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Las Vegas is the most populous city in Nevada, the seat of Clark County, and an internationally renowned major resort city known for gambling, shopping and fine dining. Las Vegas, which bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, is famous for the number of casino resorts and associated entertainment. A growing retirement and family city, it is the 28th most populous city in the United States with an estimated population by the US Census Bureau of 558,383 as of 2008. The estimated population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area as of 2008 was 1,865,746.
Established in 1905, Las Vegas officially became a city in 1911. With the growth that followed, at the close of the century Las Vegas was the most populous American city founded in the 20th century (a distinction held by Chicago in the 19th century). The city is a popular setting for films and television programs. Las Vegas also has the highest number of churches per capita of any major U.S. city.
The name Las Vegas is often applied to unincorporated areas that surround the city, especially the resort areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip. The 4 mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip is mainly in the unincorporated communities of Paradise and Winchester, while a small portion overlaps into Las Vegas and the unincorporated community of Enterprise.
History of Las Vegas
The first reported visit to the valley by someone of European descent was Raphael Rivera in 1829. Las Vegas was named by Spaniards in the Antonio Armijo party, who used the water in the area while heading north and west along the Old Spanish Trail from Texas. In the 1800s, areas of the Las Vegas Valley contained artesian wells that supported extensive green areas or meadows (vegas in Spanish), hence the name Las Vegas.
John C. Frémont traveled into the Las Vegas Valley on May 3, 1844, while it was still part of Mexico. He was a leader of a group of scientists, scouts and observers for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. On May 10, 1855, following annexation by the United States, Brigham Young assigned 30 missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led by William Bringhurst to the area to convert the Paiute Indian population to Mormonism. A fort was built near the current downtown area, serving as a stopover for travelers along the "Mormon Corridor" between Salt Lake and the briefly thriving colony of saints at San Bernardino, California. However, Mormons abandoned Las Vegas in 1857. Las Vegas was established as a railroad town on May 15, 1905, when 110 acres owned by the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, was auctioned off in what is now downtown Las Vegas. Among the railroads most notable owners and directors were Montana Senator William A. Clark, Utah U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns and R.C. Kerens of St. Louis. Las Vegas was part of Lincoln County until 1909 when it became part of the newly established Clark County. The St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church near 4th and Bridger in downtown was founded in 1910. Las Vegas became an incorporated city on March 16, 1911 and Peter Buol was the first mayor.
Las Vegas started as a stopover on the pioneer trails to the west, and became a popular railroad town in the early 1900s. It was a staging point for all the mines in the surrounding area, especially those around the town of Bullfrog, that shipped their goods out to the rest of the country. With the proliferation of the railroads, Las Vegas became less important but the completion of the nearby Hoover Dam in 1935 resulted in the growth of residents and tourism. The dam, located 30 miles southeast of the city, also formed Lake Mead, the U.S.'s largest man-made lake and reservoir. Today, tours are offered into lesser known parts of the dam. The legalization of gambling in 1931 led to the advent of the casino-hotels, for which Las Vegas is famous. Major development occurred in the 1940s. The success of the city's early casino businesses was owed to American organized crime. Most of the original large casinos were managed or at least funded under mob figures Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Meyer Lansky or other mob figures at this time.
With the arrival in the late 1960s of businessman Howard Hughes, who purchased many casino-hotels, as well as television and radio stations in the city, legitimate corporations began to purchase casino-hotels as well, and the mob was run out by the federal government over the next several years. The constant stream of tourist dollars from the hotels and casinos was also augmented by a new source of federal money. This money came from the establishment of what is now Nellis Air Force Base. The influx of military personnel and casino job-hunters helped start a land building boom which, as of today, has leveled off a bit.
The Las Vegas area remains one of the world's top entertainment destinations.
Geography & Climate
Las Vegas is situated on the arid desert floor within Clark County. The surrounding environment is dominated by desert vegetation and some wildlife, and the area is subject to torrential flash floods. Enabling the rapid population expansion was a major addition to the city's sewage treatment capacity. The sewage treatment expansion resulted from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant funding 2008 programs to analyze and forecast growth and environmental impacts through the year 2019.
The city is in an arid basin surrounded by dry mountains. City elevation is around 2,030 ft above sea level. The Spring Mountains lie to the west. Much of the landscape is rocky and dusty. Within the city, however, there are many lawns, trees and other greenery. Due to water resource issues, there is now a movement to encourage xeriscapes. Another part of the water conservation efforts include scheduled watering groups for watering residential landscaping. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 131.3 sq mi, of which 131.2 sq mi is land and .1 sq mi of it (0.04%) is water.
