Garth Brooks Sets the Stage for Healing After Las Vegas

There are some unifying, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list moments that help melt away the anxiety, sadness and fear of uncertain times and national tragedies.

Garth Brooks in Indianapolis

Garth Brooks performs in Indianapolis on Thursday night (Photo by Rebecca Patrick)

It might sound effusive, but being at the first Garth Brooks performance in Indianapolis on Thursday – his first in our city in 21 years – was one of those moments for me. And it certainly felt like the other thousands of attendees and even Brooks himself (who said on several occasions that he “needed this”) felt the same.

Without directly speaking of the largest mass shooting in American history, at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday where 58 were gunned down and over 500 were injured, the tragedy loomed large in the arena. Brooks and his wife, award-winning musician Trisha Yearwood (who joined him on stage on two separate occasions), both wore black shirts with “for Vegas” across the front. Both mentioned needing a cheering crowd and the chance to entertain people through music and laughter and fun.

It was heightened security outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse that served as our first, stark reminder that we were doing just what those other country music revelers were doing less than a week ago. There were armored vehicles and horseback mounted police out front, K-9 dogs both inside and out, many more officers than usual and long lines for security screenings.

Garth Brooks

Photo by Rebecca Patrick

Known for his goofy entertaining style, there was plenty of Garth Brooks just being Garth Brooks. He delighted the crowd with the “old stuff,” as well as his new single. And the end of the show was Brooks by himself on stage with an acoustic guitar, interacting with the crowd and taking song requests from poster board signs. It made a jam-packed arena of people feel like they were at an intimate show.

Brooks was also visibly emotional at times, during songs like “The River,” when the crowd turned on phone flashlights and filled the fieldhouse with sparkling lights. Or, near the end with “The Dance” and “Unanswered Prayers” and “New Way to Fly,” as the lyrics lend themselves to a beautiful and quiet introspection, particularly when everyone sings along.

Garth Brooks

Photo by Charlee Beasor

With five shows in four days in downtown Indianapolis, the economic impact of Brooks in town is tremendous. The show wrapped up just before midnight and there were plenty of hungry people spilling into nearby bars and restaurants. And Brooks notes publicly that adding shows when the original dates sell out quickly is his way of fighting back against ticket scalpers and bots. With tickets priced at $67, he ensures fans of all stripes can afford the chance to participate.

In the end, Brooks’ long-awaited return coupled with the horrifying events of Sunday still fresh in people’s minds turned this night into more than a concert. It served as an opportunity for Hoosiers to come together despite fear and sadness and disagreements over politics, sports or anything else. We sang and danced and screamed our hearts (and voices!) out, and Brooks was clearly grateful to be back on stage in Indianapolis to help him heal, too.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood perform together. (Photo by Rebecca Patrick)

If you’ve got tickets for his other shows, I hope the experience is similar for you. Tip: If you have a song you want to hear live, your best bet is to write it on a poster board and bring it along!

And we can’t forget football fans who also love country music. You might recall the last time Brooks played here. In March 1996, he wore a Colts’ Jim Harbaugh jersey and reminisced about the quarterback’s near miss at leading us to the Super Bowl. Now the football team intersects with Brooks again. The bronze statute for Colts legend Peyton Manning will be unveiled at 3 p.m. on Saturday – the same time Brooks is starting his third of five concerts.

Enjoy the shows!

Where Americans are Headed on Vacation This Fall

9809397Travel Leaders Group provides frequent updates on current trends through comprehensive surveys of its travel agents.

A few findings from the most recent outreach:

  • New York City is the most popular domestic destination for the remainder of 2015
  • Caribbean cruises lead the way internationally
  • For clients age 30 and under, the top reasons/destinations for travel are honeymoons, Caribbean and Mexico

Additional details from the survey:

“Based on actual bookings, New York made a remarkable leap over perennial top destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando. It is an incredibly vibrant, world-class city for leisure and business travelers alike. From the fall right through the holidays, it’s nothing short of spectacular,” states Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben. “In addition, the data we have collected indicates travel will continue to be strong for the remainder of the year, which is leading to incredible optimism among our travel agent specialists.”

Following New York, the top domestic destinations being booked were Orlando, Maui, Las Vegas, Alaska cruises (maybe some of these are for 2016 travel), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Internationally, following cruises are Cancun, London, European cruise, Rome, Paris, Mediterranean cruise, Dominican Republic, Florence and/or Tuscany (Italy) and Montego Bay (Jamaica).

Making the ‘Magic’ Happen in Vegas

cDear technology,
I love you. I love you not.

Technology often strikes me as more foe than friend, like when the Internet is down or an automated operator makes me jump through hoops as I try to pay a bill. Still, I can’t help but appreciate – and marvel at – the cutting-edge inventions that are changing life as we know it.

