Friday, Dec. 20, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
The Strip is expected to turn into one big block party on New Year's Eve, and officials are preparing for the deluge by closing off a large portion of Las Vegas Boulevard to motorists.
And with the planned implosion of the Hacienda hotel-casino at 9 p.m., New Year's Eve on the Strip is expected to be busier than ever, police said.
In preparation, the Nevada Highway Patrol will have more than 100 troopers on duty and Metro Police will have 500 officers working the area surrounding the Strip that night.
NHP Trooper Steve Harney said the Strip closing is in concert with the wishes of the hotel-casinos.
"The resort industry wanted to have a big block party," Harney said. "We're all working together. It's probably something we'll see a lot more of. Eventually, you'll see the entire Strip closed for New Year's Eve because we get so many people coming here every year. If it was on a weekend, you'd see a lot more people."
New Year's Eve falls on a Tuesday this year.
An estimated 200,000 to 250,000 tourists are expected to converge on the valley this New Year's Eve.
Last year, at least 187,000 people visited, bringing with them $85 million in nongaming revenue, said Rob Powers, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Parking at $5 a car will be available at a lot in front of the convention center and at one across the street, Powers said.
"We want people to have a good time, but we also want them to be safe," he said.
The Strip will be closed from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. from Harmon Avenue to Convention Center Drive, with Spring Mountain Road and Flamingo Avenue blocked.
For the implosion, Las Vegas Boulevard South will be shut down 15 to 30 minutes before the implosion, from Tropicana Avenue to Russell Road. It will be reopened after the 9 p.m. implosion, depending on how much dust and debris has to be cleaned off the roadway, Harney said.
A fireworks display will precede the Hacienda implosion. Fox television network plans to broadcast the event live.
What's different this year is that at 6 p.m. Monday, a new county ordinance goes into effect banning glass and bottles from the Strip. Also, all juveniles must be off the Strip by 9 p.m., Metro Police said.
Downtown at the Fremont Street Experience, a party similar to last year's is planned. A $10 admission fee includes party favors of neon necklaces and plastic derbies, spokeswoman Kim Daskas said. About 25,000 people attended last year, she said.
"It's to help create a safer and more enjoyable environment," Daskas said.
Fremont Street Experience will donate to homeless charities a matching amount to what it makes from the admission fee, she said.
7-Eleven convenience stores are also contributing to New Year's Eve safety by offering free coffee to "perk up drowsy drivers," officials said.
"There are lots of people who stay up a little later than they are used to on New Year's Eve, and we want to give them a reason to take a break on their drive home," said Theresa Marchese of Southern Nevada 7-Eleven stores. "By stopping by one of our stores for a few minutes and having a cup of coffee, we hope to give people a chance to energize themselves for the remainder of their trip home."
Participating stores will display a window sign announcing the free coffee.
At least 100,000 crashes every year involve a drowsy or fatigued driver, and 1,500 of those crashes are fatal, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In Nevada, "one out of every two fatal accidents result from a fatigued driver on the interstate," Harney said.
"A majority of the fatal accidents we have are cars drifting off the roadway," he said. "It appears as if the driver was fatigued and fell asleep. It occurs quite often, a lot more than people realize."
Police are asking motorists to avoid crossing the Strip by using Charleston Boulevard or U.S. 95 as alternatives.