So, Why Las Vegas?
Why Not Las Vegas?
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019 -- So, why Vegas?

It's a question I've been asked more times than a blackjack dealer at Mirage hitting a 21 while you sit cocky and comfortable with a couple of kings.

My wife, Andi, and I knew we would head West when the curtain finally came down on my career. We were in Birmingham, Alabama, when I finished my 20th year as the president and chief executive of Medjet, the medical assistance transport program. Birmingham is a wonderful place, but it's not family.

We knew we would head closer to both of our sons who live in Los Angeles. We also knew California wasn't for us. A quadruple pox of traffic, cost of living, taxes and the dreaded Dodgers would send us elsewhere. We poked around a little bit in Palm Springs and Arizona but really found what we were looking for in the Nevada desert.

"Anything in the world we want do to is in Las Vegas," Andi said during one of our multiple house-hunting and neighborhood trips. "And," she added, "if we want to do nothing, it's here, too."

Was she ever right. (That's something she encourages me to say often.) We just finished our first year as Nevada residents and don't second-guess for a minute our retirement decision.

The Strip, always crowded and electric, doesn't define Las Vegas any more than Times Squares is all New York has to offer or Piccadilly Circus exemplifies London. Away from the bright lights, Las Vegas is a community. We have the same problems any city our size has, but Las Vegas is cohesive and caring.

The population of Las Vegas metro is more than two million and grows daily. Add another hundred thousand visitors passing through each week for holiday and conventions. Yet the Vegas infrastructure, including McCarran International Airport, can support the population and visitor boom. Californians by the thousands relocate here to get away from insane living expenses.

We looked for about three years before deciding on Summerlin, about 18 miles northwest of McCarran and 10 miles west of Bellagio and the Strip. It is one of two major bedroom communities in the valley. The other one is Henderson, southeast of the airport. Both are rich in parks, golf courses, retail and dining. Both are extremely clean and friendly places to settle.

Still partly within the city limits of Las Vegas, Summerlin is the gateway to stunning Red Rock Canyon, a photogenic nature, trail-riding and hiking paradise. It's a Howard Hughes master-planned community of about 125,000 people named after his maternal grandmother. (Keep that tidbit in your final Jeopardy! treasure chest.)

Andi's "anything we want to do" includes running down to the Strip a couple of times a month to see Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Bruno Mars, James Taylor, Elton John and ZZ Top. ZZ Top was the best for no other reason than their show started at 7:30pm and, bless them, they were done at 9:15. Twenty-five minutes later we were home in bed, as I assume they were. (Two of the three ZZs are septuagenarians now.) Still on the calendar over the next couple of weeks: Willie Nelson, Lady Gaga, John Fogerty and Journey. Willie is 86, so the over/under on the time his show ends is 8:55pm. I'm all over the under.

Absinthe at Caesars Palace is a must-see show when you come to town. We've laughed with Sebastian Maniscalco, Adam Sandler and even Rich Little. (He's 80!) Not so much Piff the Magic Dragon. We grooved to a 60s show for my generation and an 80s show for Andi's. We are season subscribers to the Broadway series at the gorgeous Smith Center. It's a terrific performing arts theater in downtown Las Vegas and, unless you live here, you'd never know it exists.

It took us a little bit to figure out we didn't have to do everything or we'd be exhausted and bust in no time. Now we pick and choose our spots--who we want to see and where and when to dine. Gambling in a casino holds no appeal.

Dining is 24 hours, of course, and runs the gamut. Every celebrity chef you can name is here. So are a bunch of others who want to be celebrities. It's not cheap, so bring plenty of cash. However, if budget dining is your thing, you can still grab that $5.99 eggs-and-steak-as-tough-as-Kellyanne-Conway special at three in the morning on the corner of Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard.

While Vegas was always an entertainment and dining hot spot, it is becoming a sports mecca, too.

The National Hockey League came here two years ago with the Golden Knights. The skeptics said hockey would never work in the desert. Now it's a love affair between the city and the team. Good luck getting one of the 17,000 tickets to a home game. In fact, preseason games, with standing room, draw more than 18,000 fans at three-year-old T-Mobile Arena, neatly tucked in behind New York-New York and Excalibur.

A $2-billion, 65,000-seat football stadium is being finished on the south end of the Strip. The Oakland, err, Las Vegas, Raiders move in next season. The stadium's naming rights went to hometown Allegiant Air, headquartered right here in Summerlin. The town is already in a frenzy counting down the days. The UNLV football program will share the new stadium with the Raiders. College football playoffs and the Super Bowl will surely follow at Allegiant Stadium.

A brand new 10,000-seat baseball stadium opened about two miles from our driveway for Oakland's AAA team. With 9,300 fans a game, the Aviators led the minor leagues in attendance and just missed outdrawing the Miami Marlins, the perennial doormat of the majors.

It won't be too long before the National Basketball Association comes to town. The NBA's summer league already plays at the Thomas & Mack Arena, home stadium of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. The WNBA Las Vegas Aces are already playing at Mandalay Bay Events Center. The UFC is headquartered here, the PGA was in Summerlin this summer and there's nothing like a heavyweight championship boxing match. The next one is slated for November 23.

The weather, most of the year, is delightful. You may not be able to play golf or tennis everyday but you can play every week. Some winter days get refreshingly cold. The summer is more than tolerable. Trust me, 105 in the desert is far better than the 90s in the deep South with matching humidity.

We were told, and soon found out, that our home would be a popular guest destination. Over the last year, our extra bedrooms worked overtime. A wide array of relatives, friends and some who we hardly knew have passed through our front door. It's been fun.

One year of retirement is in the books and no complaints. Okay, maybe just one: Bruno Mars started his show at 9pm. Who can stay awake that late?

So, the next time someone asks me, "Why Las Vegas?" my answer will be "Why not?" -- Roy Berger

ABOUT ROY BERGER
Roy Berger writes the twice-monthly Sunday Morning Coffee blog, which covers life, love, politics and sports. He most recently wrote for JoeSentMe about travel insurance and baseball fantasy camps.