With its first Formula 1 street race kicking off this month and a Super Bowl on the horizon, Las Vegas is rebranding itself as more than a gambling and pop concert destination, but a sporting hub for global fans.
When a city calls itself the ‘entertainment capital of the world’, visitors’ expectations are understandably high. And in Las Vegas, those expectations are usually met.
Millions of people (approximately 2.9 million in 2019) flock to the desert city for its lavish hotels, A-list entertainers and endless gambling options.
It’s hard to believe that a destination already boasting six Cirque Du Soleil shows, performances by some of the world’s best musicians and unique immersive art experiences – like the recently opened Sphere – can squeeze in any more entertainment.
But the evolution of Vegas has been a constant and unstoppable force, from its inception as a stopover railroad town in 1905 to the kaleidoscopic metropolis it has become in 2023.
Now, on the cusp of hosting its first-ever Formula 1 race (along The Strip, no less) and preparing for the first Super Bowl ever hosted in Nevada, Vegas is exploring new entertainment avenues.
Here’s what sports fans can look forward to in Sin City in 2024.
What sporting events are coming up in Las Vegas?
This month, on Sunday 19 November, Las Vegas will host its first-ever Formula 1 race. It’s the country’s second Grand Prix (Austin, Texas, hosted the official US Grand Prix), but it will be America’s only street race and a night race at that.
At 10pm, 20 of the world’s fastest motor vehicles will set off on a race around the city’s neon-lit streets.
Transforming the metropolis for this purpose was no mean feat; the infrastructure required to host such an event is extensive. Fernando Hurtado, Senior Director of Global Sales at LVCVA, shared some of the challenges in bringing this attraction to fruition.
“First year issues were road closures and paving of the streets – but also the footings for the grandstands. There are actually grandstands that hang over the Bellagio fountains and where the canals of The Venetian are as well.”
Though tricky to establish, it’s all investment for a sporting future that Vegas is committing to.
“The timelines this year were a bit further out because we were putting in the infrastructure, but going forward, now that’s all in place, this will assist the next five, six, seven years,” Hurtado adds.
“The repaving of the roads will last for several years and we’ll just top them up annually so they have a very smooth surface.”
The daily seating capacity for the race is 105,000, while the race itself is projected to reach100,000 million viewers worldwide.
This is just the latest move by Las Vegas into sporting entertainment. The city also has its own NFL (the Las Vegas Raiders), ice hockey (the Vegas Golden Knights) and women’s basketball (Las Vegas Aces) teams – all purposely cultivated in the years leading up to the pandemic.
“[The Las Vegas Raiders] might only play ten home games a season, but it’s all about having that stadium in the back pocket,” Hurtado says. “Can we use it for conferences and concerts? Absolutely. We just had Beyonce and Pink play there.”
In February 2024, the city will host the Superbowl in the still-new 65,000 seater Allegiant Stadium – built specifically to secure its status as an NFL destination. Grammy Award-winning artist Usher – currently in residency in Vegas – will be playing the halftime show and the city is expecting 330,000 across the course of the event.
Las Vegas has a sporting history of a different kind
While these new events are certainly shining a spotlight on Vegas, the city boasts a prestigious history when it comes to one sport in particular: boxing.
Many a major match played out under the bright lights of Caesar’s Palace and the MGM Grand, bringing in thousands of tourists seeking a weekend of games and gambling. Even a match considered ‘the last hurrah’ of heavyweight boxing took place in the neon city: Muhammed Ali vs Larry Holmes.
Beyond downtown, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted various motorsport events since its opening over five decades ago, including the NASCAR Cup series. The arrival of Formula 1 is merely the latest addition to its storied motorsport history.
There’s little doubt, however, that the destination is entering a new era and one that looks to rival other big US cities synonymous with sporting prowess.
“We want people to come back”
For Hurtado, encouraging people to visit Vegas for a big event is only one piece of the puzzle. He believes it’s a city “constantly reinventing itself”, and is still shaking off its “gambling-only” reputation.
“Everybody thinks ‘Oh, Vegas, it’s all about gaming and gambling’, right? But now we have this opportunity – in essence an advertisement – for the destination. And it’s going to begin even before race day.”
A massive concert featuring local and international artists will happen before the race, and it will be televised as early as Wednesday of race week.
“For us to have all eyes on the destination, not only domestically but globally, is absolutely massive,” he explains.
“Viewers are going to see the highlights of the sphere from the outset. For those who have never been they’ll be thinking ‘Wow, amazing. I want to plan a trip.’
“But even those that have been to the destination before, they’ll be thinking, ‘I have to return because it looks like they’ve upped their game – not only with the race – but we want to see what this iconic LED glow might be at the stadium’ and so on.”
What’s new in Las Vegas in 2024?
Plenty is coming to Vegas beyond its sports events too.
Within the next five years, the city will open the Vegas Loop – a series of tunnels which will shuffle visitors between 90 major city sites. Teslas, for now operated by humans, will carry them between destinations like the Harry Reid International Airport, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Allegiant Stadium. The idea is to get visitors around the city faster, and more sustainably.
Accommodation options are also getting an upgrade, with the 3700-room Fontainebleau Hotel the latest addition, sitting conveniently opposite the Las Vegas Convention Centre. Iconic hotel The Mirage is now in the hands of the Hard Rock Hotel chain, and in the next few years will boast a guitar-shaped tower.
For Hurtado though, the future of the city is a place where artists can come to express themselves.
“We’re more excited about what other artists are going to bring [to the city] in terms of their craft and artistry. Will it be Lady Gaga or maybe Coldplay in Sphere next?” Watch this space.
Read the full article here