Inside the Theater
With The Smith Center ringing in its fifth anniversary in 2017, there’s no better time to spotlight the many community leaders who helped make our world-class performing arts center a reality. These include Oscar Goodman, former mayor of Las Vegas and a key player in the city’s support of The Smith Center, which involved a donation of land for both the facility and Symphony Park.
Goodman has also provided support through his downtown steakhouse Oscar’s, an ongoing sponsor that offers complimentary shuttle rides to and from The Smith Center.
Below, Goodman shares his thoughts on The Smith Center’s birth and its impact on his favorite city.
How did you first hear about the idea for The Smith Center?
We’d always been talking about having a center for the performing arts in the downtown area of Las Vegas, even during the years I was actively practicing law. It was always a matter of discussion in the community.
When I became the mayor, I was contacted by Don Snyder and Myron Martin, who indicated they thought it could be a reality, and would the city be able to participate by making available land we had at Union Park?
Were you on board from the start?
I said you could absolutely count upon the city for any support. (Snyder and Martin) then included me in the group that actually took the trips to various performing arts venues (for design ideas).
It was always our goal to have the finest performing arts center imaginable, and the city didn’t hesitate one second as far as giving 1,000 percent behind the idea.
Why did you want to get involved?
It was an easy decision. To be a great city, you have to have certain things. These include great academic medicine – we were well on our way to accomplishing that with the Lou Ruvo Center that is now affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic. We had sports being discussed, a major league sports team we now have with the hockey team, and hopefully we’ll get football, too.
The one thing really missing was world-class culture, and The Smith Center filled that niche very, very beautifully. That was my dream to have those three things take place in my term as mayor, and my wife has continued that during her term as mayor.
What impact do you think The Smith Center has had on the city of Las Vegas?
It has contributed to our becoming the world-class city that we want to be.
I also think the Mob Museum was made possible by the success of The Smith Center, and it’s a beautiful architectural addition to downtown that you can see from all across the valley.
It’s great to have this kind of culture in Las Vegas, where we don’t have to run back to New York or L.A. to see a play or a show or musical, which we had to do over the years. Now we have it right here.
Why is Oscar’s a good fit for a night at The Smith Center?
The Smith Center and Oscar’s go hand in glove. You can go to the restaurant, have a couple drinks, have a quick dinner and head to The Smith Center, see a great show and make it back to the restaurant to cap off the night. It’s a juxtaposition of the new Las Vegas with The Smith Center and the old Las Vegas with a retro restaurant.