The future of events in Las Vegas looks bright
Industry professionals from all sectors of the hospitality industry got together Jan. 24 at Las Vegas newest property, Fontainebleau Las Vegas, to discuss the success of last year’s major events and what lies ahead in the city in 2024.
Key moments of Preview Las Vegas 2024 included appearances by Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo, Las Vegas Chamber President and CEO Mary Beth Sewald, Applied Analytics Principal Analyst Jeremy Aguero, MLB A’s President John Fisher, and F1’s Renee Wilm and Betsy Fretwell.
“Who comes to an F1 race?” Wilm asked during her and Fretwell’s fireside chat with Aguero. Along with the ~316,000 tickets the November event sold, there were also other visitation stats to consider: the influx of Las Vegas visitors excited to be a part of the weekend with no direct connection to the race, as well as F1 mechanics, engineers, sponsors and caterers, all of whom have free time around the race.
“They do get a little bit of downtime throughout race weekend,” Wilm said. “It’s often referred to as a traveling circus that moves when Formula 1 moves around the world. We were so excited to be able to bring that quantity of people here to Las Vegas to enjoy everything the town has to offer.”
Aguero noted that fact that of those ~316,000 tickets sold, roughly 145,000 of those were unique visitors that came to the city. “These are folks who said ‘I would not have come to Las Vegas,’ but for being here [at F1], which is pretty terrific,” he said.
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In addition to bringing so many visitors to the event in person, F1 Las Vegas also brought one of the highest numbers of TV viewers across the entire season—1.3 million on ESPN, which was the most viewed F1 race since June’s Canadian Grand Prix on ABC, which had 1.76 million viewers. Wilm said it was “particularly unusual” at that point in the season.
“Max [Verstappen, Belgian-Dutch F1 racer] already won the driver championship, and to still have this kind of level of viewership just shows the incredible demand and interest in the Las Vegas Grand Prix that we found worldwide,” Wilm said. “The last race of the year in Abu Dhabi always has a high rating because that’s when all the champions are crowned, both the team and driver.” Wilm’s fascination with the viewership was also due to the time of the race. “When you think about the East Coast, it was a 1 a.m. start time, that was rough. We have tremendous viewership on the East Coast.”
For those who may’ve not been aware, Wilm brought attention to why there was such a late start time, which was to allow the event’s legacy fans in Europe to watch the race with a cup of coffee, the same way American fans may watch the Europeans.
Wilm assured the audience that many of the initial preparations made over the 16 months it took to make F1 happen—which resulted in severe traffic delays (two out of three families were impacted, based on survey results)—no longer need to be made. “That was a year-one pain point for so many, Wilm said. “We are so grateful for the patience and tenacity of this town in allowing us to get that work done.…But as I said, we don’t need to do all of this again. We’re not going to be burying phone lines, we’re not going to be surfacing the entirety of the track.
“We think this is going to be a substantially less difficult build leading up to year two of the Grand Prix. There was a total of nine months of roadwork, that’s not going to happen this year. There’s a three-month build, but even in those three months the footprint of what we will need to do will be substantially reduced.”
According to Wilm, the results showed that a majority of Vegas Valley residents—53%—want Formula 1 to return for a second year and beyond.
A’s Coming to The Strip
In this Q&A, Sewald sat down with Fisher to talk about the baseball team’s move to Las Vegas and the local support he has seen coming from Las Vegas locals toward the city’s established sports teams.
Fisher grew up in the Bay Area. Being so far away from Las Vegas and having never been, his understanding of the city was like many others’: it’s all about The Strip. “When I started coming back here and really getting to know the community and spending time off The Strip, whether it be downtown, out in Summerlin, Henderson or other communities in and around Las Vegas, I think what got me most excited was the strength of the local market,” he said.
“It’s something not everybody from outside Las Vegas understands or appreciates….Seeing how the other professional sports teams, whether it be the [WNBA’s] Aces, [NFL’s] Raiders or [NHL’s] Golden Knights, that degree of local support has just been incredible. I’ve been to a couple of Golden Knights games and, you know, I couldn’t even hear myself talk over the excitement from what was a predominantly local group of fans.”
For a sports team—really any corporation in business—to be successful, you really need to engage and become part of the local community. That’s an important goal of ours,” Fisher said. “The success of the A’s is going to depend upon the community really embracing us and feeling like we are part of the community. Seeing in particular how the Golden Knights have done that is a great example for us to look up to, Bill Foley [Golden Knights owner] has done a fantastic job there.”
The A’s are currently proposing a 30,000-seat ballpark on the south end Strip, where Tropicana Las Vegas now sits, estimated to cost $1.5 billion. On April 2, the property will cease operations, but it is not known when demolition of the property will begin. The new ballpark, which will also have an on-property hotel, is scheduled to open in 2028.