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Fremont Street Experience counts down to reopening

Fremont Street Experience is a famously jammed tourist attraction, drawing thousands of revelers on peak nights at its performance stages and outdoor bars.

Now, FSE only needs to work against that very appeal, and be a lot less jammed as it reopens at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

It won’t be easy, but nobody said reopening in COVID-19 would be a cakewalk, socially distant or otherwise. Integrating FSE’s reopening with a public-safety message, FSE President Patrick Hughes is pressing forward with a return to the attraction’s “Downtown Rocks” marketing blitz.

That campaign, originally promoting the FSE’s summer concert series, now promotes social distancing.

“In previous years, our tagline has been ‘One Louder’” Hughes said during a lunchtime chat Friday. “Now, we’ve changed it to, ‘One Longer,’ so we’re encouraging people we want people to go 7 feet between each other, instead of 6.”

For evidence, check the Fremont Street walkway. Decals are placed seven feet apart in traditionally high-traffic areas. Of course, “encouraging” the FSE crowd to stay 7 feet from each other is a civic challenge for the ages.

These folks are apt to drape their arms around a hairy busker in a diaper for an Instagram pic. This is a real concern.

Elsewhere, Fremont Street will offer a different sort of experience when it reopens. The FSE’s three stages will not be presenting live entertainment. Hughes is instead considering a rotation of videos of past performances on FSE’s Main Street, 1st Street and 3rd Street stages. Taped “boxes” on the ground around outdoor bars will keep patrons 7 feet away.

The popular SlotZilla zip line attraction is scheduled to return, too, at 4 p.m. Thursday. Hughes pledges to follow the guidelines set by Gov. Steve Sisolak and public health officials in Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan. The agency will disinfect the pedestrian mall, FSE parking garage and SlotZilla towers twice daily.

The crowd’s behavior and distancing will be monitored, though don’t expect Las Vegas Metro officers or even FSE security guards to go around separating people.

As Hughes reminds, FSE is, by its design, a walkway leading to the hotel-casinos, stores, bars and restaurants on Fremont Street. The scene is similar to, say, the walkways through Downtown Summerlin or The District at Green Valley Ranch.

“We are not trying to push people away from each other, and you don’t see that happening anywhere else in the country,” Hughes said. “We are recommending people follow the health guidelines, and showing them what those guidelines are.”

Hughes is also reviving FSE’s version of the Bellagio water show — its Viva Vision video screen. The LED panel is displaying a 144-hour countdown leading to the moment, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, when Vegas hotel-casinos are allowed to reopen.

The type of crowd, and its volume, is not easy to predict as FSE reopens. Personal responsibility is at the fore in an area built for folks to shed their inhibitions. It’s also another instance where Las Vegas is the focus of national attention. Media from across the country will be in town. If the city produces something like the Lake of the Ozarks Pool Party 2.0, a civic PR disaster will only exacerbate an already devastating health scare.

The message from the core of our city is simple: Have a good time, but be smart, be safe. Seven feet where 6 will do, and all can live one longer.


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