LAS VEGAS — The countdown is underway. And it still seems surreal.
In 361 days, Las Vegas will be hosting the Super Bowl.
Think about that.
It sounds absurd, given the city’s history with the NFL. But it is indeed happening. Super Bowl LVIII kicks off on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium, hopefully on a field that will not see players slipping and sliding all over the place.
Plans have been operational since the NFL awarded the game to Las Vegas a couple of years ago. There’s a local Super Bowl Organizing Host Committee. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has mobilized its strength in support of the endeavor. Obviously, the Raiders are heavily involved though the odds of Mark Davis’ team playing in the game are pretty long.
We’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 visitors with an estimated economic impact for the city at $500 million.
Yet it’s going to pale in comparison to the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix auto race in November that is expected to generate $1.3 billion in terms of economic impact on the city.
Still. it’s going to be a crazy scene. Every year, Super Bowl weekend is wild here. It doesn’t matter where the game is played or who’s playing in it. People flock to Vegas to hang out, bet and watch. It has been that way for decades.
Now, the city and the game are one. But how was it possible?
Without the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium and the 2018 decision of the Supreme Court overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, Las Vegas wouldn’t be hosting the game. It’s as simple as that. Both are equally important.
The LVCVA believed in the concept of a big, modern stadium to not only lure sporting events like the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four in 2028, but major concerts like the Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Garth Brooks and other major acts. They appropriated $750 million in funding through an increase in the hotel room tax which the Nevada state legislature signed off on.
That was enough to get the Raiders to leave Oakland. But to get the NFL to bring its marquee event to Vegas? Well that was going to take some real convincing.
However, once PASPA was overturned and sports betting was legal for any state that wished to have it, the genie was out of the bottle. And commissioner Roger Goodell knew the league couldn’t avoid Las Vegas.
The NFL has held two of its other big events — the Draft and the Pro Bowl Games — in Las Vegas and both were rousing successes. With the town having 150,000-plus hotel rooms, world class dining and entertainment and a proven track record of staging big sporting events (think NASCAR, the National Finals Rodeo, All-Star games for both the NBA and NHL), not to mention New Year’s Eve which annually draws a half-million visitors, second only to New York’s Times Square, Goodell wisely embraced the idea of a Vegas Super Bowl.
That said, many of the area’s 2.3 million residents will find themselves watching the game a year from now the same way they watched Kansas City’s come-from-behind 38-35 win over Philadelphia last Sunday — either from their living room, their local bar or a neighborhood sportsbook. Because the sad reality is the game was out of reach financially decades ago for the average fan.
The face value of a Super Bowl ticket in Glendale, Ariz., was $1,900 but seats were going for four times as much on the secondary ticket market. A good seat would have set you back $40,000 or more.
So unless you hit the lottery outside of Nevada, be ready to watch the game at a sportsbook on the Strip, where you’ll likely be charged a couple hundred bucks for a seat. The NFL controls everything when it comes to the Super Bowl and whether it’s tickets to the game, invitations to the parties leading up to the game and anything else, you better be well-heeled and well-connected to get in.
But Southern Nevada will benefit greatly. There’ll be some sort of playground, field or football facility built in the community. Scholarships will be awarded. Schools will get visits from football legends and NFL folks. Fans will flock to the NFL Experience at the Las Vegas Convention Center. And Las Vegas will get the type of exposure worldwide it could never afford to buy, the residual benefit which will result in a boon in tourism and help the local economy which hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic.
Between now and Feb. 11, there will be a plethora of meetings involving every facet of hosting the game. Airports. Law enforcement. Homeland Security. Hotels. UNLV. Anyone with a remote vested interest in helping host the Super Bowl will be involved in the kind of planning that made the D-Day invasion seem like a weekend family gathering in the park.
The last Super Bowl I attended, which was in 2012 at Indianapolis (Giants-Patriots) involved three layers of security before going through the turnstiles at Lucas Oil Stadium. I parked two miles away, went through thorough searches at each of the checkpoints and my advice to anyone who is coming to Vegas for the Super Bowl but without tickets is to stay far away from Allegiant Stadium. You will not have any chance of getting close to it. If you want a photo op or a selfie of the stadium, go see Taylor Swift. She’s slightly more affordable. Better still, go to a Raiders game and get a selfie with one of the many denizens of the “Black Hole.”
That said, you won’t have to go to the game to have a good time. It’s Vegas. There’ll be a ton of things to do and experience. If you’re visiting, take some time to get off the Strip. Go to Hoover Dam. Go check out Red Rock or Mount Charleston. Hit the Mob Museum downtown. Play a round or two of golf on one of the many world-class courses. Open a mobile sports betting account so you can bet all the Super Bowl props and do some in-game wagering.
But bring a loaded credit card. It ain’t gonna be cheap.
And while we’re on the subject of cheap, let’s be nice to the service workers at the hotels, bars and restaurants. Don’t stiff your waitress or bartender. Don’t walk out on your tab and think you were cool in doing it. Act like you would if you were in your own home. Be polite.
The city wound up with a black eye from the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2007 from all the rudeness that was on display, not to mention a shooting at a strip club that involved an NFL player. We don’t need an encore of that. And trust me, law enforcement and hotel security will be on high alert. If you break the law, you’ll get a trip to the Clark County Detention Center, which is not the place you want to visit downtown.
Las Vegas has taken the handoff. Let’s hope it doesn’t fumble. It will wrap both arms around the ball to make sure that it doesn’t.