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Chris Jones

Nevada Bets on Reality TV

8 December 2004

NEVADA -- Hoping to emulate The Donald's success with "The Apprentice" while avoiding the critical backlash that was "The Casino," proponents of outdoor adventures in Nevada's backcountry will soon take their message to the masses using a first-of-its-kind reality television program. The Nevada Commission on Tourism on Tuesday said it is in the early stages of developing "The Nevada Passage," a 60-minute, made-for-television program that will pit teams of amateur athletes against each other in a variety of competitions held throughout the state.

The commission expects the $250,000 program will be syndicated in more than 80 television markets, giving an audience of approximately 2 million viewers a new perspective on how to have fun in Nevada.

"Through this competition, viewers will be able to see the beautiful outback of Nevada. It's just the kind of exposure we want," Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, who is also commission chairwoman, said in introducing the show at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism at the Reno Hilton.

The show's first segment, which features a rock-climbing competition, will be taped May 19 at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. Over the following five days, participants will race personal watercraft at Lake Mead; conduct a four-wheel drive based treasure hunt near Ely; bicycle and hike through Lamoille Canyon near Elko; and ride snowboards down a sand mountain near Fallon.

The six-day series wraps May 24 with a whitewater kayaking race through downtown Reno.

Event highlights will also be shown in two 30-minute television programs airing on major networks and local affiliates. Those shows are expected to attract another 3 million viewers.

About three years ago, the commission shifted its focus toward marketing outdoor recreation as a supplement to well-known Nevada amenities like nightlife and gaming. "The Nevada Passage" marks the organization's most ambitious pitch to date, Executive Director Bruce Bommarito said.

"This is really one of the great adventure states in the country, and we want to share that message," Bommarito said.

"The Nevada Passage" will be produced by TEAM Unlimited of Honolulu, which also put together the Nissan XTERRA USA Championship Race at Lake Tahoe, as well as Las Vegas-based R&R Partners, which handles the commission's public relations. Paul Mitchell beauty products, Nissan North America and XTERRA Gear are co-sponsors.

Janet Clark, president of TEAM Unlimited, said competitors for next year's show have not been selected but will be picked from a pool of amateur athletes already familiar to her company.

Organizers hope the show will become an annual event, and Clark said future shows could be open to the public, or perhaps include celebrity participants.

Next year's players will be divided into 10 teams, each consisting of one man and one woman with similar professions.

"We wanted real people, not professional athletes," Clark said of the selection process. "Everyone knows a doctor or an accountant, so people can relate to what they're doing" during the competition.

Players' names and backgrounds will be revealed within the next two weeks on the show's Web site,, Clark added.

Scores will be awarded on a points basis for each round completed.

When asked what award awaits the winners, Clark quickly replied, "Bragging rights." Bommarito said the commission does not expect to recoup its production costs through syndication sales. Instead, the program will function as a public-relations investment for the state's rural travel initiatives.