Originally created 01/24/02

Ads on City Hall possible in Las Vegas



LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas, which is considering leasing its logo to an Internet casino, has a mayor who would love to be the spokesman for Beefeater Gin. Now, the city is looking at selling space to advertisers on public buildings including City Hall.

Under a proposal that could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for city coffers, Las Vegas would be on the cutting edge among municipalities trying to attract advertising dollars.

"This is Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps, so advertising on the side of city hall wouldn't surprise me," said Chris Hoene, research manager for the National League of Cities. He said he has never heard of a city offering advertising on public buildings. "In another sense, (City Hall) is the one place where the rest of what Las Vegas is known for isn't pervasive."

Other governments have offered advertising on public buses or bus shelters, and a few, such as North Las Vegas, offer empty land as advertising space. But neither the National League of Cities nor Las Vegas' own research has found another city that offers space for sale on public buildings.

Betsy Fretwell, assistant city manager, said Las Vegas would be unique because City Hall and an accompanying parking garage are highly visible from a major freeway, U.S. 95, and thus perfect for advertising.

Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has explored opportunities to be a spokesman for a gin company, said he supports the idea of using city space for advertising. "It could be a gold mine, but it has to be balanced with First Amendment concerns," Goodman said, "and it can't embarrass the city."

On Wednesday, the City Council directed staff to solicit proposals for an outside partner - such as an advertising firm - that would assist the city in exploring new advertising venues, including leasing space on public buildings, park benches and city vehicles.

The proposal, ranging from accepting advertising on buildings to city vehicles, raises questions ranging from First Amendment issues to the ethics of city regulation of advertisers.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Marcia Forkos, chairman of the Southern Nevada chapter of the Sierra Club, said advertising is an eyesore and the city needs less of it, not more.

"The idea sounds horrible," Forkos said. "Especially if it's going to be intrusive and evasive like in a park or on buildings. We're inundated in our mail, on the TV, everywhere you look."

The venture follows Goodman's lead. The mayor has insisted on exploring new ways to generate revenue. During the past year he has suggested selling the city's official name and seal to an Internet casino, and he is considering using his likeness as the sponsor for Beefeater Gin.

Councilman Larry Brown said the idea of allowing the sale of ads on city property has floated around City Hall for three years, so he urged city staff to "get very aggressive" in determining the financial possibilities.