My jaw dropped more than once, for instance, while reading this Time story written during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a four-day technology extravaganza that wrapped up last week in Las Vegas.

Among the mind-boggling technology zooming our way: self-driving cars!

Audi pulled a stunt in which it got what it calls a “piloted car” (it shies away from “driverless”) from San Francisco to Vegas in time for the show. Mercedes CEO Dietrich Zetsche showed off a bullet-shaped autonomous concept car with a cabin that’s more like a living room than a car. Audi presented a smartwatch app that can signal your car to drive itself out of your garage and come pick you up.

And feast your eyes (or gums) on this gadget:

Some of the most fun stuff at CES is also the downright strangest. Oral-B’s Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush syncs up with a smartwatch app in an effort to help consumers brush better.

Sometimes, fact really is stranger than fiction.

VIDEO: Zappos CEO Speaks with Verge About Community Building

Our friends at Verge caught up with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas to discuss a project underway to revitalize its downtown. The effort illustrates how start-ups are now playing a major role in changing the landscape and culture in American cities.

Visit www.downtownproject.com to learn more.

Where We’re Heading (Travelwise) in 2014

As we prepare to close out 2013, what are the top travel trends for 2014? A report, based on actual booking data and travel agent survey, provides some answers.

Based on the findings, the single, hottest destination trend in travel is European river cruising – having landed in the Top 5 international destinations for the first time ever (it ranked 21st just three years ago).

The overall top domestic and international destinations for the coming year are Las Vegas and Caribbean cruises, respectively. This year’s survey results also reveal that 85.7% of agents indicate that 2014 bookings are on par or greater than this time one year ago and 94% of those surveyed state client spending will be the same or higher in the coming year.

“If Europe could find a way to create additional scenic rivers, the travel industry – and, in particular, our agents – would be sending even more clients on European river cruises. Demand is definitely outpacing supply even as major river cruise lines build more ships. The continued success of river cruising is just one of many positive stories heading into the New Year,” stated Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.

Here are a few lists to peruse:

“Up and coming” destinations by region:

  • Europe: Croatia (25.6%), Iceland (14.8%), Turkey (13.6%), Czech Republic (12.1%) and Portugal (12.0%).  Last year Iceland was fifth on this list with 9.9%. Delta Air Lines began serving Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik in 2013 and will resume service for summer 2014.
  • Pacific: New Zealand (30.1%), Tahiti (16.9%), Fiji (13.0%), Bora Bora (11.5%) and Australia – Queensland (5.9%).  It should be noted that if Australia wasn’t broken out by state, it would be second behind New Zealand with 18.1%.
  • Asia/Southeast Asia: Vietnam (38.0%), Burma/Myanmar (11.9%), Maldives (11.4%), Seychelles (8.6%) and Indonesia (7.4%). With Burma gradually opening to more visitors, including through river cruise options, it has increased substantially in popularity.
  • Central/South America: Peru (17.6%), Brazil (16.8%), Panama (16.3%), Ecuador and Galapagos Islands (16.0%), and Argentina (12.2%). Peru is increasingly on more “bucket lists” thanks to Machu Picchu, while Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Top Domestic Destinations

1. Las Vegas

2 Orlando, Florida

3. Maui

4. Alaska (cruise)

5. New York City

Top International Destinations

1. Cruise — Caribbean

2. Cancun, Mexico

3. Cruise — Europe (Mediterranean)

4. Rome

5. Cruise — Europe (river)

 

 

Nevada’s Luck Not Good Thus Far on Water Deal

Like many states, Indiana wrestles with water supply issues and a viable statewide plan is desperately needed. However, our situation is not nearly as dire as it is for Nevada. Stateline documents how a water pact between Nevada and Utah, which was mandated in 2004 and tentatively agreed to in 2009, has now washed down the drain as Utah's governor poured cold water on the deal (so many water puns).

Now Nevada — and the nation — must combat the challenges of having a major city and global tourist destination in the middle of the desert. As a poker enthusiast, Las Vegas has a special place in my heart and I truly hope an agreement can be reached to keep Southern Nevada from having to swim upstream on this issue (sorry). Stateline writes:

The states produced a plan by 2009, splitting the rights down the middle. Utah had already appropriated about 18 billion gallons, more than four times what Nevada had. Under the agreement, Nevada would have received another 12 billion gallons per year, with Utah getting 2 billion more.

Nevada quickly signed. But Herbert, a Republican, long put off his decision amid legal challenges and further study.

The pact would allow Nevada to send Snake Valley water to Las Vegas through a proposed pipeline that could also include straws to nearby communities.