Snowfall is rare but possible as seen December 2008.Las Vegas' climate is an arid, desert climate, typical of the Mojave Desert in which it lies. The city enjoys abundant sunshine year-round and has an average of about 300 sunny days per year, with very little rainfall.
The summer months of June through September are very hot and mostly dry with average daytime highs of 94 °F - 104 °F and nighttime lows of 69 °F - 78 °F; and most days in July and August exceed 100 °F but with very low humidity, frequently under 10%.
Las Vegas' winters are of short duration and the season is generally mild, with daytime highs near 60 °F and nighttime lows around 40 °F. The mountains surrounding Las Vegas accumulate snow during the winter but snow is rare in the Las Vegas Valley itself. However, snow has fallen in the valley a few time. Temperatures can sometimes drop to freezing 32 °F but winter nighttime temperatures will rarely dip below 30 degrees.
Annual precipitation in Las Vegas is roughly 4.5 in, which mainly occurs during winter but is not uncommon anytime of the year.
Primary and secondary public education is provided by the Clark County School District (CCSD), which is the fifth most populous school district in the nation (projected enrollment for the 2007–2008 school year is 314,000 students in grades K–12).
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) is in Paradise, about three miles south of the city limits and roughly two miles east of the Strip. The University of Nevada Medical School has a campus near downtown Las Vegas. Several national colleges, including the University of Phoenix, have campuses in the Las Vegas area. Nevada State College and Touro University Nevada are both in nearby Henderson. The College of Southern Nevada has campuses in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. Henderson also is home to DeVry University and the Keller Graduate School of Management, as well as the University of Southern Nevada. Other private entities in the Las Vegas Valley include Apollo College, National University, ITT Technical Institute.
Las Vegas metropolitan area
On the first Friday of each month, the "First Friday" celebration is held which exhibits the works of local artists and musicians in a section of the city's Downtown region now called the "Arts District".
The Thursday prior to First Friday is known in the 18b Arts District as "Preview Thursday". This evening event highlights new gallery exhibitions just opening throughout the district.
The Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park, also known as the Las Vegas Zoo, exhibits over 150 species of animals and plants.
The $485 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts (currently under construction) will be located downtown in Symphony Park. The center will be appropriate for Broadway shows and other major touring attractions as well as orchestra, opera, and dance performances.
The city also hosts annual events like the Helldorado Days (Las Vegas).
Sports in Las Vegas
Las Vegas does not have major-league sports, although the metropolitan population is as large or larger than many cities that have them. The two main reasons are concern about legal sports betting and competition for the entertainment dollar, both of which Las Vegas has in abundance. The city currently has two minor league sports teams, baseball's Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League (the AAA farm club of the Toronto Blue Jays), and hockey's Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL (an affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes).
In the past, the city had teams in the Canadian Football League, the XFL, the WBL, and the Arena Football League. There is speculation that the completion of a new arena that had been expected to open in 2010 (and now has no projected opening date) would bring teams from the NBA and NHL. The city is reportedly on the short list of Major League Soccer for an expansion franchise in the near future. There have also been contacts between city officials and several Major League Baseball owners regarding relocation. The ownership of the Florida Marlins held a widely-publicized meeting with Mayor Oscar Goodman in the winter of 2004. The city was a strong candidate to be the new home of the Montreal Expos, who eventually became the Washington Nationals. It was reported that the guarantee of a new stadium built entirely with public funds swung the balance in Washington's favor. Major League Baseball held their 2008 winter meetings in Las Vegas.
High profile limited-duration sporting events have been successful. Las Vegas hosted the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series has drawn up to 165,000 fans. Las Vegas also hosts a significant number of professional fights, primarily boxing fights. Many of these fights (such as those in MMA's UFC) take place near downtown or on the Strip in one of the major resort/hotel/casino event centers. Mandalay Bay is frequently a top contender as a venue for the UFC. Las Vegas is often referred to as "The Mecca of boxing" title which it often shares with New York's Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, the amateur MMA league Tuff-N-Uff competes at The Orleans. The National Finals Rodeo has drawn thousands of fans to the city since 1985, and a contract extension was signed in 2005 keeping the event in Las Vegas through 2014. The NBA Summer League is currently held in the city, and the USA Olympic basketball team trained in the city in 2008.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas competes in NCAA Division I in men's and women's sports. UNLV is a member of the Mountain West Conference. The College of Southern Nevada also has an athletic program, with significant success in baseball at the community college level.
There are strong athletic programs at many Las Vegas high schools, with a number of players in several sports going on to major colleges and professional careers as athletes, including Andre Agassi, Greg Anthony, Marcus Banks, Steven Jackson, Ryan Ludwick, Greg Maddux, Frank Mir, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Reynolds.