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July 4th weekend shaping up to be one of Las Vegas’ biggest ever

Updated July 1, 2021 - 8:07 pm

If this Fourth of July comes anywhere close to meeting lofty expectations, it’s going to be one to remember.

Resorts are preparing to welcome a flood of visitors for what those in and around Nevada’s tourism and hospitality industries anticipate will be a milestone event in the city’s rebound. State officials expect crowds on par with pre-pandemic holidays, and hotel room rates are up — often an indicator of demand.

It’s an event that the president of the Strip’s newest integrated resort thinks has the potential to “help put the city back on the map.”

“The city has been through a lot,” Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella said last week. “We’ve all been through a lot, and I think this will be the biggest celebration the city’s ever seen. The message throughout America is we can finally do things that we want to do.”

Hotel-casinos are excited about bookings, room rates and ticket sales for shows and concerts, according to Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association. She said the upcoming weekend could rival a Las Vegas New Year’s Eve in spirit, if not scale. People want to party, and this is the place to do that, she said.

“It’s going to be an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime Las Vegas weekend,” she said. “This (is) a celebration, and the resorts are invested in creating the indelible memories visitors talk about for the rest of their lives.”

Plan accordingly

The state transportation department expects pre-pandemic levels of holiday visitation this weekend. Because of a quicker-than-predicted tourism rebound, the Nevada Department of Transportation expects July Fourth to draw about 300,000 to Southern Nevada, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Many of those visitors will drive, NDOT spokeswoman Adrienne Packer said. Drivers should leave themselves enough time to enter and leave the Las Vegas Valley to beat traffic jams Friday afternoon and Monday, she said. The transportation department over the weekend will lift traffic controls and overnight restrictions in place on Interstate 15 near the border with California.

She also noted that U.S. Highway 95 will be reduced to two lanes in both directions and the southbound offramp to Casino Center Drive also will be closed through Sept. 1. If you can, find another way downtown, Packer said.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is not making an attendance prediction for Fourth of July weekend. The convention authority traditionally bases predictions on historic data, and because there’s no historic data involving rebounding from a pandemic, the LVCVA is reticent to predict attendance.

McCarran International Airport doesn’t have a projection for visitation, but it also anticipates a “very busy weekend,” a spokesman said. The number of seats arriving in Las Vegas is within 5 percent of the total from a similar period for July Fourth 2019, spokesman Joe Rajchel said.

“That means there will be plenty of opportunities for those looking to fly in and out of Las Vegas around the coming holiday, and we believe many visitors will take advantage of that flexibility,” he said Monday.

Rajchel also encouraged locals looking to get out of town to research alternative parking options and give themselves more time at the airport.

“For the past few weeks, we have seen our parking garage reach capacity on the weekends and expect that to once again be the case,” he said.

Steep stays

An “impressive” first half of 2021 for commercial gaming revenue suggests a strong Fourth of July weekend is coming for casinos in Las Vegas and across the country, according to the American Gaming Association.

It’s the first major holiday since Nevada lifted its pandemic restrictions, “allowing casinos to open their doors and do what they do best: entertain,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of strategic communications.

“Casinos are designed to bring people together, and that’s exactly what Americans are looking to do this summer,” Clark said.

Room rates on the Strip are “pacing well ahead” this weekend than in previous years, according to Barry Jonas, who penned a June 17 analysis with Truist Securities.

As of June 24, a room at an MGM Resorts International hotel this weekend would cost an average of $255 per night, up 26 percent from the $202 rate during Fourth of July weekend in 2019.

The rate for a Caesars Entertainment Inc. room on the Strip this weekend was $183 as of June 24, according to Truist. That’s an increase of 17 percent from the same weekend in 2019.

Resorts World led Strip resorts in Friday room rates at $439 this weekend, its second since opening, the report said. Bellagio, Wynn and The Venetian room rates trailed closely with rates hovering just above or below $400.

Those rates suggest Las Vegas is recovering from the pandemic and that the demand for travel is returning, said Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute. July 4 is a “really good excuse to travel this year,” just as it was in 2019.

“But this year to hit the road is probably more on people’s minds than it has been in years past,” he said.

Josh Swissman, founding partner at The Strategy Organization consulting firm, said he thinks a confluence of vaccinations, lifted restrictions, pent-up demand, the holiday itself and the fact that it falls on the Sunday of a three-day weekend are the recipe for an “extra, extra busy” weekend.

Then factor in the return of nightlife, entertainment and dayclubs and the June 24 debut of the $4.3 billion Resorts World megaresort, not to mention the openings in recent months of Circa and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and their pool complexes.

Whether that adds up to a New Year’s Eve-type event with hundreds of thousands packing a closed-to-vehicle-traffic Las Vegas Boulevard “remains to be seen,” he said. He hopes those predictions come true.

“It is going to be one heck of a weekend,” Swissman said.

Explosive weekend

Fireworks shows abound all weekend, even excluding the ones put on by your neighbor.

Eight Strip hotel-casinos will launch fireworks from their rooftops on Independence Day including The Strat, Aria, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood Resort, Treasure Island, The Venetian and Resorts World.

The Plaza will light up the downtown Las Vegas skies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with fireworks from various locations, rooftops and towers to celebrate Fourth of July and the hotel-casino’s 50th birthday.

Station Casinos will mark its 45th birthday as a company with a 9 p.m. Thursday fireworks show at Palace Station, and then a 9 p.m. Sunday show at Red Rock and Green Valley Ranch resorts. Fireworks by Grucci is behind the show, which will be livestreamed on Twitch and other Station Casinos social media, according to Station spokesman Alex Acuna.

Wynn Las Vegas is set to host its first major public event at the property’s new multipurpose outdoor pavilion. The resort’s “Red, White & Barbecue” will occur at the 40,000-square-foot space from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Independence Day and will feature Burt Bakman of Slab BBQ in Los Angeles and Wynn’s executive chef of catering, Kelly Bianchi, “to serve up a traditional backyard barbeque with a uniquely Vegas twist.” Bakman will also host a barbecue class at noon Friday.

Representatives for four of Nevada’s largest gaming companies — Caesars Entertainment Inc., MGM Resorts International, Boyd Gaming Corp. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. — didn’t provide comment for this story.

Valentine said it will be a weekend of “firsts” with Resorts World, Virgin Hotels and Circa all hosting their first Fourth of July parties, Allegiant Stadium’s first concert featuring EDM star Illenium on Saturday, A-list performers including Bruno Mars, Dave Chappelle and Miley Cyrus and the return of Cirque du Soleil’s “O.”

This may be the first trip for many visitors since the pandemic began; resorts recognize that, Valentine said. They’re working to make guests feel safe and deliver on their expectations after being home for more than a year.

“They’re crossing every t and dotting every i to ensure a world-class, seamless and safe experience,” she said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Richard N. Velotta contributed to this report.

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