Because of the high-profile nature of the National Football League and the Oakland Raiders, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Southern Nevada is gaining a new tourism asset in 2020: the 65,000-seat stadium itself.
Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed a 19-member special committee to develop a plan and possibly form a new authority or commission to leverage the new venue by attracting major events. That would mean having funding available to lure the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four, soccer exhibition matches, collegiate football games and concert performers popular enough to fill a stadium, like Beyonce and U2. A new organization also would coordinate with the existing activity calendar to make sure a massive event isn’t brought in at the same time there are big conventions or trade shows in town.
The Southern Nevada Sporting Event Committee met for the second time earlier this month at City Hall and representatives of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and its offshoot, Las Vegas Events, explained how their respective organizations drive tourist traffic to the city’s resorts.
Committee member Peter Sadowski, executive vice president of the Vegas Golden Knights, made this suggestion: Why not just let Las Vegas Events continue to do its work and the committee recommend it be better funded by the Nevada Legislature?
Las Vegas Events is a private nonprofit organization founded in 1983 with a mission to “produce, support and assist in the growth of signature events that drive tourism and increase awareness of Las Vegas as the premier event destination.”
The problem is that LVE meetings are not open to the public because it is a private organization.
The stadium is partly publicly funded, which means taxpayers have a right to know how their dollars are spent. That means all meetings about the stadium and the events that are held there must be open to the public.
One of the reasons LVE was formed as a private organization was so that it would not be required to follow public meeting laws requiring the publication of agendas and other regulations that could give competitors clues about the group’s pursuits.
Funded by hotel room tax revenue through the LVCVA, Las Vegas Events’ initial effort was to wrestle the National Finals Rodeo away from Oklahoma City, bringing that event to Las Vegas for the first time in 1985.
Local business people didn’t want Oklahoma City officials to get wind of what Las Vegas was offering so that the rival could counter with something better.
The rodeo would become the template for signature events in the city with the development of related spinoff activities, fan festivals and entertainment associated with the western lifestyle in December, a month when the city all but closes down for the holidays. As of last December, the rodeo has had more than 300 straight sellouts.
Over the years, Las Vegas Events has produced and supported more than 650 events, driving 7.4 million visitors and $5.1 billion in non-gaming economic impact since 1991. The organization is responsible in part for NASCAR races, including the new South Point 400 in September, the Life Is Beautiful festival downtown, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and the America’s Party fireworks celebration on New Year’s Eve.
Other Southern Nevada communities also benefit, as Las Vegas Events sponsors and coordinates activities in Mesquite and Laughlin.
The cost of developing plans for some of the world’s premiere sporting events will be high and it will be imperative for agencies to be watched closely as the cash is dispersed.
Transparency will be essential to the process and it will be important for the committee to recognize that as they develop their recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.