The City

How far will a city go to shed its reputation?

An investigative podcast from USA TODAY.

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Season 2

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There’s a battle over aging strip clubs in Reno, Nevada, as the city transforms into an offshoot of Silicon Valley. More than a fight over lap dances, this is a proxy battle for the city’s future. Season 2 premieres Oct. 29.

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Robin Amer: You may think you know Reno. As the butt of a joke, right? 

It’s been mocked by late-night comedians. It’s been parodied by Reno 911. 

It even had a cringe-worthy cameo in The Muppets movie a few years back. You know it’s pretty bad when puppets start taking shots at you.

And yet, over the years, this casino town at the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains has survived—and even thrived—by embracing vice as a powerful economic engine.

But Las Vegas eventually cornered the market on adult fun. And Reno’s fortunes slowly faded.

That is, until now.

Reno has caught the attention of Silicon Valley. Tesla, Amazon, Apple—they’re all building factories or warehouses there. And now, some of the city’s most powerful people are looking to cash in.

But there’s something standing in their way, something you might not expect. Something that’s just so Reno.

DJ: Yeah, you gotta get that ass over here! All the girls, come and get your spanking! Don’t be shy!

Robin Amer: An aging strip club—one that happens to be sitting on some of Reno’s most sought-after real estate. See, the club is a symbol of Old Reno, and a lot of city boosters want to kick it out of downtown to make way for a new Reno.

Mike Kazmierski: Because I think it's an embarrassment to our community and it's something that I believe we should have done something about a long time ago. They should not be defining us. 

Robin Amer: But the strip clubs are fighting back.

Mark Thierman: Fuck 'em! They want to see what war is, we’ll show 'em what war is. 

Robin Amer: Battles like this one in Reno, to reshape the city's image and redevelop its downtown, are happening in cities around the country—any city where powerful people court big tech in the name of progress.

On Season 2 of The City, we tell the story of the battle for Reno’s future.

We’ll embed inside the strip clubs.

Tawny: Every table is full, standing room only, all five stages going, and you have money and you can make it all night long.

Robin Amer: And take you inside Tesla, a company driving the change that’s at the root of this fight.

Dispatcher: [Phone ringing] 911, what's the address of your emergency?

Caller: The Tesla Gigafactory at 1 Electric Avenue.

Robin Amer: We’ll meet the people ready for a “New Reno.”

Abbi Whitaker: I appreciate Old Reno, but I also am going to fight tooth and nail for this town to move into the future.

Robin Amer: The people fighting to protect the empire they’ve built out of Old Reno.

Kamy Keshmiri: They wanna make me look like the bad guy. Who’s the bad guy? I didn’t start this war.

Robin Amer: And the people caught in the middle.

Velma Shoals: This has been a home for my granddaughter since elementary school. We don't want that taken from us. Please don't take that from us.

Stephanie: I didn't do anything wrong. And I'm just like, it sucks that they had to use me, like, as a pawn. Like, that's not right. Like, you're ruining people's lives. 

Robin Amer: I’m Robin Amer, and from USA TODAY, this is The City, Season 2: Reno. Show drops October 29. Subscribe now for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.