- The Magazine
- Current Issue
- Events & Shows
- Web Extras
- Yellow Pages
Reno’s Freight House District has a little something for everyone.
It’s a brisk Friday evening in May, the sun stretches sweetly into the Sierra Nevada, and a growing line of fans huddle beneath coats and blankets, waiting anxiously for the gates of Reno’s Aces Ballpark to open.
Though it’s an hour and a half before the first pitch of tonight’s Triple-A baseball game, the stadium block is already abuzz. A scattering of children play catch on the complex’s grassy lot, sometimes tackling one another in what appears to be a rambunctious mix of baseball and football. Blocked-off side streets and adjacent parking lots are filling fast with tailgaters. Live music pours from a patio overlooking the stadium entrance and, delighted, I walk up a flight of stairs to get a glimpse of the band and rejoice in the sound.
I emerge onto the Freight House District plaza, boxed in by an alehouse, sports bar, and nightclub with an island bar and stage a dominant presence in the open-air space. Family members, 20-somethings, and middle-aged patrons share in the pleasures of food and drink from tables and bar stools. A few college-aged men battle in a furious match of ping-pong, a group of teenagers toss beanbags, and several couples recline in lounge chairs and take in the effervescent mood.
Connected to the ballpark, the newly opened Freight House District—named for a historic building that anchors the project—has quickly become a popular hangout in Reno. This venue, open daily and year round, is part of an evolving redevelopment concept meant to broaden business opportunity and create jobs in downtown Reno.
Good first impressions can fade fast, though, if not sustained by the prospect of growth. “The goal is to always be developing and to always have something unique,” says Ryan Reidel, an operations manager at the Freight House District. “But we’re still working out minor kinks and tweaks.” Rather than viewing the work-in-progress as a burden, Reidel sees it as an opportunity to engage the fan base and build the district’s brand. “We want to capture people’s attention,” he says.
The defining vision for the Freight House District entails creating a little something for everyone. Long-term goals include building synergy between the Freight House District and downtown Reno by providing new entertainment choices with each passing block. Cultivating this eclectic appeal is characteristic of Reno’s renaissance over the last 20 years.
In that time, the Reno Redevelopment Agency has spent $176 million on revitalization projects. The result of this investment, funded through property-tax revenues, can be seen at Reno City Hall, Truckee River Whitewater Park, and West Street Market, among others. By including the ReTrac project, which lowered more than two miles of railroad through downtown, the total investment amounts to more than $400 million.
All revitalization plans are not created equal, however, and in a time of economic uncertainty, some projects inevitably furrow brows. “I think in the field of economic development you always have [people] that either disagree with the policies…or don’t quite understand them,” says Peter Wallish, Reno’s economic development manager. Addressing this pushback, he says, requires educating the public on the financial structure of projects and their expected benefits.
The $72-million tag on Aces Ballpark and the Freight House District is funded by a car-rental tax and initial private equity. Future windfalls resulting from an increased tax base will be pumped into new revitalization projects and, ultimately, back into city and county coffers when the redevelopment agency’s mandate expires in 2035.
Four extension phases are in the works for the neighborhood sharing the Freight House District name. Mixed-use retail, restaurant, hotel, and housing units are likely additions. A planned first-floor renovation of the National Bowling Stadium is progressing rapidly. This phase is slated entirely for retail development. But much of the area is currently in a “pre-production” stage with specific phases under the control of private developers working with the redevelopment agency. Break-ground dates for many of these initiatives are expected sometime in 2012, though market conditions ultimately determine timelines.
Diversifying a historically tourist-centric economy begins with the belief that each new project contributes to the whole. “The idea, from our perspective, was that the ballpark [opened in April 2009] is a catalyst for redeveloping the entire area,” says John Hester, Reno’s community development director and redevelopment administrator.
The Freight House District venue is just one addition to the area, but evidence attesting to its influence on revitalizing downtown has already emerged. Owners of the Silver Peak Brewery chain of restaurants opened a pizzeria in the neighborhood in August, hoping to capitalize on the burgeoning draw of the district. In creating a vibrant street life and urban neighborhood—from green parks to clean streets and education centers to entertainment districts—Reno’s charm broadens dramatically.
This is confirmed in fan reactions at the Freight House District in May. “We’re really excited to have this in Reno,” says Keith Thomas, an audio/video specialist who lives in Truckee, California, a short drive west of Reno. This is the second time in the last month that he and friends have come to Reno to enjoy a night out at the ballpark.
All are big baseball fans, and the opening of the Freight House District has only added to the allure of the experience. “This is nothing but positive for the area, and I’m looking forward to spending more time here,” says Greg Jacobsen, an automotive service manager from Truckee and friend of Thomas.
There is a rooting spirit among tonight’s crowd. “We’d like to see this succeed,” says Pete Nevin, frontman of The Deckheads, tonight’s musical act. “This is the perfect spot for a bar and beach band like us.” As the bats crack on the field, Nevin jumps back onstage with his band and bursts into a Jimmy Buffet rendition. “It’s great to be at the Freight House District!” he screams to a healthy throng of revelers.
The City of Reno hopes that refrain reverberates long beyond this night.
By the end of 2010, ground is expected to break in Reno on a gasification and materials reclamation plant—the first of its kind in the United States—which will produce clean energy and remove hundreds of tons daily from the city waste stream.
Plans to convert the U.S. Post Office building downtown into a retail center are moving forward. Construction of a new post office site will coincide with these developments.
Near-term redevelopment and revitalization projects in Reno also include expanding the River Walk district and extending the Truckee River Whitewater Park. A pedestrian corridor connecting the downtown sector with the University of Nevada is in the design stages. And a proposed gateway project along this corridor would include mixed-use retail and housing developments.
Reno Redevelopment Agency
Freight House District
250 Evans Ave., Reno
Open seven days a week
Duffy’s Ale House
Bugsy’s Sports Bar & Grill
Arroyo Mexican Grill
WORTH A CLICK
Remaining home schedule: Aug. 30-Sept. 2
WORTH A VISIT
Santa Fe Hotel
Family-style Basque dining a short walk from Aces Ballpark
235 Lake St., Reno