short attention span and there’s a lot of reading,” said John Sanders, 55, of Las Vegas, who while inside posed for a picture in the electric chair on display.

Those looking to break up the wordage found a way to eavesdrop on exhibits.

“I like the headsets of the audio recordings of the FBI wiretaps,” said Las Vegas resident Tom Delahunty, who wasn’t entirely satisfied with the museum.

“There wasn’t enough Vegas mob stuff,” said the 45-year-old.

Visitors such as Phyllis White, a resident originally from Chicago, was pleased with the offerings.

“It was amazing,” she said. “There were more artifacts than I could imagine.”

Other fans of the museum were more concerned with quality not quantity of artifacts in the 41,000-square-foot museum.

“It was very realistic,” said 58-year-old resident Robin Martinelli. “I didn’t think it would be so authentic.”

Many of the exhibits favored by visitors were interactive, similar to those that have been featured at the competing mob-related attraction the Mob Experience at the Tropicana.

The Mob Museum is not affiliated with the Tropicana operation that went bankrupt and shut down the interactive portion of the museum in September. The museum portion of the attraction remains open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There are plans of reopening the Mob Experience's entire attraction under a new name, the Mob Attraction Las Vegas.

Competition or not, the Mob Museum seems to be a hit.

Connie Bobo, a Las Vegan for more than 40 years, has seen her share of Vegas history.

“The good and the bad with the history,” she said, praising the museum’s ability to capture the time period. “I love it, I’ll be back.”

Delahunty, who walked away craving more Las Vegas Mob action, said his overall experience was good.

“Well worth the price,” he said.

Admission into the Mob Museum for Nevada adults and children is $10. Regular price for adults is $18 and $12 for students and children ages 5 to 17.

Seniors, teachers, military and law enforcement are admitted for $14. Sorry, no discount for mobsters.

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