When Electric Daisy Carnival launched in Las Vegas last year, local officials said, essentially: No sweat. This ain't L.A. We can handle big, boisterous crowds. This is Sin City!
After wrapping up the second year of EDC at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it's clear that they were mostly right: Vegas is the place for late-night partying. (EDC at the L.A. Coliseum was only allowed to run until 2 a.m.; at the Speedway it was more like 5-plus).
But the traffic en route to the venue from the Vegas Strip this year was an absolute nightmare:
We experienced two-hour waits to get into the Speedway parking lot all three nights over the weekend, and the New York Times reported three-hour journeys to EDC from the Strip.
On Saturday, after performances were cancelled at 2:45 a.m. as a result of high winds, the wait to exit the Speeway parking lot was one hour.
Something wasn't right.
Last year Vegas officials told the Review-Journal that 100,000 screaming ravers each night was par for the course in Sin City and for the track, which sees similarly sized crowds on race days:
Clark County Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager. “I think we're well-versed in that, in regards to the 200,000, 300,000 who come down for New Year's Eve.”
Echoing her sentiment is the Las Vegas police department, which will oversee much of the crowd control and security duties.
“We have big events here 30 to 40 times throughout the year,” says officer Barb Morgan, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department. “We're not going to handle this any differently than we do any other big event. This is basically status quo for Metro.”
Yet traffic was so bad over the weekend that DJ duo Gabriel & Dresden, which performed Friday, tweeted this:
— Las Vegas Sign (@LasVegasSign) June 9, 2012
The venue is only about 20 minutes from the Strip on a normal night.
So what happened?
Las Vegas Metro Police spokesman Bill Castle told the Weekly today there was a combination of larger crowds this year (110,000 Friday, 90,000 on Saturday before performances were halted as a result of high winds, and 106,518 Sunday) and sheer enthusiasm for the event.
Last year we counted about 215,000 people over three days. Castle:
There were more people. Last year it was a new adventure. People trickled in, and they were unsure of what they were coming in for. This year they were more confident as consumers in what they were going to see. It caused them to want to be there when the gates opened.
Asked if more could have been done to relieve traffic, Castle said the all the available gates to the venue were “wide open:”
As far as the way we and NHP [Nevada Highway Patrol] handled traffic, everybody's plan was well executed. It was a tribute to them that things flowed as smoothly as they did.
Police reported 135 medical treatments (with 6 hospitalizations) Friday, 160 (with 6 sent to hospitals) Saturday and 190 (and 7 “transports”) Sunday.
There were 29 drug arrests Friday (with one arrest on top of that for alleged strong-arm robbery), 12 on Saturday and 12 on Sunday. Castle said:
It was a success for not only the Las Vegas community but for those who attended.