Museums go up in light at Reno-Tahoe Airport

RENO - Before Tuesday, Carson City might as well have been 300 miles away from Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

Nothing told incoming tourists any different.

Now, though, Carson City has a presence within a couple hundred feet of the Southwest Airlines gates.

The Museum Association of Carson City on Tuesday unveiled a 62-by-43-inch backlighted display in the Southwest terminal concourse.

"This is an excellent location," said Sheila Abbe, director of the Stewart Indian School Museum and the association's administrator for the display board project. "The is one of the first boards visitors see before they get bored with them."

The airport has about 80 such lighted boards lining the two concourses, but this one featuring Carson City's eight museums is the only one touting Carson City tourism locations. Nearly every major player in the region's tourism market has a display.

Carson City's museums join the likes of Eldorado, John Ascuaga's Nugget, Caesars Tahoe, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Atlantis, the Meadowood Mall and the Wild Orchid.

"We become in the eyes of the travelers one of the biggies," said Rich Reitnauer, sales and promotion manager at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

The airport display board is the biggest marketing effort so far for the museum association, which includes the Children's Museum, the Stewart Indian School Museum, the Nevada State Museum, the Nevada State Railroad Museum, the Roberts House, Warren Engine Co. No. 1, the Nevada State Capitol Museum and the Nevada State Library and Archives.

The association, which calls itself MACC for short, casually formed about a year ago but stayed quiet until May when the Carson City Convention and Visitors' Bureau chipped in $6,000 to pay for the airport display. Each museum added $400 to cover the $9,200 cost to create the display and rent the backlighted display box for a year, Abbe said.

"I like it," said Abbe, facing the display with a black background, yellow and orange lettering and photos from each of the eight museums. "It does what we want it to do. It shows all Carson City has to offer in the way of museums and history. This is Carson City's only exposure at Reno-Tahoe Airport."

The Visitors Bureau in the past resisted advertising at the airport, reasoning that advertising dollars could be better spent. But Executive Director Candy Duncan said she and her board of directors were impressed with the museums' efforts.

"I always think any time a group can get together and work together and speak with one voice that is always positive," Duncan said. "This is more of a formal way to present the museums. That venue really is image building."

Abbe hopes museum attendance grows as much as 20 percent with the airport advertising. If nothing else, the display will help visitors realize Carson City is less than 30 miles away, instead of the hundreds of miles some visitors believe, and that these museums exist.

Carson City has only three prominently visible museums - the state museum, the railroad museum and the children's museums - with the others tucked away in less known locations. Even the popular railroad museum gets 30 percent of its visitors from people who pull in only after seeing the museum from the street.

The airport display could help make the museums more of a destination than a last-minute inspiration.

"We don't want to rely on a third of our visitors just happening to drive by," Reitnauer said.


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