01/07/2005 1:00AM

Like the Energizer bunny, mayor keeps plugging away


Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has started the new year the way he ended it, by "Takin' Care of Business."

Anybody who watched the New Year's Eve celebrations in Las Vegas saw the charismatic mayor get up on stage at the Fremont Street Experience with Bachman-Turner Overdrive. At 20 minutes to midnight, BTO began playing their 1974 rock anthem "Takin' Care of Business" and there was Randy Bachman inviting the mayor on stage to sing with the band.

"Sing" may be a generous term because one of the few things Goodman can't do is sing. But the mayor gave it an energetic effort, which is something he does every day for the fastest growing city in America.

The first week of 2005 has seen Goodman taking center stage, as usual, to promote Las Vegas.

The city announced that it had contracted with The Related Cos. to build on a 61-acre parcel downtown, which is adjacent to the Plaza hotel and casino. The land could house a variety of projects, including a medical center for Alzheimer's research, a new city hall, a performing arts center, high-rise condominiums, a casino-hotel, but most importantly, a new state-of-the-art baseball stadium.

The Related Cos. has 60 days to develop a master plan for the site of the old Union Pacific railroad yard. The Related Cos. has a vested interest in downtown as it is building the World Market Center Furniture Mart west of the old railroad yard as well as a large downtown office building.

Goodman considers this a "major move" for Las Vegas and a key step toward attracting Major League baseball. A Dec. 13 Sports Illustrated article hailed Las Vegas as "the last frontier" for a pro sports league to place a team.

Goodman hinted that negotiations with a team to come here could really heat up over the next 30 days. The identity of the team is not known, but for cash-starved owners, whoever gets to Las Vegas first could reap a windfall.

Two magazines took a dim view of Las Vegas, which led to a typical Goodman response. The January issue of Men's Health had a report titled "Is Your City Stupid?" Of 101 U.S. cities surveyed, Las Vegas was graded "F" as the fourth stupidest city in America. Only Fort Wayne, Ind., and two Texas cities, Laredo and Corpus Christi, ranked dumber than Las Vegas.

"Maybe stupid's a good thing when you have low unemployment and everybody enjoys a high quality of life," said Goodman in the Las Vegas Sun, "Of course I would like everybody to have a college education."

Meanwhile, Men's Fitness magazine rated Las Vegas as the ninth-fattest city in America out of 50 cities surveyed.

To that, Goodman replied, "That's why I hired a personal trainer."

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.