Metro Phoenix: Underground

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Amy Silverman, managing editor of the Phoenix New Times, talks about some of the secret spots and underground places the publication unearthed for its
2011 “Best of Phoenix” edition.

Ted Simons: Last week the "Phoenix New Times" released its best of Phoenix issue for 2011. The publication always searches high and low for the best things to do and places to go in the Phoenix area. But this year new times did some extra digging to try to discover the valley's underground. Here to explain is Amy Silverman, managing editor at "Phoenix New Times." Always good to see you.

Amy Silverman: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Idea for this underground -- we're not talking just metaphorically, you're talking literally under the ground.

Amy Silverman: Yeah.

Ted Simons: How did that come about?

Amy Silverman: This is the 19th year I'd work order best of Phoenix, so for the last seven or eight I've edited it, so I like to keep it interesting. Not that it's not interesting, but we try to come up with a theme to keep people entertained. And for a while I've been pushing underground on our art director. He has to agree with it. Because I just thought it's just interesting to think about what goes on. Partly I thought it would be a finite topic, because the dirt is so hard. I grew up here and my parents explained we couldn't have a basement because the dirt was so hard. I thought there will be a couple things to write about. We can write about some sort of figurative underground things in the music scene and we'll be done.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Amy Silverman: I think 85 categories later, and we were very worried we'd missed something.

Ted Simons: You didn't miss something I found fascinating. I've seen this on central Avenue, these glass tiles on central. And I thought that's decorative. How pleasant that is. You found an underground bowling alley, and this was literally across from the westward Ho.

Amy Silverman: right near the journalism school on central. I heard about it for a while. We actually gave it a best of a couple years ago, but we thought it was urban legend.

Ted Simons: What we're watching is a camera going under the street and it's -- there's a big room down there.

Amy Silverman: We tried for months to get a tour of this bowling alley. We kept going to the westward ho because we heard rumors, first that an architect had been down there, we finally track her down, no, I haven't gone down. Then an artist, and I was on Facebook one day and this photographer posted that he was at the underground bowling alley. Immediately I called him and said, you're there? You got a tour? How do we get a tour? He said no, I just heard about it. I have a friend that D.J.'d a party down there 15 years ago, and I'm interested. So he came down and he and one of our writers and I sort of scoped the scene. I left them there, and they lowered David's very expensive or maybe it was Claire's photography equipment through one of the little holes.

Ted Simons: That's what we're looking at. That's a big room D this serve the --

Amy Silverman: that's what we understand, that it served the westward ho, but we were never able to take to anybody about it. Just a couple days before publication a friend of mine dug up a brochure from the gold spot bowling alley from the '40s and it turns out did it exist.

Ted Simons: Something I think I knew existed, at least did exist, but it's still in operation is an amethyst mine at four peaks.

Amy Silverman: At the farthest peak is an amethyst mine. The only commercial amethyst mine in the United States. And the least accessible in the world apparently.

Ted Simons: You've got to really work to get back there.

Amy Silverman: It's a 4½-mile hike -- you can take a helicopter, which is what our writer did. She got offered a helicopter tour so she took it. And they mined the amethyst. This man and woman, she had a baby so I think she took time off, and they mine them by hand.

Ted Simons: Do they own that mine?

Amy Silverman: They don't. They work for the people who own it. The AMETHYST are tumbled, cut in the Thailand and sold -- they're set and sold at a jewelry store in Fountain Hills.

Ted Simons: And helicopters are used for the most part to bring supplies in and take the stuff out?

Amy Silverman: They have to mine it by hand, they can't use equipment.

Ted Simons: Wow. Interesting. I tell you what, gorgeous stones. Only one in the United States. Working mine. Let's keep it moving. The Morton salt plant in Glendale.

Amy Silverman: There is a salt plant in Glendale, it's 15 to 30 cubic miles of salt underground. They stick metal piping down there I guess, and they pump water. So they say you end up with brine, you get salt water and they put night a solar pool which I think is they leave it in the sun to dry out. And then they use it for water softening products.

Ted Simons: And this is all -- this has been happening in Glendale for what, 20, 30, 40 years?

Amy Silverman: M-hmm.

