Las Vegas police on alert ahead of super fight
Las Vegas authorities could take the rare step of barring traffic from the gambling hub’s famous Strip this weekend as they brace the massive crowds expected to descend on Sin City for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao super fight.
The bout at the MGM is sold out and hotels are overflowing with guests as between 150,000 to 200,000 people are expected to pour into the desert city for the showdown being billed as the “Fight of the Century”.
“We have handled events like this before where we had to shut down the Strip,” Erik Newman, Deputy Fire Chief of Clark County Fire Department told Agence France-Presse. “What we are preparing for is the NBA all-star game in 2007.”
Las Vegas officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the chaotic February 2007 all-star game weekend which saw several people shot and around 400 people arrested.
Scattered fights broke out along The Strip and there were at least four shootings attributed to basketball fans.
That number includes three people who were injured outside the Minxx stripclub in a shooting that was connected to a group associated with National Football League player Adam “Pacman” Jones.
– ‘Whole world watching’ –
“The fight itself will be safe,” said Newman. “Our big fear is the clubs and everything else. The problem is there are so many high-profile artists coming to town. We will have our hands full.
“We will have extra units out and metro (police) will have extra units out as well. We know the whole world will be watching.”
Saturday’s record-breaking spectacle, which will bring in $400 million to $500 million to the city’s economy, has created its own set of security issues for law enforcement.
Larry Hadfield, spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, said they will be beefing up their staffing in and around the MGM Grand Hotel and stepping up patrols along the main casino strip.
Hadfield told AFP they started planning for the blockbuster bout the moment it was announced in February.
“We are planning for the worst. We are getting pretty good at doing these big events. We have a vast number of resources,” he said.
Besides the hotel security, police will also be working with the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.
Crowd control inside the 16,000 seat MGM’s Grand Garden Arena is also a concern.
The Grand Garden has been the scene of two recent post-fight stampedes, including one after the Mayweather-Marcos Maidana fight last May that injured 60 people. The stampede was caused when a partition that fell in the lobby area sounded like gunshots to the crowd that was exiting the arena.
Another less serious stampede happened in the same lobby when the crowd was leaving the Mayweather-Maidana rematch fight in September.
In September 1996, the MGM was the scene of an incident involving the late rapper Tupac Shakur. After the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight, Shakur was caught on a video camera beating a man in the hotel’s lobby area. Later that night Shakur was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in a killing that has yet to be solved.
“We’re not going to let the criminal element take over and make our town unsafe,” Roxanne McDaris, Lieutenant with the events planning section of the Las Vegas police, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper earlier this week. “We’re doing everything in our power to make it safe.”
Tim Jeffery, MGM’s vice president of security, said security will be enhanced with their hotel employees supplementing the police.
Jeffrey also said they are going streamline crowd control after the fight and open more exit doors to prevent another lobby stampede.
“We are going to be directing people to specific exits to avoid that logjam,” he said. “You will see a noticeable increase in the number of security.”