From left, Miami residents Maria Gertz, Maria Crowley, Sara Rainin and Sima Sadoughi pose for a ...

Monorail, airport see uptick in visitors in town for NFL draft

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Along the Strip, the Las Vega Monorail shuttled hundreds of NFL fans from hotels, free parking at the Las Vegas Convention Center and around the Linq Promenade on Thursday, the first day of the NFL draft.

Plenty of monorail riders were sporting their teams’ colors as they hopped on and off the train along the Strip. People wearing matching jerseys chatted about their team’s possible drafts and hopes for the upcoming football season.

Officials with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which operates the tram service, said they expect many Draft-goers to use the monorail over the next two days.

“Ridership of the Monorail has been a strong all day and the system has managed demand very well,” Lori Nelson-Kraft, LVCVA senior vice president of communications, said in an email Thursday. “The majority of today’s riders have been locals who took advantage of free parking at the convention center. We anticipate the Monorail will remain a popular convenient option for the remainder of the Draft events.”

Welcoming visitors

Hundreds of NFL draft fans got a surprise Thursday when they disembarked from their flights at Harry Reid International Airport.

Awaiting them in the baggage claim area was a party replete with a DJ spinning tunes, popcorn and a vendor offering a selection of to-go beers and cocktails. They also had the opportunity to get giveaway items and take photos against a backdrop showing NFL mascots on playing cards, courtesy of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

It was all part of the airport’s way of welcoming the visitors.

Airport officials declined to estimate the number of travelers arriving for the draft because the unique event is unprecedented in Southern Nevada. But knowing Reid would be busier than usual for the city and community, they opted to give visitors a festive experience at the airport.

“We’re the first and last look at Las Vegas for so many of these passengers and we want to provide that world-class feel that they’re used to and they expect,” Joe Rajchel, the airport’s public information administrator, said.

Rajchel also noted travelers should expect traffic delays to and from the airport because of event road closures and to budget extra time prior to arrival.

Not every traveler was aware of the NFL draft’s huge footprint in Las Vegas this weekend. Some were in town for more traditional Vegas entertainment: entertainment residencies. Miami resident Maria Crowley traveled with three of her tennis teammates to see Lady Gaga and Michael Bublé.

The group is staying at the Aria and plans to attend draft-related events while in town.

“(My friend’s) husband said, ‘Honey, make sure you bring something from the Jets!’ ” Crowley said.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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