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Amanda Finnegan

291,000 to ring in 2009 in Las Vegas

31 December 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Rooms are booked, fireworks are set and Metro Police will be on standby tonight for Las Vegas' busiest night of the year.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is expecting 291,000 visitors for New Year's Eve celebrations tonight, a 2.5 percent increase from the 284,000 people who visited the city last year.

LVCVA spokesman Jeremy Handel said the increase is attributed, in part, to the 8,600 new rooms added to the Strip in the past year.

As of Tuesday afternoon, hotel rates on the Strip ranged from $230 at Imperial Palace to $525 at Caesars Palace, according to the travel Web site Other standard prices were $400 for a room at the Venetian, $370 at Mandalay Bay and $399 at the Hard Rock Hotel.

New Year's Eve room rates are down an average of 15 to 25 percent, according to a recent survey of rates at 89 casinos conducted by the Las Vegas Advisor consumer newsletter.

Some MGM Mirage hotels are full, including the Bellagio, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, while the company's other hotels were at least 90 percent full, MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said.

Absher said the company's resorts saw lower occupancy rates this year than in previous years. In response, he said, hotels lowered their room rates and lifted a two-night minimum-stay policy to fill rooms.

Wynn and Encore Las Vegas reached full occupancy after the hotels dropped room rates earlier this month.

Harrah's Entertainment properties Paris Las Vegas and Bally's also are full, while the Rio, Harrah's, the Flamingo, Imperial Palace and Caesars Palace still were accepting reservations Tuesday night.

Harrah's spokeswoman Debbie Munch said the company "expects rooms to sell out by New Year's Eve."

Fireworks will ring in the new year at eight locations, including Mandalay Bay, the Luxor, MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Stratosphere and the Fremont Street Experience.

Grucci of New York will produce the New Year's fireworks display for the fifth year. Grucci has produced Fourth of July shows in Las Vegas for the past 20 years.

This year, fireworks will be shot off from the ground, rather than casino rooftops, as has been done in the past.

Visitors can join Mayor Oscar Goodman downtown at the Fremont Street Experience for New Year's Eve celebrations with fireworks and eight tribute bands.

Residents will receive free admission downtown with a Nevada ID. Wristband distribution for local residents will begin at 10 p.m. tonight in the storefront next to Walgreens on Fremont Street. Gates will open at 6 p.m.

Several streets will be closing tonight for festivities on the Strip. Las Vegas Boulevard will be closed to drivers from Russell Road to Sahara Boulevard at about 6 p.m. with ramps from Interstate 15 near the Strip closing at about 5 p.m., Metro Police said.

The Nevada Highway Patrol is suggesting drivers take alternate routes and avoid Frank Sinatra Drive because heavy traffic is expected from Strip employees and construction workers.

The Regional Transportation Commission will provide free bus service in the Las Vegas Valley for 24 hours starting at 6 p.m. tonight. For information about bus routes, call the RTC at 228-RIDE (7433) or visit

Pedestrian traffic won't be allowed in front of The Mirage from about 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for a nationally televised motorcycle jump by Robbie Knievel.

Several items will be banned from the Strip, including bottles and cans. Metro Police officers will enforce the ban from 6 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Thursday, but plastic cups and containers are permitted.

Metro is enforcing a Strip curfew on unaccompanied minors from 6 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Wednesday.

291,000 to ring in 2009 in Las Vegas is republished from