Reno/Sparks Metropolitan Area

Location:  The Reno/Sparks metropolitan area is located in southern Washoe County, Nevada on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at the intersection of Interstate 80 and U.S. 395 Freeway (Interstate 580 Freeway). The cities of Reno and Sparks are located in a large valley known as the Truckee Meadows. Washoe County is a long, narrow county (200+ miles long and 40+ miles wide) located in the northwest corner of the State of Nevada, extending from south of Reno/Sparks at its border with Carson City to its border with Oregon to the north. Washoe County contains a total of 6,905 square miles. The major population of Washoe County is concentrated in the Reno/Sparks metropolitan area, which includes various valleys north, south, and west of the Cities of Reno and Sparks.

Access:  Interstate 80 Interstate 80 is a limited access freeway extending from San Francisco, California, 231+ miles to the west of Reno/Sparks, to Salt Lake City, Utah, 530+ miles to the east, then continuing on to other eastern points in the United States. Interstate 80 traverses Reno in an east-west direction, just north of the heart of the downtown district and continues through Sparks, through its central downtown area.

U.S. 395 U.S. 395 is a north-south highway running from Southern California continuing through Reno to points in Northern California. Through the City of Reno, U.S. 395 Business (Virginia Street) is the main north-south thoroughfare traversing the city and running directly through the downtown casino core. U.S. 395 Freeway begins at State Route 431 (Mount Rose Highway) on the south end of the City of Reno and runs north through the city where it intersects with U.S. 395 Business (Virginia Street) north of the city at Stead. Portions of the U.S. 395 Highway have been duel-named to U.S. 395/Interstate 580, with both terms having interchangeability in various maps and reference materials.

Climate/Weather:  The Reno/Sparks area is at an elevation of approximately 4,500' and enjoys a semi-arid desert climate. The climate is considered moderate with an average annual high temperature of 67 F and an average annual low temperature of 32+. The average annual precipitation is 7.49 inches, including an average of 32.3 inches of snowfall annually on the valley floor. The Sierra-Nevada Mountains to the west of the Reno/Sparks area experience much harsher weather conditions, especially during winter months with an average snowfall of 217 inches annually. The area averages over 300 days of sunshine annually.

Winter Weather During the winter months, the area experiences considerable air pollution as a result of temperature inversions. The Washoe County Health Department has initiated programs to reduce this pollution including tough emission standards for wood burning stoves and allows enforcement of non-burning restrictions during severe inversions. Oxygenated motor fuel additives have been required in recent years during winter months to help reduce pollution through auto emissions and annual smog checks are required for all motor vehicles registered in the Reno/Sparks metropolitan areas.

Employment:  Gaming/Recreation The largest segment of total employment is represented by the service industries, which includes hotels, gaming and recreation. A large number of the population is employed in the retail and wholesale trade industries, and government is the third largest employer. These three categories account for 63.7% of total nonagricultural employment.  Other employment opportunities are available in transportation, manufacturing, construction, mining, public utilities, real estate and finance.  Major Companies In an effort to reduce the area's dependence on the gaming and tourist industry, the Reno-Sparks area has been attracting major companies to relocate in the area.  Major companies relocating to the Reno-Sparks area include Porsche Cars of North America, R.R. Donnely and Sons, Sherwin Williams, and Lockheed Corporation.  Major facilities are operated by companies such as the West Coast distribution center facility of K-Mart and J.C. Penney Catalog Distribution Center, each of which occupy over 1.5 million square feet. The Reno-Sparks area is a regional and national center for over 350 national corporations. 

Taxation:  Freeport Law Nevada has a freeport law which exempts from taxation merchandise that is warehoused, assembled, or processed in the state. During the past few years, many new firms have relocated to the Reno/Sparks area to take advantage of Nevada's freeport law.  Nevada is noted for its favorable tax environment. Non-prepared food for human consumption is excluded from taxation. Prepared foods, such as those served in restaurants are currently taxed at 7% in outlying areas and 7.25% in Washoe and Clark Counties.  The State of Nevada has no income or business franchise tax, making it one of the more desirable locations based on state and county tax criteria. It is particularly attractive to senior citizens.

Real Estate Taxes:  Under Nevada State law, real property is assessed at 35 percent of its taxable value as estimated by the assessor. The taxable value is determined by a combination of the market value of the land, based on its present utilization, plus the depreciated cost of improvements. Real estate taxes in the Reno/Sparks area typically range from 3 to 4% of each $100 of assessed value.

TourismTourism is the major industry in the Reno/Sparks area, contributing 63% to the overall economy of the area. Over the past five years, Washoe County has generated approximately 20% of the State's total gross gaming revenue.  The convention business is an important economic factor in the Reno-Sparks area. The Reno/Sparks Convention Center provides 162,000+ square feet of exhibit space and permanent seating for 6,000. The center also houses 29 meeting rooms and 11 smaller conference rooms. Most hotel/casinos in the area have significant convention space

Utilities:  Water The primary source of water for Washoe County is the Truckee River which flows from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. The Truckee River traverses the cities of Reno and Sparks, through downtown Reno and south of downtown Sparks. Underground water and wells provide additional water for the area. Westpac, a division of Sierra Pacific Power Company, provides water service to the Truckee Meadows.  Approximately 108,968 acre-feet of water rights or leased surface rights are owned by Westpac. According to Westpac, current service requirements demand 61,068 acre-feet of water. Westpac has been negotiating with the Paiute Indian Tribe for storage of 39,500 acre-feet of water in upstream reservoirs for drought year use.    Telephone service in the Reno/Sparks and outlying areas is provided by Nevada Bell. Electric power and natural gas are provided by Sierra Pacific Power Company.  The joint Reno-Sparks sewer treatment plant provides sewer service to the area. Washoe County has just completed a 6 MGD capacity plant to service the South Truckee Meadows area.

