Las Vegas is doubling down on its new identity as “the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World,” with emphasis on sports. In the last decade, Las Vegas has welcomed three major league and six minor league sports franchises. In less than eight years, we’ve added T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas Ballpark, Allegiant Stadium and the Dollar Loan Center, with a Major League Baseball stadium on the way. And on the heels of hosting one of the most high-profile racing events in the world, Las Vegas is hosting Super Bowl 58 at Allegiant Stadium on February 11.

The transition to a sports town has many Las Vegans excited for many reasons. It provides a renewed sense of identity and excitement for locals to root for a team; it complements and enhances Las Vegas’ prevailing leisure and hospitality industries; and it creates jobs and contributes to overall economic development in the region.

But becoming a sports town also has its pitfalls. Strip-adjacent businesses say they were negatively affected by the Formula 1 race in November and beyond due to ongoing track construction and the placement of temporary structures. One store owner at Flamingo Road and Koval Lane claimed he lost millions in revenue in 2023. Traffic caused by F1 turned many Strip workers’ commutes into unmanageable nightmares for several months.

“When you have 40 million visitors, there’s always externalities–environmental, transportation, public safety, health,” says economist Andrew Woods, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research. “That is just the nature of [growth]. … We do need to have a conversation about the transportation we have, and are we giving enough choice and options so that we can host bigger and bigger events? We [also] have to make sure our workers can efficiently get to and from work … and be able to take our kids to school at the same time.”

It’s a conversation worth having, if we want this town to continue working for residents and visitors just as well as it does for major sporting events. But it’s a conversation more relevant to Formula 1 than the Super Bowl, Woods adds.

“With F1, it was a huge giant construction of a track, and they had never done something like that before on their own. And it was certainly a learning experience for all of us,” he says.

Although there are valid frustrations at the growing pains that come with accommodating bigger and bigger events, Woods says there’s no question that events like Formula 1 and the Super Bowl benefit the local economy.

“One in four jobs in Southern Nevada are tied to leisure and hospitality. One in $3 that is generated in Southern Nevada are tied to leisure and hospitality … About half of the state budget is dependent on some sort of tourism-related tax,” Woods explains. “We need these visitors to come and spend their money because that helps pay for public education and transportation, [etcetera].”

Local analytics firm Applied Analysis, which was commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), has estimated the Super Bowl will have an economic impact of $799 million with $62 million in public revenue. That’s after the LVCVA spent at least $40 million to bring the big game here. The LVCVA also estimated the Super Bowl would create more than 4,000 jobs in the Las Vegas area.

Cost-benefit-wise, the Super Bowl will be worthwhile. There’s also the value of hosting an internationally televised event with 110 million viewers. It’s the best possible way of putting Vegas in people’s minds and, hopefully, getting them to come here, says Cara Clarke, vice president of communications for the Vegas Chamber.

“It’s priceless, because people are thinking, maybe I would like to attend a football game in Vegas, or I’d like to take my spouse to Vegas for the weekend, or maybe I should consider going to a meeting in Vegas …. And whenever we bring more visitors here to the Valley, that’s the core of our economy. And that benefits everybody here,” she says.

With leisure and hospitality being Southern Nevada’s “golden goose,” anything that can enhance visitation and visitor spending is a win. And having sporting events here enhances the options visitors have, while drawing higher-spending customers and larger groups. Developing those options is a natural “evolution” of the industry and furthers the goal of getting more people to spend more money here, Woods says.

“Sports customers tend to stay a little longer than your average weekend warrior customer. They tend to spend a little bit more … and they also come in a bigger group, so it’s not just a couple but on average, it’s usually around three people who come here solely for a sporting event.”

According to a May 2023 white paper published by the Center for Business and Economic Research, 1.8 million or more than 5% of Las Vegas’ total visitors in 2022 came to town for a sporting event. And when they come to town, they spend money on hotel rooms, food and drink and transportation.

For the Super Bowl, it’s safe to assume that direct spending won’t be limited to the Strip, Woods adds. More than 300,000 visitors are expected to come to Vegas for Super Bowl events. Allegiant Stadium itself has 65,000 seats.

“Clearly, a majority of people coming here don’t have a ticket to the game. … They might swing by Allegiant Stadium. But they also will probably find that they can have just as good of a time hanging out in the general area wherever they’re staying. … Around those large resort hotels, there’s lots of small businesses and restaurants and those things. And I think they’ll find that they’ll have a lot more foot traffic than they’ve seen prior.… That’s where those local small businesses capture the benefits a lot of the time,” Woods says.

In addition to that direct visitor spending, there are also what economists call indirect and induced impacts from contracts that arise from major sporting events. In the case of the Super Bowl, NFL vendors and event producers contract with local companies for things like security or landscaping. And the people who are hired end up spending money in the local economy, as well.

In fact, the NFL and the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee have a program in place to help facilitate NFL vendor contracts with local businesses. The Business Connect program was announced in December 2022, inviting minority, woman, LGBTQ, disability and veteran-owned businesses to apply to be profiled in the NFL Business Connect Resource Guide. The guide is used by NFL vendors and event producers to identify local suppliers to fulfill their Super Bowl subcontracting needs, from audio visual to event décor to waste removal.

“We ended up with just over 200 businesses invited to participate,” says Myisha Boyce, chief community engagement officer for the Super Bowl Host Committee, the private nonprofit created to act as a liaison between the host city and the NFL.

Those 200 businesses went through “capacity building” workshops to get them up to snuff to work with the NFL, including seminars on social media and branding, cybersecurity,preparing requests for proposals (documents that businesses must prepare in order to compete for contracts), and a series of “meet the vendor” workshops where business owners could meet procurement representatives.

“It is the smallest and most deserving and hardest-working business owners. How would the NFL find them if it weren’t for a program like Business Connect?” Boyce says. “What the program does is it recognizes that people from diverse backgrounds often don’t have the same level of access and opportunity. And this program intends to level that playing field.”

Say what you want about sporting events in this town; through increased visitation, sports tourism and the small business initiatives of the Host Committee, the Super Bowl will help Las Vegas’ overall economy to keep on growing.

“Nothing was ever intended to be short-term or just in preparation for the game. Everything was designed to have life long after,” Boyce says.

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