Just four years ago, the idea that rugby could anchor an entire weekend on the Las Vegas tourism calendar seemed a tad optimistic. In 2010, the first USA Sevens tournament attracted about 24,000 fans to Sam Boyd Stadium over two days.
What has happened since is a reminder of the Las Vegas tourism industry’s knack for attracting special events with growth potential and its ability to turn big events into huge ones.
Last weekend, the USA Sevens rugby tournament attracted almost 69,000 fans to Sam Boyd Stadium, including about 25,000 for Sunday’s championship between South Africa and New Zealand. NBC Sports broadcasts brought matches to millions more fans around the world.
It’s a global sport that attracts global tourism. As reported last week by the Review-Journal’s Laura Carroll, last year’s USA Sevens tournament attracted about 18,000 international visitors who spent nearly $19 million on nongaming purchases. That’s a whole lot of jobs.
This is exactly what the tournament’s promoters expected when they moved the event from San Diego and selected Las Vegas over San Francisco, Phoenix and Orlando, Fla. They knew the world’s rugby fans wanted a better party. Now the USA Sevens tournament is one of the valley’s signature sports tourism events.
Next year’s tournament will have a new rugby expo and serve as an Olympic qualifier for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the first games to feature seven-man rugby as a medal sport. And if a modern stadium is built on the UNLV campus, much closer to the Strip, the USA Sevens tournament would get even bigger.
Thanks for coming to Las Vegas, rugby fans. See you next year.