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Las Vegas confronts obstacles as Super Bowl host

Updated February 20, 2023 - 7:32 pm

It was as smooth a Super Bowl handoff as Patrick Mahomes giving the ball to Isiah Pacheco for a touchdown when Phoenix delivered the next NFL championship game to Las Vegas last week.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority had a booth at the entrance to the media center’s “radio row” at Glendale’s State Farm Stadium so the game’s 5,000 credentialed media could get a taste of what’s in store when Super Bowl LVIII arrives at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 11, 2024.

Now, as the NFL puts it, Las Vegas officially is “on the clock.”

Expectations are predictably high.

“Las Vegas knows how to do big events,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the handoff ceremony. “It was less than a year ago that we were there for the 2022 NFL draft, and we had the Pro Bowl just a week ago. They have done an extraordinary job at understanding how we want to present the NFL in that community, and more importantly, how to do it Las Vegas-style.”

How’s that for a little pressure?

While most are comfortable that the Super Bowl Host Committee, the separate Super Bowl Executive Host Committee and the LVCVA can pull off a quality experience when the NFL’s biggest event occurs next year, there are still a few jitters about some logistics.

Interstate 15 issues

The LVCVA’s board of directors last week talked briefly about the regularly occurring traffic jam on Interstate 15, south of the city, during a discussion about Super Bowl preparations.

Coming in for Super Bowl LVIII shouldn’t be much of a problem because there will be activities galore in the two weeks preceding the game and arrivals will be spaced out. But what about going home, especially if it’s by car to Southern California? While we can all hope that visitors to Las Vegas spend the Sunday night after the game in town, the traffic on I-15 pn Sunday and Monday is likely to be brutally frustrating.

LVCVA board members talked about reaching out to the California Department of Transportation about widening I-15 with more lanes but that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.

What about transportation within the city? The Boring Co. has had a grand plan to tunnel beneath the city and build 29 miles of Vegas Loop, including stations near the stadium. But, as my colleague, Mick Akers, reported last week, the likelihood of any significant portion of the loop being completed by next year is slim.

When the Super Bowl hits Las Vegas, the Nevada Department of Transportation’s “Dropicana” project involving I-15, Tropicana Avenue and Dean Martin Drive will be in midstride, with work just south of Tropicana occurring.

NDOT has been careful about closing important roads during major events in town; hopefully it will avoid closures during Super Bowl week.

A positive preparation step was announced last week. A $9 million, 18-acre airport apron project that began in April and will enable private general aviation aircraft additional parking space was completed at Henderson Executive Airport. Officials with the Clark County Department of Aviation will encourage owners of private jets to land and park at the Henderson airport instead of at the west side private terminals at Harry Reid International Airport.

While Las Vegas is renowned for its abundance and variety of hotel rooms, the city has never experienced an event like the Super Bowl at a time when there’s already a heavy volume of guests.

The NFL traditionally takes over thousands of hotel rooms in the cities in which they play a full month before the date of the game.

That means NFL arrivals should occur right at the tail end of CES 2024, scheduled Jan. 9-12. Two other big trade shows, World of Concrete and the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoors trade show, have scheduled their respective events in their traditional times, according to their websites. World of Concrete is planned for Jan. 23-25 and the SHOT show on Jan. 23-26. The website for MAGIC, the big fashion trade show, hasn’t listed dates for its February 2024 event. Watch for hotel rates to soar around that time.

Parade of big events

If it’s any consolation, Las Vegas will have some high-volume events leading up to the Super Bowl for the city to practice its preparations.

In the months prior to the game, the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association automotive aftermarket show will be Oct. 31 through Nov. 3. The Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, which could have an even larger audience than the Super Bowl, is scheduled Nov. 18. The National Finals Rodeo rolls into town Dec. 7-16, followed by CES a month later.

The eyes of the world will be watching Las Vegas every step of the way. Nielsen reported 113 million people viewed this month’s Super Bowl, the third-largest audience in history for a television presentation. Las Vegas simply has to get it right.

“We are very cognizant that we have one opportunity to get the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas right,” Steve Hill, president and CEO of the LVCVA said during the handoff ceremony. “We are going to work very hard, and we have an exceptional team. We’ve been working to do this for 60 years, so we are excited about the opportunity and are excited about the team we have put together in Las Vegas to make this happen.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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