City hopes for big bang with big New Year's Eve

LAS VEGAS - Stung by criticism that its Year 2000 celebration fell flat, Las Vegas intends to explode $500,000 worth of fireworks in 10 minutes this New Year's Eve over its famous Strip and downtown.

''Last year, I was being interviewed as the new mayor of the entertainment capital of the world, and I looked out and it was a dud,'' Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said. ''As far as I was concerned, without fireworks, it wasn't New Year's.''

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced Monday that fireworks will be fired from 14 sites above a 4-mile stretch from the Mandalay Bay casino-resort on the south to downtown's Fremont Street Experience.

''Half-a-million dollars in 10 minutes is an extraordinarily concentrated and intense show,'' said Rob Powers, visitors authority spokesman. ''The skies will be ablaze,'' he said.

Hotel room taxes - 9 percent in Clark County - will pay the bill.

Goodman, who was elected in June 1999, traced the disappointment of his first mayoral New Year's Eve to fears of terrorism, plus uncertainty about Y2K computer glitches.

Smaller than expected crowds on the Strip for the millennium celebration also were blamed on $2,000-a-night hotel rates and premiums charged for tickets to see headliners, such as Barbra Streisand, Wayne Newton and Bette Midler.

But after counting receipts, the Convention and Visitors Authority tallied 251,000 visitors and said more than 90 percent of the area's 123,000 hotel rooms had been rented.

''Last year was a good holiday,'' Powers said, ''despite everything that has been written and said about the lack of a major fireworks show.''

Powers said tourism officials hope for 270,000 visitors this year - a relatively modest increase over last year and enough to push hotel occupancies to 92 percent.

Zambelli Fireworks Internationale of New Castle, Pa., producers of New Year's pyrotechnic shows in New York City and Pittsburgh, will produce this year's Las Vegas show. The event is being dubbed ''The Big Bang,'' and Powers said officials hope for a big blast for the bucks.

''What we're really trying to do is establish a signature event,'' he said, adding that while Las Vegas casinos and hotels have hosted fireworks displays in the past, this year's would represent the first cooperative event.

''Because the scale is so huge, and because far fewer cities are doing fireworks events this year, we think we'll get a lot more attention,'' Powers said.


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