Sun Cities Today Blog

Welcome to the communities that changed a nation!

Archive for the month “September, 2010”

Beauty Truly Is…

Why is it some of the old adages are timeless? Take for example: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Nothing complicated there, just a statement that so often rings true, that reverberates our sentiments time and time again. Classic simplicity reflected through our on eyes based on what we see right in front of us. We could get all heady and contemplate the term beauty, but why would we?

I know, what the heck is he babbling about now? Let me try to clear it up: Every time i walk into the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum i am struck by its “beauty.” Huh? For those of you who haven’t been here, it started out as an 860 sq foot home opened on January 1, 1960. It was on a golf course lot, and had a patio, but let’s face it, by today’s standards, it’s a small outdated piece of nostalgia that many would find insignificant. Heck, some of the newer age restricted communities have master suites with opulent bathrooms and walk in closets that are bigger than this first model home.

I visited them and was drooling over how gorgeous they were and then moved on to something making much more sense. Honestly, what the heck would anyone do with a 300 sq ft bathroom and a 200 sq ft closet? Besides, the charm of the Museum is captivating. Think about this; these five Sun City model homes, the front nine holes of the golf course and a recreation center changed a nation. With its pink bathroom, pink kitchen and a “new active way to live” seniors found themselves looking at retirement wholly different.

It transformed them from a sedentary state of being to non stop motion. The concept of enjoying those final years was so intriguing they picked up and moved away from family and friends and began a whole new chapter in a book that all too often was frayed and set aside. While the youngsters were becoming hippies and dropping out, those seniors with a sense of adventure did the same, only in a completely different way.

That to me is beauty. The original Sun City way of life is beautiful. These 27,000 “old” homes have an elegance and a grace that is lost on way too many boomers. We’re not glamorous or glitzy, we’re practical, affordable and unique. While others are selling good things, Sun City and Sun City West offer great things done right. Our simplicity set the standard and while others have glamm’ed it up, our’s still works better than any other. We are beauty personified…of course, that is as seen through the eyes of this beholder.

If you want to know why, just ask.

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Vegas

Let’s start with a confession of sorts; my wife and i love to gamble. My folks were of the same ilk, and they dragged us off to Sin City years ago and corrupted us on the evils of playing the one-armed bandits. I know, a losing proposition if there ever was one, but getting away from the toils of the job was always a treat. Now that we are retired, we don’t find we need our “fix” anywhere near as often, but we still enjoy brief getaways to Vegas.

Before we head down that road, let’s weave a bit of history into this post. Del Webb helped build Las Vegas. In 1946 after the contractor working on the Flamingo went broke, Webb came in and completed the job. It was the first hotel and casino of its kind and was owned by the mob under the watchful eye of Bugsy Segal. Webb said of him he was great because he paid in cash and he paid on time. Del was concerned because of those ties and when he questioned Bugsy if he should be worried, the mobster quipped; “don’t worry, we only shoot each other.” Months later Bugsy was shot and killed in his girl friend’s house in Beverly Hills.

Webb left Vegas after that, only to return in the early 50’s enticed by J Edgar Hoover. Both the Feds and the State of Nevada were hoping reputable businessmen would bring credibility to the town and their image. Del did just that and encouraged his golfing buddy Howard Hughes to follow along. His first venture into ownership came when he bought the “Bingo Club.” Rather than close it down, he simply built the Sahara Hotel and Casino around it. Shortly after that he bought the Mint Casino and the Thunderbird; hence the Webb Corporation began their very profitable gambling division. While he didn’t own them, he built Ceasar’s Palace, Las Vegas Hilton, Alladin and the Rivera Hotel and Casino. An impressive list to say the least.

But back to our story: There was a point in time where my wife and i considered Vegas as a serious retirement option. I played lots of racquetball at the old Sporting House behind the Stardust and got to know the guys (as a footnote, it was sold off a few years back and became one of the largest strip clubs in the world). We visited the Webb Sun City Summerlin property and were duly impressed. Beautiful grounds, gorgeous homes and very nicely put together amenities. Problem was it was a tad pricey, though within reach if we wanted to live there.

Thank goodness, common sense took over; as a compulsive addictive personality type, Las Vegas isn’t a smart choice for me. By the year 2000, Vegas was making dramatic changes. The strip was getting crazd with new themed hotel openings that seemed like they were occuring every other day, and traffic getting worse by the minute. We started looking more seriously at the original Sun City and it became an easy choice once we knew better what it was all about and how it worked.

This past week we drove to the gambling mecca of Las Vegas to spend a few days with friends. They were staying on the strip at the Venetian and we joined them. It is a fabulous hotel (though very oddly laid out). I’ll spare you the trials and tribulations of my slot play and simply say the Venetian gave us tickets to Phantom of the Opera and it was the highlight of the trip. We’ve seen it several times and this one was the best from a theatrical point of view. The theatre was spectacular and of course the musical score is brilliant.

The hotel is right under the new tram with riders getting on and off non stop. The hotel is attached to the old Sands convention center and it was a constant destination for thousands. From early morning till late night, people were rushing about like the old proverbial chickens. After a couple of days there, we found ourselves longing for the quiet solitude found in the slower paced Sun City. Odd how we even began celebrating our good choice of not making Las Vegas our retirement home when we pulled the plug. I know tons of folks do retire there, we were just glad we weren’t amongst them.