Some 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water comes from Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam reservoir fed by the Colorado River. Studies have shown, however, the supply is shrinking by as much as 7 percent each year, exacerbated by recent severe drought.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has called the pipeline a safety net, only to be built if Lake Mead becomes dangerously low, which some water experts say could happen within a decade. But questions have arisen about whether the authority could finance the multi-billion project.

In Utah and parts of Nevada, the pipeline prospect has proved unpopular, spurring loud protests from a variety of groups, including environmentalists, Native American tribes, farmers and ranchers who worry the project would damage the communities and threaten their way of life.

“The project would create a massive dustbowl,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, which has opposed the pipeline and the pact.

The ultimate fear is that Snake Valley would face the same fate as California’s Owens Lake, which catastrophically dried up nearly a century ago when officials diverted its water source — the Owens River— to feed booming Los Angeles. Today, though some flow has returned, the vast salty area northeast of Los Angeles remains the largest single source of dust pollution in the U.S.

Last October, a trio of water attorneys advised Herbert that the agreement was the preferred option to a lengthy legal battle.

“The agreements, while not perfect, provide a framework to protect the interests of water users and citizens as a whole in each state and provide a process to address adverse impacts early on if detected to avoid significant harm to anyone,” the report said.

But on Wednesday, after visiting locals who would be impacted by a water transfer, Herbert announced he would not sign.

“There is no more complex and emotional issue with which I have grappled as governor of this great state,” he said. “I won't impose a solution on those most impacted that they themselves cannot support.”

Now, it’s Nevada’s move, but it’s unclear what it will do.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority said it was disappointed in Herbert’s decision. “In the coming days and weeks, we will evaluate our options to address this unprecedented action,” it said in a statement.

Nevada governor Brian Sandoval’s office referred questions to the state’s Division of Environmental Protection, which did not answer messages.

McCool, the water expert, said Las Vegas’ water crisis, along with the political and financial challenges of proposed projects to meet its needs, could spur Utah to sell some of its unallocated rights along the Colorado to Nevada. Or, further in the future, perhaps all seven states will rework the 91-year-old Colorado River Compact to give Nevada a bigger share.

Under the compact, Nevada only receives 4 percent of the allocations. That’s because no one in 1922 anticipated some 2 million people would eventually make their lives in the desert.

“The straw that breaks the camel’s back is going to be Las Vegas,” said McCool, who dubs this period in western water history “the big shakeout.”

“This is where we’ll figure out who has the political will and connections to get this thing done.”

Going for Gold: Chamber Staffer Reflects on Running Experiences

On Saturday, November 5, I’ll toe the line at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon for the second time, and compete in my 10th marathon overall.  Early on, we all have ambitions and set goals to accomplish in our lives. However, I assure you running 10 marathons wasn’t one of mine. So, how did my fondness of running 26.2 miles come about?  Going back to the spring of 2007, I was training to run my third Indianapolis Mini-Marathon. 

My wife, Andrea, and close friend, Jerod, encouraged me to attempt the “big one” – the marathon distance.  At the time, I was happy with running Indianapolis and some other Midwest half marathons. Yet, the allure of accomplishing the marathon and pushing myself to limits never previously reached was too good to resist.  So, in December of that year, I ran my first full marathon, and no better place than Las Vegas. 

Having been to Las Vegas a number of times before 2007 (OK, and a few times since then), the adrenaline of running on the famed Strip was very enticing. Thus, when I began my 26.2-mile journey, I had to make sure my energy levels weren’t spent after exiting the Strip as approximately 20 miles still remained. I was happy to finish the race in under four hours (3:56), telling myself repeatedly during those last five to six miles, “Hey, Brett, just a little further and you never have to do another marathon.” 

Well, those thoughts lasted only a short while, as I was hooked and already focused on my second one. In the nearly four years that have passed, destination-type races have been my focus: Las Vegas (two times); Chicago (four times); San Francisco (once) and even a couple local races with last year’s Indianapolis Monumental and this spring’s inaugural Carmel Marathon. Furthermore, I’ve seen the results of increased training and experience with the marathon distance, as a personal best was set this spring – 3 hours, 19 minutes, 24 seconds. My eyes are focused on other destination races, especially New York City and hopefully soon landing a qualifying spot in Boston.

For the vast majority of us, running any race will never be about finishing first or picking up the prize money.  Running marathons to me has always been about competition. That is, competition first and foremost with yourself, then the course and, finally, with other runners. No matter what goals you have, seeing progress is very rewarding. I’ve always thought of running and business as having many parallels. Set goals, pick the right strategy, discipline yourself and don’t cut corners and you will come out ahead. Most importantly, at the end of a hard day in the office or on the running course, you’ll come out a winner.

