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How does Las Vegas avoid rodeo gridlock? The NFR Express

For 10 nights every December, going back to 1985, the Thomas Mack Center is packed with 17,000-plus fans for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. So what’s the secret sauce to getting a significant chunk of those fans to and from the arena each night?

Answer: The NFR Express.

Las Vegas Events and hotel properties all around town have refined and arguably perfected the Wrangler NFR shuttle-bus program. And every year, more and more rodeo fans take advantage of the free ride each night.

“Forty percent of all fans arrive and depart via the NFR Express,” Las Vegas Events president Tim Keener said Thursday afternoon, with three nights of the NFR remaining. “We’ve got roughly 62-65 buses and 27 routes. Last year, we carried over 110,000 passengers, and we’re already ahead of that pace this year.”

Keener said the LVE’s hotel partners make it all possible. The hotels have ambassadors – usually dressed up in cowboy/cowgirl attire – who help guide passengers to the buses. The NFR Express generally runs from 1.5-2 hours prior to the rodeo until 1.5-2 hours after the rodeo. So there’s a constant stream of buses running to and from hotel properties – on the Strip, downtown, and most definitely to the South Point.

“If we have a shuttle-bus champion, the South Point has won the last five trophies,” Keener said. “MGM Grand is up there, and so is the Golden Nugget and The Orleans.”

South Point general manager Ryan Growney said the NFR Express is a no-brainer, taking all the hassle out of battling traffic and looking – and paying – for parking.

“Just get on the bus and have a good time,” Growney said. “It is a success story, and I think it’s a major component of why fans love the NFR so much. It just makes it easier on them.”

Particularly since it’s not unusual for Las Vegas to have several other big events over the course of the NFR. Growney noted that this year’s 10-day run overlaps with:

— Two Raiders games at Allegiant Stadium

— Three Golden Knights games at T-Mobile Arena

— UFC 296 at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, the final night of the NFR.

“Anything we can do to make it easier on the fans and take cars off the road is a good thing,” Growney said. “But you’ve got to do a good job at it, or fans won’t take it. We do a good job at it.”

Added Keener: “It’s a great program for those who don’t want to park and fight traffic. It’s a great experience, a good opportunity for fans to sit back and relax to and from the rodeo.”

And as Keener reiterated, you certainly can’t beat the price.

“It’s free to the public.”

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