The 60th annual National Finals Rodeo gets underway Thursday, meaning a total of 170,000 rodeo fans are expected to pack the Thomas & Mack over the 10-day event, with 40,000 of those being from out of state, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said.
With the influx of people in the area, traffic congestion on surrounding roads and possible parking issues for UNLV students could arise.
The Thomas & Mack Center sits between Flamingo Road and Tropicana Avenue, which are both maintained by the Nevada Department of Transportation. Both roads are expected to be impacted by rodeo fans.
“We anticipate heavy traffic around the Thomas & Mack due to the National Finals Rodeo,” said Tony Illia, NDOT spokesman. “Motorists should plan accordingly, budgeting additional commute time if passing through the Paradise Road corridor during those days, including East Tropicana Avenue and East Flamingo Road.”
All roads leading into and out of Thomas and Mack Center will see traffic issues, according to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
The NFR festivities will begin each night at 6:45 p.m. and run through 9 p.m., but RTC officials said to anticipate traffic impacts on the main thoroughfares in the area:
“Drivers should be aware that there may be longer delays around Thomas & Mack during NFR,” said Zac Prudhomme, RTC spokesperson.
During the second week of NFR, UNLV students will be taking finals for the fall semester.
The lots around the Thomas & Mack are a popular area for UNLV students to park, as spaces closer to the Maryland Parkway end of the campus fill quickly and are tough to come by. Those spots are closed off to students while the NFR is in town.
“It complicates it exponentially,” said Jenni Tifft-Ocho, a graduate student at UNLV. “We have to rearrange our schedules and routines during the most difficult two weeks of the semester.”
Tifft-Ochoa, a Vista outstanding graduating UNLV senior in 2018, said the parking situation at UNLV isn’t ideal even on a normal day.
“Day-to-day parking at UNLV is difficult on a good day and unbearable on a bad day,” she said. “In order to get a parking spot, students need to arrive on campus no later than 8 a.m. Special events complicate matters even more.”
Paying $150 for a parking pass, only to struggle finding a spot due to the over sale of the passes on the predominantly commuter campus, doesn’t sit well with Tifft-Ochoa.
UNLV’s Parking and Transportation Services insists there are enough parking spaces to accommodate students, faculty, staff and visitors, even during special events like NFR. The service strives to make parking as efficient and convenient as possible during NFR and communicates well in advance the parking impact with the campus, officials said. The service monitors parking lots during large events and peak times to ensure parking is available for all motorists at the university, officials said.
“We understand that increased parking availability is very important to our students, and, though we have enough parking spaces to accommodate the needs of everyone on campus, we’re continually working toward expanding options for parking and transportation,” said Tony Allen, UNLV spokesperson.
Students and visitors going to UNLV in the late afternoon or evening hours during NFR are urged to arrive early or consider the north and east sides of campus, where the University Gateway and Cottage Grove parking garages are located.
“They are further removed from the Thomas & Mack and don’t tend to be as heavily impacted during these times,” Allen said.
More NFR: Follow all of our National Finals Rodeo coverage online at reviewjournal.com/nfr and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.