Before the Great Recession, a blog debuted called Las Vegas Casino Death Watch. During those heady days before any of us had familiarized ourselves with the concept of a “housing bubble,” LVCDW mostly concerned itself with which out-of-date Vegas casino would be next to get demolished in favor of a brand-new super fancy mega-casino.
And then the recession struck, and as Vegas weekends hit the chopping board of American budgets, the blog’s subject shifted from new casinos to the survival of the fittest.
As if the Great Recession wasn’t bad enough, COVID-19 has ignited a still-greater challenge. The brand-new, super-fancy Las Vegas Palazzo resort recently announced it was closing temporarily due to a reduction in travel due to the pandemic.
Similar morbid fascination can be taken in a YouTube channel called Retail Archeology. The channel takes you on visits to another troubled institution: shopping malls. Most Americans have fond memories of the mall they visited as a child but have nevertheless grown fond of having products delivered to their door.
So, for example in this episode, Retail Archeology takes us to the Gateway Mall of Prescott, Arizona. The host relates that the mall was built in 2002, sold for $16.3 million in 2012, and then sold again for $8.8 million in 2018. A global pandemic certainly did not help what already was a troubled industry.
On a similar note, Esquire recently featured a fascinating story of a group of investors who took out a “big short” on the debt associated with shopping malls. This worked out rather well for them. “We knew one day that the balloon would pop,” one of the investors told Esquire. “All COVID-19 did was speed up our thesis — the pin that pricked the balloon.”
COVID-19 also appears to be an accelerant for major K-12 trends that already were underway and moving forward before the pandemic, including small schools and innovations in digital learning. A great deal of academic damage continues to be visited upon American students, but a more pluralistic and flexible system of schooling may emerge from the crisis.