Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006 | 7:30 a.m.
The coming year will likely see the first new building rise from the vacant 61 acres in downtown Las Vegas, launching the beginning of a new downtown within downtown.
On the other side of the railroad tracks in the existing downtown, luxury high-rise living will finally arrive.
And while there are no city elections expected in 2006, state and federal elections could draw a candidate from the city's leadership (the mayor maybe?). The city also could see another redrawing of its council ward boundaries.
Elsewhere in the city in 2006, a new swimming pool will open at Freedom Park and the new Mirabelli Community Center opens its doors, as does a new downtown senior center. The city also will host a professional men's tennis tournament in February and early March.
Construction also is expected to begin on two major recreation centers -- the $35-million Centennial Hills Community Center and a $30-million softball complex at Alexander Road and Hualapai Way.
The first piece of the long-planned development of the city's vacant 61 acres is expected to begin construction in August when the Lou Ruvo Alzheimer's Institute breaks ground.
Eventually, the 61 acres development, called Union Park, is slated to have a performing arts center, residential and office high-rises, and perhaps a new City Hall, academic medical center and baseball stadium.
But while those projects are at least a year away, breaking ground on the $50-million Alzheimer's center will be the first tangible evidence that the larger plan is coming.
"This is the beginning of the future of Las Vegas," Mayor Oscar Goodman said.
Across the railroad tracks in the existing downtown, the luxury high-rise condominium boom also is expected to provide an important first.
In February, people will begin moving into the Soho Lofts at Las Vegas Boulevard South and Hoover Avenue -- the first of the new luxury high-rises to be occupied.
"This is an integral part of revitalizing downtown -- getting people working and living downtown," Goodman said.
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Although city elections are not scheduled until 2007, there has been widespread speculation that Goodman will run for higher office -- possibly governor or the U.S. Senate.
Recent polls have put the gregarious Goodman at or near the front of the pack in the governor's race, and showed him as a strong candidate for the Senate -- not bad for someone who eschews tipping his hand on whether he is even thinking of running for higher office.
When asked, Goodman coyly says he's "the happiest mayor in the world," and doesn't elaborate. If the mayor decides to run, he will have from May 1 to May 12, the official filing period, to formally enter a statewide race.
With no scheduled city elections in 2006, the city could take the opportunity to redraw council ward boundaries.
City Manager Doug Selby said he will recommend that the council consider changing the ward boundaries because of Las Vegas' rapid growth, especially in Ward 6 in the northwest part of the city.
Councilman Steve Ross, who represents Ward 6, said while he is not sure that the redistricting will happen next year, "it's going to have to happen soon."
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In 2006 city residents will see some new recreation facilities open and another become the focus of a top professional tennis tournament. Construction also will begin on two large recreation complexes in the city's northwest.
The ATP Tennis Channel Tournament in Las Vegas will be held at the city's new Stacy and Amanda Darling Memorial Tennis Center from Feb. 25 to March 5.
America's top-ranked tennis pro, Andy Roddick, is scheduled to play in the tournament, which city leaders say will bring attention to the city and its new tennis complex at Washington Avenue and Buffalo Drive.
Near the other end of Washington Avenue on the east side of the city, the first phase of the renovation of Freedom Park -- a new swimming pool -- will open in the spring.
In February, the new $6.7 million Mirabelli Community Center is expected to open at 6200 Hargrove Ave., near Jones Boulevard and U.S. 95.
The new Mirabelli center, which will include space for gymnastics, a dance studio and game room, replaces the old center by the same name that was demolished last year.
Another community center, one geared toward an older audience, is expected to open within the next few weeks.
The Downtown Senior Services Center at 300 and 310 S. Ninth St. is situated in the renovated First Baptist Church.
The $4.6-million center will become home to a variety of offices serving seniors, including the Nevada Health Center, which conducts exams and lab work; the city's Senior Law Project, which offers legal advice, and a food bank.
Next spring and summer, construction will begin on the Centennial Hills Community Center and the Alexander/Hualapai Softball Complex.
The $35 million Centennial Hills center at 6601 N. Buffalo Drive is to include four pools -- two indoor and two outdoor -- plus two gymnasiums and teen and senior centers.
At the intersection of Alexander Road and Hualapai Way, the city will build a $30-million sports complex featuring 12 softball fields.
Both projects are expected to take about 18 months to complete and should be open by the end of 2007.
Dan Kulin can be reached at 259-8826 or at [email protected]