Driving home we did note the new bridge over the Hoover Dam is very near completion and will make the trip even easier. We heard it may be opening as soon as this November, and it is awesome to look at so i imagine driving over it will be ever better. That said, as we drove over Bell Road and turned onto Del Webb Blvd, we could feel our blood pressure drop, our heart rates slow and a glow spread across our faces. We were home; a place with a slower pace and where we are just plain comfortable.

We’ll still take that occasional trip to Vegas, but the best part will always be returning to our place in the sun, the original Sun City.

Picture Perfect

Tranquil, quaint, blissful; the picture above simply conjures up feelings of a serenity long sought after. Imagine our surprise when we came across this photo stuck in our files with no notations or dates. The three of us working that morning were all struck by the simplistic lines and the shot of a couple enjoying a romantic moment felt it absolutely must be shared.

The picture captured Sun City living; how easy it was/is to fall in love with the community (and each other) and the lifestyle we enjoy. From our earliest beginnings, we have found a constant theme in the stories, pictures and oral histories in our Museum; the new way of life they discovered was a blessing to be savored. Amazing when you consider retirement pre Sun City was spent in the rocking chair waiting for the sun to finally set.

I would have loved to have been here opening day and in those years that followed; to watch people travel to the middle of the desert with expectations far different from what they found. There has been a connotation of what Sun City was from the very beginning and it still exists today…old people stuffed between the walls, living a crabby tired existence waiting to die. The perception is so far removed from reality it is frightening.

Therein lies Sun City’s biggest problem…how do we get past the perception and get people to see it first hand, face to face. What we know from John Meeker’s journal is once people came, they bought. The vacation special (stay and play) accounted for more than 50% of the 27,000 homes sold from 1960-1978. That is a staggering number, and the story is so simplistic, it begs repeating. Run the stay and play package again and watch as potential buyers flock to Sun City and fall in love all over again.

Sun City and Sun City West are unique. We were forged from a different cloth than the newer age restricted communities of today. We understand we won’t appeal to everyone, we also know that for many seniors and even a good percentage of boomers, what we have here is exactly what they are looking for: A quieter, simpler way of life. One filled with both days of play and of being able to give back to their community, to help shape it as they grow into their golden years. Best of all, a place to fall in love all over again!

The Greatest Game Ever Played

So let’s start with a question for all you golfing fans: Who starred in in the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played? No fair rushing to Google, off the top of your head please. Toughie eh? So let’s ease up a bit: Who can name 4 of the 5 stars from Caddyshack off the top of their head? If you can’t, i’ll list then at the end of this post.

There’s no question, Sun City was built as a golfing community. It’s 7 miles long, 3 miles wide and there are 11 golf courses within the walls. 8 were “sold” by DEVCO to the Rec Centers of Sun City (RCSC) while 3 are private country clubs. Golf was a way of life here with courses getting heavy play in all but the summer months when the heat insured only the toughest skinned residents ventured forth.

DEVCO used both the courses and rec centers to sell homes. New models went up every two years or so and for many of the openings there was a nearby golf course being showcased. Of course the homes on the golf course brought a premium and to this day they still fetch nearly $25,000 more for a similar home not enjoying the green space out their back window. In 1960, a home backing up to a golf course was an additional $1250.

I’ve written often regarding Sun City’s long and storied past. The love affair has been a constant in our 50 year’s of success. The variety of reasons residents have loved the community are staggering, but perhaps none is more prominent than golf. Who wouldn’t want to live in a setting where you can go out to your garage, strap the golf clubs in and be to any one of 8 golf courses in 10 or 15 minutes? Or to live where your best friends gather and share war stories while riding down lush green fairways and gorgeous weather almost year round? Or, if you are a real fanatic and want to play 2 or 3 rounds everyday, you can do so for as little as $1450 a year.

Golf has been Sun City’s bread and butter. The buzz word here is “has been.” All of us hope some day the economy returns (probably not until Dan Quail’s interesting [now i’m being nice] son is in the White House), but let’s all hope it is well before then. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be any time soon as golf is a game that takes both time and money. This recession has put a strain on the game like never in our past. This site pretty well spells out the problems for both golf and private club membership. Suffice to say, it is very bleak on the horizon.

This stat is perhaps the most telling: “Courses with 4,000 golfers for every 18-hole course within a 10-mile radius are more likely to be enjoying financial stability.”. In Sun City we average less than 1000 golfers for each of our 8 courses. Pretty simple to see the immediate problem…too many golf courses for too few players. The good news is there is a subsidy by the residents for the golf courses (and there should be in my humble opinion), os it’s not as dire a situation as some might think. You can read the rest of the article on Public Play here.

Golf in all likelihood will always play a major role in helping sell the community. Webb’s vision was for a “new active way of life,” and in the 60’s and 70’s it was the game of choice for most. The reality is with less time, less money and more options, Sun City residents are looking at those less expensive, less time-consuming endeavors and that is a problem we can’t afford to ignore. There’s no easy, but there are always answers for those willing to be open-minded and look to find them.

And speaking of easy answers, what were the names of the stars of Caddyshack? Click here. Amazing when you think about it; this movie was made 2 years after Sun City was built out.

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