Crowd-sourcing a Resurrection

June 27th, 2013

Originally published in Las Vegas Citylife on June 12, 2013

Joey Vanas, Michael Corthwaite, Rehan Coudhry and a team of dedicated volunteers want to save the Huntridge.

If you’ve spent more than a handful of years living in Vegas, you’ve heard this story before and can skip straight to the interview bits below. If you’re new in town, let me toss out some Google searches to get you caught up on the last couple decades of history: Friends of the Huntridge, Save the Huntridge, and Mizrachi Huntridge. I’ll wait while you look things up.

There, now you should be up to speed.

This week: the crowdfunding column!

I spoke with David Anderson, coordinator for the newly-launched Save The Historic Huntridge Theater indiegogo campaign, about the project’s methods, goals, and how the team is taking to crowdfunding and the Internet to get the Huntridge revival off the ground.

Funding the first stage of a historic building restoration is a novel use of crowdsourcing. What led the team to go down this route versus more traditional funding methods?

A few reasons. Covenants restricting the Huntridge from being torn down are set to expire soon, and it’s very important to get this off the ground before that happens. Joey, Michael, and Rehan are not rich people, and they exhausted their own financial resources putting down the first deposit on the property. Crowdfunding the second deposit both enables the project to move forward while showing potential investors (who would be required to foot the remainder of the restoration costs) that there is in fact massive community support to see the Huntridge revived and back in operation.

Why indiegogo over Kickstarter, local startup openfi.re, or other crowdsourcing options?

Kickstarter was a no-go because it expressly forbids raising money to buy real estate, given its “short term artistic project” focus. That restriction wasn’t the only one in their guidelines that disallowed us, but it was the obvious one. Openfire, a site I founded, is unfortunately too early in its development to support a project of this size, otherwise, the model we’d developed for openfire would have been perfect for this kind of multi-stage, long-term, socially-valuable project. Indiegogo, with its solid history and less restrictive terms, ended up being a solid fit for the Huntridge campaign.

How were the pledge levels determined? What percentage of the final indiegogo tally will go towards fulfilling pledge rewards?

They were determined by the team’s estimates as to what would entice the widest possible cross-section of people to happily contribute to the campaign. Note that contributions are not donations, as they are not tax deductible, and we want our contributors to feel that they are receiving direct value from the money they’ve granted the campaign.

Most of the rewards have lower hard immediate costs, since many of the big ones are dependent on a successful reopening, and many of the smaller ones are being donated by local artists or businesses. It’s impossible to say for sure without knowing which perks will end up being the most popular, but I’d guess that our fulfillment costs for this campaign in particular will run an exceptionally low percentage, probably <5%, preserving a great majority of the funding for the project itself. The outpouring of offers for in-kind contributions of time and services as we've spun this thing up has been incredible. One of the perks offered is what the campaign is calling a Speak Up! vote. How will Speak Up work, and what do the votes mean?

Our goal is to allow for the maximum possible level of local input on shows and programming once the Huntridge reopens. We want the community funders to have a voice in its direction, and to feel invested and excited to continue to support the Huntridge once it’s up and running.

We’re currently working with local development studios who’ve offered to help us design a platform to facilitate Speak Up and community input, and will reveal more about the system as it progresses and goes online.

The Huntridge was a fixture in Las Vegas for many decades before it fell into disrepair. Right now, we’re focusing primarily on securing the Huntridge to ensure that it will remain standing to serve the community in the decades ahead.

Interested in supporting the Huntridge Theater revival? Visit thehuntridge.com, pick your favorite perks, and throw ‘em a few bucks. I’ll buy you a drink on opening night.

Downtown Parking Gets An Upgrade

June 27th, 2013

Originally published in Las Vegas Citylife on May 29, 2013

Parking downtown! Calamity!

Where are we gonna put our cars once the Odgen’s own guest lot is stuffed to the gills with borrowed Teslas, sitting in waiting while their drivers awkwardly nurse microbrews as they plop up and down on the seesaw behind Park on Fremont, talking pivots and disruption and burn rate?

Were it not for the Good Doctor’s makeshift parking lot over on 6th Street soaking up overflow, folks might be forced to walk over a quarter mile, or God forbid, park on 7th Street. Who knows what hell will break loose once that misused patch of dirt is fenced off!

Oh, did you hear that we’re getting new parking meters downtown?

This week: The Parking Column!

downtownmeterremoval

The whole “let’s modernize the old school parking meters downtown because who still has change these days since the homeless took over the intersections” debate has been floating around for some time now, but in February of this year the Las Vegas City Council finally approved an initial $1.45 million contract that will allow industry kings Parkeon to install 233 Strada Rapide meters (painted Magic Blue) throughout the neighborhood. As a single Strada can manage multiple spaces, 1,216 traditional meters will be removed in the process.

In a gracious boon from on high, 125 of the existing metered spaces downtown will become entirely free.

Once all of the old meters are ripped out of the sidewalk, where do they go? Is there a parking meter graveyard out in the desert somewhere, or are they simply broken down and recycled? Give a crafty individual a thousand of those things, a blowtorch, and a button of peyote and I’ll bet you’d end up with one hell of a Burning Man project.

The Strada meters are actually kinda slick. Each unit (at $5,695 a pop) incorporates a display, credit card reader, and a 3G cellular modem, all powered by a solar cell and battery setup that allows for placement anywhere, regardless of current infrastructure. 158 of the meters will have a small grayscale LCD screen, while the remaining 75 (at an additional $1200 each) will feature full color 7 inch displays and an extended alpha-numeric keyboard.

