Tourism future pegged on rail and art

Tourists will be lured to Carson City by the future Virginia & Truckee Railway and the arts community, a tourism expert said Thursday.

This comes after a seven-month effort and $10,000 invested in a tourism assessment and public discussions. About 50 participants in a workshop at the Plaza Conference Center focused on the economic generator that will attract 200,000 riders a year.

"Railroads are sexy," said Roger Brooks, president of Destination Management, of Olympia, Wash. "I think the V&T Railroad can be a really great brand for you."

A steam locomotive will traverse reconstructed rail along the historic right-of-way between Virginia City and Carson City by 2010.

This brand will blend Carson City's Western ambiance and history, said Brooks, an expert who has helped create successful tourism brands for many communities.

"I think it could work," said Darla Bayer, a production coordinator at Channel 10, who attended the six-hour workshop. "We need something that will bring the whole town together and a goal that we all could work toward. This will make our town bigger in popularity."

Bayer is also linked to Carson's arts side through her association with the Brewery Arts Center. She foresees art contests and theater linked to the V&T.

A local artist and a nonprofit foundation have already started planning.

The Northern Nevada Railway Foundation is sponsoring the Railway Reflection International Art Expo at a gallery in the State Library and Archives building from July 17 to Aug. 17, 2008. Artist Steven Saylor said this could attract 30,000 people already in the area for Artown and Hot August Nights, both in Reno. Art sales at the event will raise money for the V&T construction.

"It's just tying in the element of the V&T, which is going to be operating in three years, with the local art community," said Stephen Lincoln, a foundation member.

The group also plans a train film festival in the same month.

In addition to diversions such as this, Carson City must also expand its dining and downtown entertainment to keep tourists here longer, Brooks said.

"You saved a ton of money because you narrowed it down to two key areas - art and rail," he said, while pointing to a list of ideas generated by the group.

Bringing in another consultant to pick the city's lure could've cost about $5,000.

"I think they have found the right hook for this community," said Peter Barton, director of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, which is in South Carson. He said the museum could organize a major annual, weeklong railroad festival that could attract 50,000 tourists after the V&T is completed.


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