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NFL Draft expected to close Las Vegas Strip for 3 days, source says

Updated January 20, 2020 - 12:50 pm

The 2020 NFL draft is set to be one of the biggest events in Las Vegas’ rich history and is expected to produce the most significant closure of Las Vegas Boulevard to date.

The Las Vegas Strip would be shut down to vehicle traffic the three days of the draft, April 23-25, to accommodate an expected 400,000 or more attendees, according to a source with direct knowledge of the draft plan.

The exact stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that would be closed is still being decided, but in 1,500 pages of documents obtained earlier by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, event organizers discussed a closure reaching from Spring Mountain Road to Harmon Avenue.

Las Vegas Boulevard near Flamingo Road would be the most impacted area, with the Fountains of Bellagio being touted as the “showpiece” of the draft, according to the source.

Locating the draft’s stage at the Bellagio was the “dream scenario” proposed by draft organizers, and it appears it will become a reality, two sources said, pending approval Tuesday by the Clark County Commission.

NFL representatives are scheduled to give the commission an in-depth presentation Tuesday that will break down road closures and draft venues.

“At the Tuesday (Clark) County Commission meeting, all will be known,” Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said Friday.

The LVCVA has been working for months with the NFL to plan the three-day event. Hill said much of the preparation centers on safety and security, and NFL officials were in Las Vegas every other month in 2019 for preparatory meetings.

Extended rolling closures

Staging the draft in front of the Bellagio would result in rolling closures of the Strip over roughly 20 days while the NFL is setting up and tearing down the draft stage.

To accommodate the Bellagio plan, Las Vegas Boulevard would be reduced to two lanes in front of the fountains for a significant period surrounding the draft, the source with direct knowledge said.

Officials from the NFL and Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International declined to comment on the draft plan.

“No comment,” said Raiders President Marc Badain when asked Friday about the plan. “See you Tuesday.”

Hill and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was in Las Vegas Friday for the Vegas Chamber’s annual Preview Las Vegas networking and forecasting event, indicated multiple Vegas icons would be showcased.

“We are going to try and incorporate all the iconic features of this city,” Goodell said. “We are going to do what we can to show the tremendous entertainment and hospitality that goes on in this city.”

The source with direct knowledge said the Caesars Forum convention center, which opens in March, will serve as a focal point. A second source said the NFL Fan Zone could be located near the Westin Las Vegas at Flamingo near Koval Lane.

Hill said he expects more than 600,000 people to jam the city for the draft, which will likely produce the strongest April visitation in history.

“The only thing that’s going to hold back attendance at this event is just the sheer size of the lots that are available for the draft itself,” he said.

In July 2018, MGM Resorts executives gave two NFL executives a tour of the fountains, the Park Theater and the Las Vegas Festival Grounds. The festival grounds were part of the initial list of potential sites but were removed before the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting.

Other possible sites

The documents reviewed by the Review-Journal also identified 33 possible sites and celebrities associated with them that could be incorporated into announcements of draft picks. Those celebrities include:

■ Celine Dion and Elton John at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

■ Golden Knights players.

■ The Backstreet Boys, Pitbull or Jennifer Lopez at Planet Hollywood Resort.

■ Cirque Du Soleil characters.

■ The stars of the TV show “Pawn Stars.”

Also proposed were unique ways to unveil some draft picks, including skyjumping from The Strat, displaying a pick on the Wynn Las Vegas marquee and having a presenter step out of a High Roller pod with a pick.

For it all to work, a logistics plan must be in place to ensure vital employees can get to and from their job sites on the Strip.

Roadwork on the north end of the Strip would be suspended during the draft timeframe, the source with direct knowledge said.

Hosting the draft is another piece in the city’s bid to dominate sports and entertainment.

“We may not quite be the sports and entertainment capital yet, but we are certainly the sports interest capital of the world right now,” Hill said. “Everybody is interested in coming to Vegas. Every league and every team and every type of event wants to be in Vegas. They know what being in Vegas can mean to them, and it’s great for us.”

Goodell hopes the draft leaves a positive impression on the city, since the event will usher in the NFL era in Las Vegas.

“I think what will come out of that is that you all will be done with that and then say, ‘Wow that was special,’ ” he said. “Hopefully (it will) leave a lasting legacy here in the community that people look back and say the draft was a great event here and we would want it back.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Richard N. Velotta contributed to this report.

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