The movers and shakers behind Rio Nuevo can learn a couple of lessons from Marty West.
1. Never underestimate a former fashion model.
2. Never underestimate the power of a seemingly outrageous idea.
West, a former model, is the force behind a music-themed amusement park planned for Eloy.
We’re talking the Doors, the Eagles, an Alice Cooper-themed roller coaster and, with luck, really, really big guitars.
We’re also talking big money – $750 million in bonds issued by a special tax district.
The Arizona House has passed a bill authorizing the bonds. A final vote from the Senate awaits, along with approval from Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Thus, in far less than the time it has taken Rio Nuevo to accomplish very little, the weird notion of a rock ‘n’ roll Disneyland in the middle of the Arizona desert has progressed from the back of a cocktail napkin nearly to the governor’s desk.
Maybe that’s the problem with Rio Nuevo. It’s too sensible. It’s not weird enough. The Tucson Origins project, for example, comprises a rebuilt Mission San Agustín, a children’s museum, a science center and an Arizona history museum.
Those are nice. But they’re so, so . . . educational. The public wants entertainment. It wants to be enthralled.
The city already has ditched proposals for a downtown aquarium, a rainbow bridge and a turtle-shaped arena.
Those suggestions may have been flawed, but, like Eloy’s theme park, they have what Rio Nuevo lacks: a crazy-enough-it-just-might-work quality. In other words, they rock.
Given how much remains to be done downtown, it’s still not too late for Rio Nuevo to rock.
How about this: a 400-foot sculpture of a saguaro cactus. Sheathed in pink neon. With a revolving restaurant on top.
Tasteful? No. Outrageous? We sure hope so. That’s what’s needed for Rio Nuevo to go beyond Rio Ordinary.