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New Year’s party in Las Vegas may attract a record 314,000

Let us recap what is known so far about New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas this year:

■ It will happen on a Saturday night.

■ The weather will be perfect.

■ The economy is picking up, albeit slowly.

■ The fireworks show will be huge.

What’s all this mean?

It means that the authorities think this will be the biggest New Year’s Eve ever here. They’re expecting 314,000 people to stop by for a visit. That makes it the nation’s second-largest New Year’s Eve party.

“It will eclipse our high-water mark of 2008, when we had 312,000,” said Scott Russell, senior research manager with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority. Last year, when it was freezing cold, 309,000 people visited.

It will not be freezing cold this year, said Faith Borden, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“It’s going to be really nice,” she said.

The temperature at midnight should be a balmy-ish 48 degrees, with the overnight low around 40 degrees. The winds should be light, too, maybe 6 to 8 mph. That’s calm enough that it shouldn’t put a stop to the fireworks show. “I don’t see it as a problem,” Borden said.

The light breeze might help clear the air. Just in case, the Clark County Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management issued an advisory for New Year’s Eve for potentially elevated levels of smoke. Combined with cold temperatures, calm air could trap the smoke and dust at lower elevations, which can aggravate respiratory diseases.

Speaking of the fireworks, 50,000 of them will be fired off at midnight from the rooftops of eight different Strip properties, from the Stratosphere on the north end to the Tropicana on the south end.

If past years are any guide, the fireworks will be visible from just about anywhere in town.

Even from some places downtown, though probably not from under the Fremont Street canopy.

That’s OK, though. There’ll be plenty to do under the canopy.

Unlike the festivities on the Strip, the party at the Fremont Street Experience is open to those 21 and older, and admission is $30.

There will live bands at what’s being called TributePalooza, which is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman will lead the countdown at midnight, and there will be a fireworks show, though not as large as the one five miles down Las Vegas Boulevard.

No matter where you party, you probably will run into a police officer or two.

Nearly all of the roughly 2,600 Las Vegas officers will be working New Year’s Eve, with most of them stationed up and down the Strip to watch over the thousands of revelers who spill onto Las Vegas Boulevard.

Police plan to start lane closures on the street about 6:30 p.m. Law enforcement agencies will be on watch for potential terrorism, though “there’s nothing on the radar that’s a threat right now,” Las Vegas police officer Jay Rivera said.

Police throughout the valley will be on the lookout for drunken drivers, Las Vegas police Capt. Mark Tavarez said.

“If you’re driving impaired, look for the police behind you because that’s where we’ll be,” he said.

Tavarez credited his agency’s focus through the year for an 18 percent drop in alcohol-related fatal crashes in the past year.

Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, encouraged year-end party-goers to arrange sober transportation, whether that is a designated driver, a cab or a bus. “DUI is a losing bet in this town,” she said.

To help cut down on dangerous drivers, the Regional Transportation Commission is offering free bus service between 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. New Year’s Day.

The routes are probably best suited to revelers headed downtown. Park-and-rides that offer express service to the Bonneville Transit Center include Centennial Hills, a 900-space lot at Grand Montecito Parkway near U.S. 95 and Durango Drive or the Westcliff Airport Express, which offers parking at the Suncoast hotel-casino or the Westcliff station at Westcliff and Durango.

The service will carry passengers from the Bonneville station down the Strip until the it closes to vehicles.

In preparation for the New Year’s celebration, the Nevada Highway Patrol will close Interstate 15 offramps that lead to the Strip at 5:30 p.m. Sahara Avenue, Desert Inn and Russell roads across Las Vegas Boulevard will remain open.

At 6 p.m., elevators and escalators leading to pedestrian bridges on the Strip will be closed. At 6:15 p.m., Las Vegas police will start erecting barriers on the Strip, closing it down to all traffic by 6:30 p.m. Police will also clear roads leading into the Strip.

The Fremont Street Experience will be closed at 5 p.m., opening up the area for live entertainment at 6 p.m.

Street sweepers will move through the resort corridor at 2 a.m., and the Strip is scheduled to reopen to traffic between 3 and 4 a.m.

Those headed to the Strip after the closure are still advised to use the Strip express lines, which will be detoured onto Koval Lane and Paradise Road on the east side of the resort corridor.

Also, routes will be detoured to Dean Martin Drive on the west side of the Strip. Further route information will be available at the Bonneville Transit Center.

Others wishing to avoid driving on New Year’s Eve can take advantage of free rides provided by the Designated Drivers Foundation. Adults 21 years old and over can ride for free between 8 p.m. New Year’s Eve and noon on New Year’s Day. Call 456-RIDE to arrange a complimentary ride home in your own vehicle.

Review-Journal reporters Adrienne Packer and Brian Haynes contributed to this story. Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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