Schools:  Public/Private Schools The Washoe County School District operates 9 high schools, 9 middle schools, 48 elementary schools, and a special education facility. There are approximately 11 private and parochial schools in the Truckee Meadows, including Bishop Manogue High School.

Higher Education:  The Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada, Reno, provide higher education for the Reno-Sparks area. The Truckee Meadows Community College was founded in 1971 and has had enrollment between 9,000 and 10,000 students over the past four years. In addition to the courses offered at its main campus, it also offers numerous extension courses throughout the community. Other higher education facilities include the National Judicial College and Morrison Business College.  University of Nevada-Reno The University of Nevada, Reno, is a fully accredited institution which was established in 1874. The campus is located just north of downtown Reno and had an enrollment of approximately 8,071 full and part-time students in 1990, and has since increased to between 10,000 and 12,000 over past years.  Baccalaureate degrees are offered in 72 fields, master's degrees in 62 fields, and doctorate degrees in 21 fields. A four-year medical school is located on campus.

Hospitals:  The Reno-Sparks area presently has four general hospitals; Washoe Medical Center, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, Northern Nevada Medical Center, the Veteran's Administration Hospital, two specialized care hospitals and nine nursing homes. These hospitals have provided excellent medical care in the past and it is expected they will do so in the future.

Churches:  The area has approximately 127 churches of all denominations. In addition, there are numerous civic and cultural groups including a municipal band, philharmonic orchestra, and theater groups.

Shopping Facilities:  The Reno-Sparks area has numerous shopping centers, including two large regional centers, Meadowood Mall and Park Lane Mall. Meadowood Mall includes Macy's, J.C. Penneys, and Sears as its major anchor tenants and houses over 90 shops. In the fall of 1995, Sears left Park Lane Mall to open a new store at Meadowood Mall. Taking over the space once occupied by Sears at Park Lane Mall was a Gottschalks store, which opened in the spring of 1996. Park Lane Mall's two other major anchor tenant closed in 1996 and 1997. These were Weinstocks and Woolworth's. There has been no announcement of any new store taking over the space vacated by Woolworth's. The space once occupied by Weinstocks was recently demolished and a new 16-screen Century Theater was built just to the east. New neighborhood shopping centers are continuing to be built as residential areas continue to expand.

Parks/Recreation:  There are over 71 public parks within the Truckee Meadows area covering approximately 3,500 acres. The largest park is Rancho San Rafael, a 400+ acre park located in northwest Reno. There are eleven public and private golf courses located in the Truckee Meadows area.  The Cities of Reno and Sparks offer numerous recreational opportunities, including playgrounds, 12 swimming pools, picnic areas, camp sites, sports fields, tennis courts, and 11 theater complexes. Two new theaters were recently built in the Truckee Meadows. The Sparks 14 Theaters in downtown Sparks is the anchor for a new development known as "Victorian Square". Also, as previous mentioned, a 16-screen movie theater recently opened at Park Lane Mall.  The area surrounding Reno-Sparks has numerous outdoor recreational opportunities including fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and skiing.  The Lake Tahoe Basin, located within a 35 to 45 minute drive from Reno and Sparks has the greatest concentration of skiing facilities in North America. In the summer, the lake is a popular area for tourists for fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities. In addition to Lake Tahoe, there are several other lakes and streams located in close proximity to the Reno-Sparks area.  Lawlor Events Center The Lawlor Events Center, located on the University of Nevada Reno campus is used for events ranging from rock concerts to basketball. The main arena will seat 12,400 and the center has several meeting rooms that will accommodate from 25 to 1,000 people.

Annual Events:  Some of the events attractive to tourists are Hot August Nights, the Reno Air Races, Reno Rodeo, Nugget Rib Cook-off, and the Hot Air Balloon Races. Each of these events attract a large number of tourists to the area contributing to the overall economy.

Media:  There are five television stations affiliated with major networks and a public television station. There is a wide range of radio stations providing a variety of radio broadcasting. TCI Cablevision provides 60+ channel service to the Reno/Sparks metropolitan areas.

Government:  Each the Cities of Reno and Sparks are governed by a mayor and city council, all elected by popular vote. Both cities have city managers who are responsible for day to day management. Both Reno and Sparks have their own planning departments and each local government has final jurisdiction in any new developments or zoning changes within their respective cities. In addition, a Regional Planning Commission has developed a master plan for any future growth in the City of Reno as well as the unincorporated areas surrounding Reno and Sparks.

Police/Fire Protection:  Law enforcement in the area is provided by the City of Reno Police Department, City of Sparks Police Department, and the Washoe County Sheriff's Department. Fire protection is provided by the Cities of Reno and Sparks Fire Departments and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.

Summary:  The Reno-Sparks area, with its mild climate, favorable tax structure, many recreational facilities, and outdoor sports facilities, is anticipated to experience a future strong, stable economy. Population growth is expected to continue with construction proceeding at a slower pace than in the past. The availability of water and sewer capacity is a moderating factor in the construction of new homes, multi-residential developments, and related commercial facilities.