Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009 | 2 a.m.
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There was a shortage of ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ after this year’s New Year’s fireworks display, leaving many to wonder what happened to the usual display.
That’s because Las Vegas Events changed the firing locations from casino rooftops to ground positions throughout the Strip and downtown. High-rise hotels blocked the show for many visitors and Strip party-goers.
Although New Year's revelers were warned of the change weeks in advance, organizers said Friday they're aware of complaints and might make changes before Dec. 31 -- including possibly returning fireworks to rooftops once again.
But several details first would need to be ironed out.
Firing locations were moved after Clark County Fire and Rescue made a change in its fireworks permit requirements in August 2008, which included hiring third-party fire safety consultants to evaluate rooftop conditions. Clark County Fire and Recue spokesman Scott Allison said the permit changes were made for reasons that stemmed from the Monte Carlo fire in January 2008.
Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson said the fireworks show changes were made after the committee decided it was becoming too difficult and expensive to comply with the stricter regulations.
However, Christenson said, the committee is considering another game plan for next year after disappointing reviews.
“We certainly had our problems in the public’s opinion of creating a show that was as good as last year,” Christenson said. “We warned the community that they weren’t going to get this panoramic view. We thought more people would find their way to those seven sites. In retrospect, that didn’t happen.”
Christenson said Grucci of New York, which put on the display, was in no way responsible for this year’s problems.
“They put on the show they were asking to do. There were inconsistencies in that some of the sites had to shoot smaller shows because of the fallout area so they only could shoot so much,” Christenson said.
Las Vegas resident Jamal Manning had watched the New Year's fireworks on the Strip for the past five years. Shortly after Thursday morning's display, he said the show was a letdown.
“You can’t see or hear the fireworks," he said. "Why didn’t anyone tell us you couldn’t see them from the Strip? Where else are we supposed to be except in the middle near the Bellagio and Planet Hollywood?”
Malcolm Thomas, of England, who spent his 10th consecutive New Year's in Las Vegas, added, "The one thing that has stood out is the disappointment of the fireworks because they said it would be easy for everyone to see, but it wasn’t."
Allison said Clark County Fire and Rescue isn’t to blame.
“We can’t tell them where they can’t fire the fireworks from. It’s private property,” he said. “They have the right to do them off the rooftops or the garage or wherever they want. We just have to make sure they follow the permit requirements and any other fire codes. Once an area is deemed safe, they can fire them off in the lobby if they want.”
Allison said the cost of the third-party safety consultants may have discouraged Las Vegas Events from doing the rooftop show.
This year’s display cost the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority $600,000.
“It just gets a little more expensive every year,” Christenson said. “I think what our board needs to do is weigh the cost versus the benefit and then the ability to have the proper time to do it off the roofs.”
An estimated 290,000 people packed Las Vegas for New Year's Eve festivities.
Sun reporters Cara McCoy and Steve Silver contributed to this report.