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Neon sign collector plans to restore iconic Riviera sign

Riviera Pic 2 (KSNV)

The Riviera Hotel and Casino is coming down. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved a tentative deal Tuesday to implode the iconic property this Summer.

It's a big job that will cost 42 million dollars.

Before the demolition happens, Will Durham is making a special effort to preserve the hotel's history forever. He's a sign collector from Reno.

"I think it represents a Las Vegas that's gone. This is kind of the end of an era," said Will Durham.

Every sign tells a story. Perhaps nothing says vintage like Las Vegas like the Riviera's old-timey neon sign.

It's one that Will Durham of Reno will soon save and restore. Durham says the Neon Museum in downtown Las Vegas had first dibs on the iconic property.

They came and took a few signs and Durham wants what they left behind. "I've taken down signs from the Sahara before the SLS took over and the El Cholo Café," he explained.

Durham has collected dozens of neon signs. For him, it's nostalgia at its finest. "I just see it kind of as the last of a dying breed, you know? They're not going to build these things again," he said.

Durham said he eventually wants to open up his own version of the Neon Museum in Reno. Taking down the Riviera sign won't be easy. It will require a crane, a bucket truck and a crew of workers.

"This sign is pretty big. The R is over 16 feet tall!" said Durham. "We don't want to go through all that trouble to have it break on the way down," he continued.

While taking down the sign is a big job, it doesn't compare to the one that is being planned for this Summer.

The Riviera will be demolished. The first tower will be imploded in June. The second tower will come down in August.

That is the tentative plan. It still needs final approval from the board of directors of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. But for visitors like Matt Beverungen, it will be the end of the "old" Las Vegas era.

For Beverungen, the neon lights bring back memories of the old slot machines. He's been coming to Las Vegas since the 1980's.

"I remember coming in playing slot machines and getting buckets of coins, you hear the boing, boing, boing boing!" Beverungen explained.

"When you win a jackpot, and your hands get dirty. Nothing like that anymore," he continued.

But even as the lights outside the Riviera dim forever, the iconic casino sign will live on for generations to come.

"I took my daughter here this morning and we took pictures. I told her this will mean something to you some day," said Durham.

"She's five so she doesn't know what it means now," he continued.


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