Vision Finally Comes to Life

West Wendover’s new pedestrian-friendly downtown features festive plaza

By Dianna Troyer

The iconic 63-foot-tall Wendover Will welcomes people to the new downtown. Images courtesy of city of West Wendover

Twenty years ago, West Wendover city leaders envisioned an ideal pedestrian-friendly downtown.

Their vision will finally start to become reality this summer due, in part, to an infusion of federal funding designated for communities suffering from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

In early summer, city leaders will launch a five-month, $3 million downtown construction project. Pueblo Boulevard will extend 900 feet and have water, sewer, lighting, and sidewalks to accommodate future businesses and residences.

At the end of the boulevard, a spacious grassy 80-by-320-foot plaza will be complete by late fall, providing the community with a venue for concerts and other events and serving as a gathering place.

“It’s extremely exciting to address the community’s requests and needs on such a large scale,” says Mayor Daniel Corona of the Downtown Infrastructure Project Phase One. “Not only will this project provide the needed infrastructure for our community to grow, it also will provide a central gathering space at the plaza. People have told me that we need a gathering place like this.”

Community events will be scheduled at a grassy, expansive 80-by-320-foot plaza.

At the new downtown’s heart, the plaza will feature a splash pad, outdoor public art, bike lanes, and public restrooms.

“The splash pad was a frequent request from the community because we have many young families who call West Wendover home,” says Daniel, a fourth-generation city resident. “I’m sure it will see a lot of use.”

A large portion of the project’s funding is due to City Manager Chris Melville playing the best and worst of cards the fateful coronavirus pandemic dealt. Documenting how the local economy was crippled when the town’s casinos closed to prevent the spread of the virus, Chris applied for a federal grant.

He snared a $1.125 million grant from the Economic Development Administration when the agency was allocated money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. In addition to the federal grant, the project is financed with a $525,000 Nevada Community Development Block Grant and a $1.3 million long-term loan from USDA Rural Development.

“I’m working on some additional grants, so we’ll see how those turn out in a month or two,” Chris says. “We’re excited to bid the project in May and look forward to groundbreaking. For decades, we’ve dreamed of developing an ideal downtown. It’s immeasurably gratifying to see it becoming reality.”

City Manager Chris Melville has been working on designing and financing the new downtown for two decades.

The downtown project has its roots in the city’s Civic Center Downtown Plan. Written in 2001, city leaders incorporated input from residents into the plan and began working on individual projects. Like puzzle pieces, the projects are now sliding into place to create a unified downtown.

The most visible project is the Wendover Will City Center Monument. The iconic 63-foot-tall neon cowboy waves a welcoming hand to visitors.

Donated to the city in 2005, the landmark’s 1,184 feet of neon tubing was restored to its original radiance. The monument was built by and named for Stateline Hotel and Casino owner William Smith in 1952 to show the important role gaming plays in the town’s economy.

Another project was construction of the Victory Highway Historic Interpretive Trail.

The highway—dedicated in 1921—was a transcontinental automobile route devoted to American soldiers who died in World War I. Signs along the trail’s walking path describe the town’s ancient and modern historical sites.

Chris also oversaw enhancement of Pueblo and Wendover boulevards and construction of a new city hall and civic center.

In 2020, he and other city leaders finetuned and completed a Downtown Master Plan.

Mayor Daniel Corona, who grew up in West Wendover, says ideas from residents helped shape the design of the new downtown.

“It helped give us some final guidance on this summer’s work,” Chris says. While the new downtown infrastructure is being built, another project will launch.

“We’re excited to finalize design work on a new fire station this summer, with construction tentatively starting in the fall,” Chris says.

It will be on the eastern side of downtown next to City Hall.

Chris and Daniel are optimistic about West Wendover’s future.

“This project will be a huge help in our efforts to recruit businesses to open up in downtown West Wendover,” Daniel says. “We look forward to groundbreaking and completion of the project.”