The lion is still with us; you just can’t see him.
Last month, a construction crew surrounded New Town’s lion fountain statue with a small wooden building, complete with a pitched roof.
This was done after a study found that the statue in Lion’s Park was in poor condition. Officials feared that cold weather would further damage it.
The lion statue, which is at Lincoln and Grand avenues, has taken a beating over the years, its tail broken off and upper lip removed. Graffiti partially covers it.
MainStreet Las Vegas, a downtown redevelopment group, got a grant from the state Historic Preservation Division for an assessment of the statue. That study resulted in cost estimates for repairs anywhere from $18,000 to $150,000, depending on what officials decide to do.
The study recommended the disassembly and transportation of the statue to a storage building, conservation of the statue and its placement indoors, and a replacement statue outside with more durable materials.
The study also suggested an immediate weather-tight structure. That part was handled by Iron Horse Contracting, which donated its services.
MainStreet says it wants to raise funds for the statue’s restoration. It plans to issue a call to artists to present a conceptual design of their rendition of a painting on the temporary structure of the lion behind bars, with a sign saying, “Free the lion!”
“We want the lion to be the welcoming statue to our city on Grand Avenue,” said MainStreet’s executive director, Cindy Collins.
Lion’s Park started out as an open patch of ground where wagons parked, according to a history published by Chris Wilson in 1982.
In 1896, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union employed a local stonemason, Angelo de Tullio, to design and sculpt a fountain for the park, the account says.
“They hoped to offer an alternative watering hole to the neighboring saloons. De Tullio’s fountain is dominated by an angelic-looking lion,” the history states.
For more information on the fundraising efforts, call Collins of MainStreet at 425-2606.