The engine that powers sports tourism in Las Vegas is revving up with new teams, facilities and events that draw visitors from around the world.

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In less than six years, Las Vegas gave birth to three major league and three minor league teams, as well as two stadiums and two arenas, adding a combined 104,000 seats to the city’s inventory of entertainment venues and another 1.5 million in annual ticket sales.

Those who are skin in the game say the party is just getting started.

In the nine months to press time, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sponsored 36 sporting events that attracted 962,000 fans, according to Lisa Motley, the organization’s senior director of sports marketing and special events. That number is only going to get higher now that the market has boasted nine NCAA postseason events over the next four years.

The NCAA had never accepted an offer from Las Vegas until recently, and Motley’s crew has bid on more than 100 events. Each of these applications had to meet sport-specific criteria, offer various discounts and of course offer enough space for the participants and fans. With more than 168,000 rooms, Las Vegas has more beds than any other US market, according to STR, a division of the CoStar Group that provides market data on the hotel industry. The nine NCAA championships on the city’s list will generate at least 10,000 room nights, based on a count of bid records.

“Sectors II and III are lucrative and also need apartments. When the next cycle comes, we’ll be flat out,” Motley said.

And it’s not just collegiate sports that represent future growth for the city.

According to LVCVA data analyzed by Sports Business Journal, just over 3 million people from outside of North America visited Las Vegas between 2015 and 2019. A total of 13.1% of these foreign travelers stated that they took part in a sporting event.

Impact on tourism

Sports trips compiled:
$41 million, or 8% of the total domestic travel market in 2018, resulting in 190 million domestic trips to attend or attend a sporting event.
On average, sports travelers spend 3.9nights at a destination.
The average party size for sports travelers was 3.2 people — slightly larger than for leisure travelers as a whole.
source: 2019 US Travel Association report “The Impact of Sports on the Travel Industry”.

That means last month’s announcement that Formula 1 would host a Saturday night race on the Strip in November 2023 could become the most attended entertainment event the city has ever hosted – an honor befitting the Grateful Dead, theirs last appearance in Las Vegas, a show at Sam Boyd Stadium in 1995, attracted 125,533 fans – as well as the largest international TV audience in the market. The LVCVA estimates the F1 spectacle will generate 400,000 hotel nights and that the tourism organization will shell out more than $18 million in fees and expenses over the three-year deal.

Also last month, Oak View Group announced it had acquired 25 acres in Las Vegas and will build a $3 billion entertainment district that will include a 20,000-seat arena, casino and hotel. The company doesn’t believe the city is near the saturation point of seating capacity.

“This city thrives on development and Vegas needs another state-of-the-art arena,” said Marc Badain, past president of the Las Vegas Raiders who is leading the effort for OVG. “Look at Las Vegas’ historical growth patterns. The city never falls behind. Population growth, tourism, and venue development all increase about every 10 years. By the time our new building is online, it will reflect the next wave of population and tourism growth.”

Allegiant Stadium hosted its inaugural Pac-12 football championship last December and will host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024. Getty Images

The venue will be built to NBA standards, just in case, and the site borders a 110-acre property that is expected to house a new stadium should MLS decide to expand there.

And the Oakland A’s, which have openly explored a possible move to Las Vegas, have selected five sites in the area for a proposed $1 billion ballpark with up to 35,000 seats and a retractable roof.

Accordingly, the advertising and marketing budget for the LVCVA, the official marketing organization for Southern Nevada tourist destinations, is estimated at $90 million for fiscal year 2022-23, a 10% increase over this year’s spending.

The goal, of course, is to increase hotel revenue, said Dale Eeles, vice president of Las Vegas Events, the private, not-for-profit group that bids for and produces at rights-holder events.

“We all win when we sell rooms,” he said.

The city’s hospitality brands are also becoming more involved in the tendering process.

Las Vegas

Number of hotels: 390
number of rooms: 168,393
Lodging taxes:13.38%
Last wins:2022 NFL draft; Super Bowl LVIII in 2024; multiple NCAA postseason events; 2024 Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Finals; National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Finals; 2023 Division I Men’s Basketball Regional Championships; 2026 Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Frozen Four
Continue: 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Final; 2022 NHL All-Star Game; 2022 NFL Pro Bowl; Pac-12 Football Championship 2021; 2022 Pac-12, Mountain West and West Coast Basketball Championships
Who should know: Dale Eeles, Vice President of Development, Las Vegas Events
Eeles joined the 15-strong, privately funded organization in 2005 as Director of Corporate Marketing and was promoted to his current position in 2012. The unique event and lures attendees to stay an extra night in town.

For example, MGM Resorts International was the lead bidder, securing the rights to the 2023 NCAA Division I Basketball Regionals and the 2026 Division I Men’s Frozen Four. Both events will be held at the T-Mobile Arena, a joint venture between MGM Resorts and AEG and home to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, who assisted in the bids.

“Our original strategy nine years ago was to partner with NACDA in the hope that building relationships with athletic directors could help influence policy changes at the NCAA,” said Daniel Rush, vice president for global athletics and event sales by MGM Resorts. “It finally worked.”

Rush said all of the room blocks associated with the Basketball Regionals and the Frozen Four will be housed at one of 13 nearby MGM Resorts hotels, all of which are within two miles of T-Mobile Arena.

Presented by MGM Resorts, last year’s inaugural Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge, a basketball tournament featuring men’s and women’s Pac-12 and Big Ten teams, was held at the T-Mobile Arena.

Additionally, the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa, about 15 minutes from the Strip, will host the 2023 NCAA National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Championship, and MGM, Caesars and Wynn Resorts have been instrumental in attracting F1 racing.

The newness of all teams, venues and events means it’s too early to measure returns on the city’s sports investments, Motley said.

“But we spend more on sport. We will continue to invest in all types of sports programs.”

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