A truck grumbles in the Neon Boneyard, powering machinery for final adjustments to the newest addition: a completely restored La Concha Motel sign, delivered just in time for the long-awaited grand opening of the Neon Museum. It’s the final act of opening the facility, and there is a definite sense of completion in reuniting the rescued mid-century building with its original blue-and-red neon motel sign, which was restored by Yesco last year.
“To exhibit the sign alongside the building gives a wonderful sense of the relationship between the sign and the building,” says Neon Museum Executive Director Danielle Kelly.
The swooping red La Concha clamshell sign is just one among a handful of other recent additions, including The Sahara, camels resting beneath; Wedding Information, recently plucked from Fremont Street; and a restored portion of the H-Wall from Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, installed arched and illuminated next to the brand new visitors center.
Inside, boxes of files sit on countertops and floors as administrative staffers unpack and settle in to their new digs. One room nearing completion, labeled Archives, will soon be a boon to researchers and educators wanting to dig into neon history. The conference room, with its garage door opening onto the boneyard, offers a place for meetings and receptions with immediate access to the neon relics.
The sweeping arches of the former La Concha lobby, by architect Paul Revere Williams, gracefully slip inside slotted window entry points. To preserve the historical integrity of the building, 1960s-era design elements have been used throughout the restoration: the glimmering blue tiles on the walls of an exterior courtyard, white spherical lighting and burgundy carpeting in the lobby. The original mosaic sign from the motel’s guest registration is positioned behind the information desk. Equipped with neon tubing, at night, the semi-transparent yellow-amber sign glows behind the towering 28-foot front windows.
In addition to its duties at the Neon Boneyard, the La Concha will also serve as a visitor information center for the National Scenic Byways project. Las Vegas Boulevard is among a very small number of urban areas awarded the scenic byway distinction by the federal government (accompanied by a grant that helped fund the renovation). Located to either side of the lobby desk, motion-activated information kiosks allow guests to navigate through narrated historical information and pictures of the Strip and other neon highlights.
To celebrate the reopening, the Neon Museum will host a vintage Vegas cocktail party on Friday, dropping the original $125 ticket price down to $75 (proceeds benefit the museum). There will be live music by Thee Swank Bastards, and guests will get a sneak peak of the new Neon Boneyard layout before official tours, and a greatly expanded tour schedule, begin the following day.
NEON MUSEUM 810 Las Vegas Blvd. North; see www.neonmuseum.org for tour times and ticket prices.