School building will bear the name of gaming pioneer

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 7:09 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The names of those that built Reno’s casino industry in the second half of the last century--people like Bill Harrah, Pappy Smith, Charles Mapes--are now mostly missing from the downtown they once dominated and, sadly, the community at large.

Ernie Primm is no exception. Mention his name to long-time residents today and the first thing that comes up his battle with the city over what was known as the ‘Red Line,’ zoning that restricted casinos to the east side of Virginia Street.

It was a battle he eventually won and, planting his flag on the west side, he announced his presence and his club, the Primadonna, with more than a splash of neon. A brace of sixteen-foot-tall showgirls gazed down on the street below, promising entertainment within.

Eventually the Primm--as locals tended to call it--was sold to Del Webb. Today the showgirls are gone. The space that Primm pioneered is now Siri’s.

However, his name will soon appear on a very different type of building, a gymnasium on the growing campus of a private school above southwest Reno.

Sage Ridge School has been here for 22 years and today has a student body of more than 200 attending grades three through 12.

They’ve long had an athletic program and compete in a list of sports. The banners in their Great Room speak of years of success, but they’ve lacked one essential thing--a home court. The Great Room isn’t regulation size.

“We call it the ‘Great Space” rather than a gymnasium for a reason,” says the school’s head, Tobin Bechtel. “It’s because while we can have great assemblies and things, we’ve never been able to have a home-court game in this facility.”

“It’s awkward,” adds senior Nate Mulvaney. “We’ve had to have our home court at rival team’s home court.”

The Ernest Primm Student Activities Center will change that, giving the school’s students a place for PE, their team’s home turf for competition, and, says the president of the school’s Board of Directors Sallie Armstrong, a venue for all sorts of events.

“This will be the newest facility in the south of town. So it will allow us to provide our campus and our student activity center for others.”

No doubt Ernie Primm would likely be pleased.

“He would be extremely supportive of this,” says his grandson Cory Clementson, who volunteers as a coach. “I think, if he were alive today, he would be tremendously honored.”

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