Now that the deals have been inked, both the city and Parkeon are moving ahead at full steam and installation of the new hardware is set to begin next month.

But wait, that’s not even the neat part.

Last year, Parkeon partnered up with ParkMe, a data broker specializing in comprehensive real-time parking availability and pricing. As a result of this partnership, the moment a parking space governed by a Parkeon meter is freed up, ParkMe knows.

Founded in 2007 and flush from a round of funding earlier this year, ParkMe (formerly Parking in Motion) has been slowly building up a massive parking database, using it to feed both analytic data to parking providers (like say, the City of Las Vegas) and live parking information to the users of its online service. The ParkMe database currently features over 25,000 locations in more than 500 cities.

Via ParkMe’s service, users can look up a destination and view rates, parking locations and garages, and even the availability of individual spaces, so we’ll always know whether that one particular sweet spot on 6th Street is taken or not.

Once the initial install and testing phase is complete, the city will roll out additional functionality allowing users to pay for and refill a meter directly from the ParkMe app.

If you’d like to try ParkMe before the new meters roll out (most of the downtown garages are already listed), the free service is currently offered as both an iOS and Android app, and online at parkme.com.

Oh yeah, and the new Strada meters? They’ll still take coins, too, if that’s your thing.

Video gaming in Vegas (part 2) – Retro Game Stores

June 7th, 2013

Originally published in Las Vegas Citylife on May 17, 2013

Previously in Video Gaming in Vegas, I covered the local arcade scene. This week, another subject near and dear to the nostalgia (or curiosity) driven gamer: the retro video game store.

Gamestop, Ebay, and other online venders have made life difficult for many of the mom ‘n pop retro stores (and like arcades these days, retro game stores are almost always a mom ‘n pop affair). Not only do online sources wreak havoc on pricing, both lowering and raising game and hardware values based on national collecting trends, they also drain potential inventory, as a savvy seller can now offload their used wares directly online rather than visiting a local store to exchange their games for credit or a comparatively paltry sum.

While local store owners combat this by building up their local communities, buying bulk lots, and offering warranties, repair services and other goods (such as the ever popular collectible card games), a retro video game shop is not one of the more lucrative business ventures one can get into. In many cities, having just a single quality retro shop in town can be considered a lucky break – Las Vegas has been blessed with three.

You can’t go wrong hitting up any of these stores. Each offers merchandise from the entire range of gaming history, from classic consoles such as the Atari 2600, SNES, and Genesis to modern Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo systems and releases, and each has their own specialties and charm. My suggestion? Make a day of it and visit all three.

A GAMER’S PARADISE

Originally known as Sean’s Game Repair, this retro/repair shop has since undergone a rebranding and a mid-2011 expansion, with a second (and larger) storefront located immediately west of the Pinball Hall of Fame.

A longtime arcade and console collector, owner Sean LaBrecque is font of classic video game history, knows what to keep an eye out for, and often seeds his store’s selection with various odds and ends from his own collection, resulting in the occasional obscure encounter or gem of a find that one wouldn’t typically find in another shop.

Both A Gamer’s Paradise locations feel as much like a museum as retail space, with boxed titles and rare hardware on display along the periphery, surrounding shelves full of cartridges, discs, and arcade cabinets set to free play. Visit either location, but I give the edge to the newer Tropicana space due to its greater selection and proximity to the Pinball Hall.

1550 East Tropicana Ave #4
1000 North Nellis Blvd, Suite C
http://www.agpvegas.com/

WII PLAY GAMES

Tucked into the corner of a Nellis Blvd strip mall and owned by Mickey Tenney (who recently returned to the scene after originally opening Gameworld and Gameland Arcade a decade ago), Wii Play Games caters to geek culture in general, featuring a large assortment of video games (both classic and modern), card games, anime, and collectible figures.

The used video game selection is outstanding, and there’s always a crowd in the evenings, with Magic The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Uh tournaments held frequently. Dedicated gaming tables are open for anyone to jump in and play when tournaments are not in session.

Additionally, the Wii Play Games team posts buy & sell price lists for wanted games and cards online, making it easy for the collector to loosely plan a trade or purchase prior to visiting the store.

3310 South Nellis Blvd, Suite 10
http://www.wiiplaygameslv.com/

GAMEWORLD

Another retro game store with a heavy emphasis on card gaming, Gameworld is split into two distinct sections, almost to the appearance of being two completely different storefronts: video games and DVDs in the front room, collectible card games in the back. For card gamers, Gameworld is heaven, with large room filled wall to wall with Magic The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Uh, and other collectible cards.

The shop has either an extremely gracious clientele or a fastidious team, as Gameworld’s selection tends to be the best organized. Individual titles are well maintained and rarely outside their intended alphabetical order.

Like Wii Play Games, collectible card game tournaments are held regularly in the evenings and on weekends, and plenty of space has been allotted for both casual and tournament play.

5620 West Charleston Blvd
http://gameworldvegas.com/

Update! I dunno what it is with retro game stores and alternating primary color logos, but we’ve got a new addition in town. Gamers Center just opened its doors last week, and while the full stock is still being added to shelves, the store will be carrying a range of titles, from Atari 2600 to modern systems, along with collectible card games. The import selection is quite good for a brand new store, and may be what ultimate sets them apart from the others.

3720 E. Sunset Rd #108