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No complaints from resorts on closing the Strip for NFL Draft

MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. — the companies with the biggest presence on the Strip — are set to win big during the 2020 NFL draft in Las Vegas.

The Fountains of Bellagio will be front and center for red-carpet walks by college players entering the NFL, while the event’s main stage and the Draft Experience — a free, three-day football festival — will be outside the Caesars Forum convention center.

But the companies may also experience the most pain as they work to devise a plan to keep their hotels accessible to guests and employees for three days in April when portions of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road are closed to vehicle traffic.

“Any large event like this is going to bring some traffic along with it. People recognize that,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, after he helped NFL officials present details of what could be the biggest special event in the city’s history April 23-25.

Hill indicated the LVCVA would likely approve a budget in the neighborhood of $2.5 million at its February meeting for draft expenses, including the development of a website with draft-specific information for those planning to attend.

“This is an opportunity that five years ago this community probably wouldn’t even have thought we could’ve had,” he said. “The NFL and the Raiders weren’t on our radar. Hosting the NFL draft wasn’t going to happen. Now, it’s here.”

And representatives of MGM and Caesars are ecstatic.

“Obviously, we know we’re going to set records with this event,” Eileen Moore, regional president of Caesars properties on the east side of the Strip, said during the presentation before the Clark County Commission. “We look to exceed things like the (Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll) Marathon and New Year’s Eve, especially since all the events will be free and open to the public.”

Details will bring understanding

Once resort representatives map out the details of access and parking at the properties closest to the epicenter of the event — Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road — the public will get a better understanding of the best way to get to — or around — draft festivities.

“Many of our employees are so excited about being able to host this and actually attend the event before and afterward with their families,” Moore said.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, affirmed a comment from Hll that there has been no pushback from the resort community about road closures and access. She acknowledged that the benefit of having 600,000-plus people in the city in April far outweigh the negatives.

“We are in the process of working with the LVCVA to find a time for them to sit down with members of the association and brief us collectively on the closures and the parking plan,” Valentine said. “Everyone — I think I speak for all of our members — is extremely excited about the event.”

Big benefits

The benefits to the properties and the community are expected to be vast.

Jon Barker, vice president of live event production for the NFL, who led the presentation before the commission, said the 2019 draft brought an estimated 600,000 people to Nashville, Tennessee, nine months ago.

About half of those attending came from outside the Nashville area. The event resulted in a $224 million economic impact on the city, with direct spending calculated at $130 million.

Worldwide TV audience

Maybe more importantly, portions of the event were seen by a worldwide television audience estimated at 47.5 million in 115 countries.

With A-list entertainment personalities scheduled on stages each day and night of the draft and iconic views of Las Vegas attractions on display for the TV audience, the event to be televised by ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network may become a giant commercial for Las Vegas.

And the biggest beneficiary of that could be MGM.

“The conversation started with where would be the most iconic places in Las Vegas to hold the events, and I can’t think of anything more iconic than the fountains at Bellagio,” said George Kliavkoff, president of entertainment and sports at MGM. “I’m really happy that we were able to negotiate a deal with the NFL and get the support of the LVCVA and the county. I think this will be great for the fans.”

Kliavkoff said a small portion of the Strip will be closed, but MGM ultimately thought the accessibility trade-off would be a good one for all involved.

“We thought long and hard about it with lots of negotiations, and I think the outcome we achieved allows us to continue to work on the logistics but make it great for fans and for guests and employees while still providing a safe environment where people can watch the red carpet in front of the fountains,” he said.

Barker hopes the draft is the start of an enduring partnership with Las Vegas.

“We’re very proud of the draft in Nashville, but as my boss, (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell, says the next day after, ‘So what’s next? How are we going to make it bigger, and how are we going to make it better?’ I can’t think of a better town or a better city to bring the draft to than Las Vegas. Las Vegas understands the importance of special events, you understand how to host special events and you understand how to do special events.”

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

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