Ted Simons: Underground? Look at that. Now it's above ground. All right. No blasting. Very clean operation. All right. You have an underground bus station that I think almost everyone watching has passed and they don't realize that they passed. First, where --

Amy Silverman: I never knew.

Ted Simons: This is under the deck park tunnel.

Amy Silverman: When you're on I-10 approaching the tunnel, if you look there's this kind of boarded off area that goes down into a $9 million facility that the city built. This was in the early '90s. And then things didn't go so well economically. They needed another $20 million to finish it and I guess when light rail came through that finished that idea.

Ted Simons: So I believe it was described as an intermodal transfer station. Which means $9 million for not much.

Amy Silverman: Nothing.

Ted Simons:Can you use it, can -- basically --

Amy Silverman: they should have parties down there.

Ted Simons: It's a bus termal under the deck park tunnel. They can still use that, can't they?

Amy Silverman: I guess they could, but it would take so much money to finish it, they don't want tomorrow I was surprised they were so friendly about it. ADOT gave us a tour.

Ted Simons: Speaking of trying to make something of what is as opposed to what it should have been, is anyone thinking of doing any renovation to that old underground bowling alley?

Amy Silverman: You're back to the bowling alley.

Ted Simons: I find it fascinating.

Amy Silverman: I don't know. I don't know. I do don't think so. Claire our writer really wanted to get in there and she stuck her head, there was a sort of grate area, our central so cops are driving by all the time. It was hot, August. She was about ready I think to head down there, she's a youngster. And she heard some animal noises. Someone is living down there.

Ted Simons:OK. Underground opium dens where lots of folks go to see ball games. Talk to us about this.

Amy Silverman: When they did the excavation for the basketball arena, in the late '80s they knew already that had been Phoenix's Chinatown. I had no idea, if you go to the pueblo grandE museum you can see this -- I think you'd have to ask, but there's a huge collection of artifacts that they unearthed. And one of our write Darrin Erstad a lot of research to Phil Mickelson out just what was there, because one of the rumors we heard early on was that there were tunnels that they ran opium through under the city. And that was kind of intriguing.

Ted Simons: Sure.

Amy Silverman: Well, it wasn't quite that good. But they did, when they did their digging they did find some evidence that there had been OPiUM dens.

Ted Simons: I was reading the entry, in 1910 the three largest restaurants in Phoenix all Chinese food restaurants.

Amy Silverman: M-hmm.

Ted Simons: Isn't that something?

Amy Silverman: M-hmm.

Ted Simons: All right. Now to get you on the program I believe we had to agree to show this next one. I don't think it has much to do with anything underground.

Amy Silverman: Oh, is this our figurative --

Ted Simons: this is the nativity scene in a garage in Chandler? Is that --

Amy Silverman: yes.

Ted Simons: What in the world are we talking about here.

Amy Silverman: That wasn't to get me on the program. Maybe as -- I'm intrigued by these things. But there is a priest who has collected 1200 nativity figures, and every Christmas he sets them up in his garage in Chandler. They occupy most of this multicar garage. And you have to know him or know someone who knows him to get access. And they were among the most beautiful photos we got. One of our art critics took them.

Ted Simons:And he's basically runs like a different church somewhere else, and in his -- is this always -- is it a permanent installation?

Amy Silverman: No. Hoe just sets it up at Christmas. Butt but he's collected them since 1955.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised at how much -- this was more of a secretive thing. But the other stuff was literally underground. How much underground stuff there was, you had to be surprised.

Amy Silverman: Tons. And there's a whole lot more. This is like a product shot. Go to our interactive map online, and you can see video and photos, and hear interviews. I was really surprised.

Ted Simons: I guess the writers at new times were as well.

Amy Silverman: Yeah. We did make Robert write about his basement. We have a basement review.

Ted Simons: So can we all maybe get -- I'm going back to this bowling alley. Can we get together and get the westward ho, why are they being so secretive?

Amy Silverman: I will say that last week they called and offered us the tour of the westward ho we've been asking for. So if you keep an eye on new times we'll have a piece about that soon and we'll try to answer all the questions that we've had.

Ted Simons: All right. We'll keep an eye on that. Goodness, if there's some sort of something going through from one side to another, we need to know about it good to have you here.

Amy Silverman: Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

Amy Silverman : Managing Editor of The Phoenix New Times

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