The November 5 Indianapolis Monumental event will include a marathon, half marathon and 5K. An estimated 12,000 participants are expected to take part.

Not All Aging is Created Equally

OK, it’s no secret that America is aging. But U.S. Census numbers reveal sharp differences in where younger populations are locating. Interesting numbers emerge from taking a close look at the recent Census counts.

Due to baby boomers “aging in place,” the population age 45 and over grew 18 times as fast as the population under age 45 between 2000 and 2010. All states and metropolitan areas are showing noticeable growth in their older and “advanced middle age” populations which, for the first time, comprise a majority of the nation’s voting-age population.

Although all parts of the nation are aging, there is a growing divide between areas that are experiencing gains or losses in their younger populations. In 28 of the 50 states, and 36 of the 100 largest metro areas, the population below age 45 declined from 2000 to 2010. Yet in 29 metro areas, including Las Vegas, Orlando, Houston, and Atlanta, the under-45 population grew by at least 10 percent over the decade.

Areas experiencing the fastest senior (age 65+) growth are located in the Sun Belt, while areas with the highest concentrations of seniors are located primarily in Florida, the Northeast, and the Midwest. Yet baby boom generation “pre-seniors,” now just turning 65, are growing rapidly in all areas of the country due to aging in place. College towns such as Austin, Raleigh, Provo, and Madison are among those where pre-seniors are growing fastest.

Suburbs are aging more rapidly than cities with higher growth rates for their age-45-and-above populations and larger shares of seniors. People age 45 and older represent 40 percent of suburban residents, compared to 35 percent of city residents.

Metropolitan suburbs differ sharply in the degree to which they are attracting young adults and children. The suburbs of 34 metropolitan areas, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, registered declines in their child and under-45 populations in the 2000s, leaving high concentrations of “advanced middle aged” and older residents. An even larger number of cities experienced losses in these younger populations. 

A Little Fun in the Sun … or On the Strip?

Though children might shriek “Disneyland” when asked where they want to go on vacation, the “adult play land” of Las Vegas is the top choice for travelers in 2011, according to results from Travel Leaders’ 2011 Travel Trends Survey.

Vegas earned the top ranking once again, following a dominance from 2003-2009. But the children aren’t far off in their desire for Mickey and Minnie Mouse as Orlando narrowly missed first place by 0.36%, with travelers choosing the bright lights of Vegas over the magical world of Disney. Orlando edged out Las Vegas as the top destination spot for 2010.

The survey, which was conducted from November 3-30 and used actual booking data and responses from Travel Leaders owners and agents, determined the top ten domestic destinations for 2011. The list also includes (in descending order): an Alaskan cruise; Honolulu and Kahului (Maui) – tied for fourth place; New York City; Washington D.C.; a Hawaiian cruise; San Francisco; and Chicago and Phoenix – tied for tenth place. International vacation destinations included spots like Cancun, Rome, London, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and several Mexican and Caribbean cruises.

Survey results also point to the fact that people are spending more on travel than they did last year, highlighting an optimistic outlook for 2011. The findings show that just over half of Travel Leaders clients will spend more this year on travel than they did in 2010, while about 38% will spend the same amount. That’s good news for the oft-struggling travel industry.

Let’s hear your top travel destinations for 2011: Will your children be successful at pestering you into taking them to Disneyland? Or, will what happens in Vegas, stay in Vegas?

Nevada Recovery Still a Crapshoot

A Las Vegas Sun columnist offers a look at why Nevada’s economy is still in turmoil as much of the country expects some recovery this year. The reasons are varied, and I’d advise reading the entire piece as it could prove interesting for the myriad Hoosiers who travel westward each year for the promise of a comped buffet.

Moody’s Economy.com recently plotted the 50 states on where they are on the path to recovery: 11 are in actual recovery and 38 are seeing the recession moderate. The one state remaining: Nevada, still considered to be in significant economic contraction, with no clear end in sight.

At this economic inflection point in which the rest of the country appears to be entering recovery — however tepid and uncertain — Nevada still lags far behind.

No doubt the 13.9 percent of Las Vegas residents officially unemployed — and the unknown number out of work so long they’ve quit looking — want to know why recovery is happening in other states but remains a distant mirage here.

Economists and local analysts say the reasons aren’t very complicated.

“Our economic growth was, frankly, unsustainable,” says Elliott Parker, an economist at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Primarily, our economy was too focused on building stuff — stuff no one wants or needs now.

As Jeremy Aguero of the economic research firm Applied Analysis notes, 12.5 percent of our workforce is in construction (or was, anyway), more than double the national average of 5.5 percent.

That was great when people were moving here and needed houses, stores and casinos, and when tourists were clamoring for more hotel rooms. But that’s all finished.