During a visit to southern Nevada in May, Oakland A President Dave Kaval saw residents support their local teams at a Golden Knights playoff game.
“Impressive! Stanley Cup Playoffs”, posted Kaval on his verified Twitter account, accompanied by a video of cheering fans in the T-Mobile Arena.
But if the Athletics eventually move to Las Vegas, the team will likely have to capitalize on the millions of visitors who come to Las Vegas annually to ensure the team’s financial success.
And in a bit of luck, the A’s presence here could attract even more baseball fans to the region and boost the city’s tourism industry.
“We believe live sporting events are a draw for our visitors,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications and public affairs for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We have seen an increase in visitor numbers in the destination with annual events such as the National Finals Rodeo, UFC events and NASCAR, but we also see the opportunity to generate more visitor numbers with our professional sports teams.”
Tourists attracted to sports
While popular belief is that major league baseball teams thrive in stadiums surrounded by convenience-filled villages with restaurants and bars in city centers across the country, there is much to be said for attracting visitors who wish to partake in a ball game want to have their Vegas experience.
The Vegas Golden Knights proved this theory with the T-Mobile Arena, which each year hosts thousands of Canadians who want to see their Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens while on vacation in the entertainment capital of the world.
While Golden Knights executives insist that almost everyone who comes to T-Mobile Arena for games is local, there are always plenty of fans wearing the opposing team’s sweaters.
Jeremy Aguero, who oversees the economy of southern Nevada with Applied Analysis in Las Vegas, said he hadn’t seen any studies showing the percentage of fans at Golden Knights games were from the city. However, he believes that between 15 and 20 percent of T-Mobile’s 18,000 seats will be occupied by outsiders.
Aguero said the LVCVA is continuously monitoring participation in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Las Vegas Bowl, which will move to Allegiant Stadium this year. Just over half of those attending these events come from outside the country, he said.
His research into attending the Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts in Las Vegas shows that the crowd is usually split with 88 percent from abroad and 12 percent from local residents.
Participation in Raiders games outside of town has not been detected since the COVID-19 pandemic kept fans away from Allegiant Stadium in 2020. But there’s no reason to believe that fans from Kansas City, Denver, Green Bay or Pittsburgh won’t find their way to Allegiant Stadium to watch their teams play the Raiders.
Raiders President Marc Badain has told the Las Vegas Stadium Authority that about 60 percent of the roughly 55,000 personal seating licenses sold at Allegiant Stadium were bought by locals, meaning about 22,000 went to non-Nevadans.
Around 7,000 fans who had season tickets in Oakland bought PSLs for Allegiant Stadium.
Effects of Gambling
But baseball is a different beast with at least 81 home games and series of two, three, or four games played against the same team on consecutive days. Even so, Aguero sees away fans supporting their own teams traveling to Las Vegas for games.
“I think the question we are asking is whether these things apply directly to baseball. I’m not here to suggest whether it is or not, but I think Rob Dondero (of R&R Partners out of Las Vegas) knows as much as anyone in the state of Nevada about tourism activities, ”said Aguero.
In a May presentation, Dondero, Executive Vice President of R&R, LVCVA’s renowned advertising agency, said that professional sport is essential to the city’s tourism profile.
Dondero, who played professional minor league baseball, said he was amazed at how quickly the team sport had caught on in southern Nevada.
“Does sport add tourism to Las Vegas? Absolutely, ”said Dondero. “There is no doubt about that. It’s a pretty new segment. We have always had boxes or special events and NASCAR did very well here. “
The problem with Las Vegas is a lack of facilities, he said. But the addition of the T-Mobile Arena, the development of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the construction of the Allegiant Stadium have filled some of those holes.
Las Vegas’ gambling culture also slowed the process down as the leagues did not accept the city. That changed after the US Supreme Court overturned a law three years ago that banned sports betting in all but four states, including Nevada. You can now bet on sports in 21 states and Washington, DC, with more expected this year.
“I believe that with the spread and adoption of sports betting, many leagues have said, ‘OK, now Las Vegas is here for us. We’re okay to go there because sports betting is everywhere now, ‘”Dondero said. “I think that had a lot to do with acceptance and helped the restrictions and rules that were keeping these leagues from looking to Las Vegas.”
Knights move LV into the spotlight
Dondero said the success of the Golden Knights and National Hockey League in Las Vegas put the city in the spotlight like never before.
This success has led people to plan their vacation around the sport.
“People travel to other places to see a game or a sporting event,” said Dondero. “People come to Las Vegas to see a game or a sporting event. The difference is that the sporting event is just a piece of the pie of all the things to do in Las Vegas. “
The MLB season is tailor-made for Las Vegas, Dondero said, because it will create new midweek stays for tourists. And since baseball series typically last three or four games, a fan would likely add the number of days in town to watch each game in a series.
“They fit easily into a visitor’s schedule, be it a day game, a night game, or a double game. I think it can easily fit into a schedule, ”he said.
“I think he’s absolutely right,” said Aguero. “Will it be as much for a baseball game as it is for some of these other events? Maybe, maybe not. But I’m telling you now, there won’t be zero visitors in these seats and it is very likely that if the evidence we have is in any way transferable to baseball, it will likely be a higher number than in Las Vegas anywhere else in the United States in terms of visitor activity. “
The reason for this, said Agüero, is the infrastructure of the region – “150,000 hotel rooms, the second most important departure and arrival airport in the country and 300,000 leisure and hospitality workers under normal conditions.
“No other market has that. Baseball is becoming a convenience for someone who wants to take a trip and watch a game while doing all of the other things Las Vegas has to offer.
Heather Gibson, Professor at the University of Florida’s Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute, has done research on sports and tourism.
She notes that Walt Disney Co. had opened up the youth market, granted free entry to theme parks in the Orlando area for sporting events, and invented a new category of visits called “Tournacations,” a mix of sports tournaments and vacations.
Las Vegas draws a fair share of youth sporting events – basketball, soccer, baseball, and softball tournaments – but lacks the theme park infrastructure that Orlando has. Instead, tournaments pack in more games and rely on parents to enjoy adult activities in casinos and showrooms after the game is over.
“I think baseball could work in Las Vegas because baseball season coincides with several summer vacations,” Gibson said. “It’s not too difficult to see how Vegas rivals baseball game tickets in youth sports tournaments.”
Learn from Phoenix
Dondero said Las Vegas could also turn to Phoenix to learn the pros and cons of building an indoor stadium. Dondero doesn’t believe that building a stadium in the resort corridor is essential because “once the fans get to Las Vegas they will be ready to drive 20 or 30 minutes to get to a stadium.”
He cautioned that any type of facility must be what one would expect from a Las Vegas experience.
Dondero believes that Major League Baseball could thrive in Las Vegas if done right.
“These things are all about the right time and the right place and we have the right place,” he said. “Hopefully this is the right time.”