The Pro Bowl and NHL All-Star Games cement Las Vegas as a major professional sports city

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Las Vegas has quickly become the “sports capital of the world,” and nothing makes that more evident than the city hosting the NHL and NFL All-Star Games this weekend.

Although in its infancy as a professional sports city, Las Vegas is the first city to host the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star Game on the same weekend.

That this is happening so quickly after the Valley attracted its first major professional teams is a testament to all the area has to offer for major sporting events, according to Steve Hill, president and CEO of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“It’s great to have each of these events individually, but to have them together atop the East-West Shrine Bowl, it’s a great week for Las Vegas,” Hill said. “It’s recognition that Vegas truly is the sports and entertainment capital of the world, and no place hosts events like this better than this city.”

Las Vegas has 150,000 hotel rooms, more than enough to accommodate fans of both sports and other visitors to the city.

Hill said both events will attract fans from across the United States and Canada who want to make it a Las Vegas weekend.

“It’s also catching the eyes of sports fans across North America for a week,” he said.

Washington state residents Matt Darlington and his son Parker are part of the group of traveling fans that Hill called a key demographic for the All-Star Mega Weekend. The father-son duo traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star Game and related events.

“We’ve been going there every year since he was little, and we’re going to go around and hit Super Bowl week in LA,” the Darlington eldest said. “We are die-hard NFL fans. Two weeks of madness, it’s going to be great.

The Darlingtons attended Thursday’s Pro Bowl practice, front row in one of the end zones, getting as many autographs as they could. They proudly displayed their football with the signature of Raiders linebacker Denzel Perryman on it.

“Las Vegas is an amazing place,” Darlington said. “There are so many hotel rooms. I spoke to a casino host and he told me that there is nowhere else you hold so many people in one place. I can’t wait for the Super Bowls to be played here, all kinds of all-star games.

“It’s going to be the ultimate city for sports.”

NFL chiefs agree with that sentiment, as they will host the NFL Draft in Las Vegas in April and then the Super Bowl in 2024. When Las Vegas hosts Super Bowl LVIII, it will become the first city to host the three flagship events of the NFL. .

“It’s very rare for us to have the opportunity to run a major event in one market and come back a few months later, run another one and come back a few years later,” said Matthew Shapiro, Vice President of NFL Events. strategy. “The sequencing of these events is really lucky for us.”

Side events

Along with the two All-Star Games, each league held side events, including made-for-TV skills challenges, fan parties and community outreach events.

One of the most notable events was an NHL All-Star Skills Contest — dubbed “21 for 22” — in which a select group of players competed in a game of blackjack. Players shot pucks on an oversized deck of cards on Las Vegas Boulevard and attempted to get a hand of 21 in the fewest moves without going broke.

Giving it a unique Las Vegas feel, part of the Strip in front of the Bellagio was closed to traffic Thursday night to film the event.

Ottawa Senators star Brady Tkachuk participated and said it was something to remember.

“It was pretty cool,” Tkachuk said. “I remember they said there hadn’t been many times they closed the Strip for something like this. It was pretty cool to be there with people watching.

Tkachuk also praised the atmosphere in Las Vegas.

“There’s so much to do here, especially with the Pro Bowl here, so the guys from the NFL too. All in all, it was a really cool experience,” he said.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he was impressed with the host city of this year’s All-Star Game.

“Where else would they let us shut down their main thoroughfare so we could have a skills event?” Bettman said Friday, speaking to the media at T-Mobile Arena. “So we’re grateful to Vegas.”

Credit to the hard work of area officials is credit to having such high-profile sporting events attract so many visitors, according to Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones. And that’s what officials envisioned when pushing to build new arenas and stadiums in the Valley.

“I think it’s really a testament to the work of the LVCVA and the resort industry over the past decades to put us in a position to be in the spotlight for the country and for the world at these events,” he said. said Jones. “I think it will only continue.”

Jones added: “The Super Bowl is our country’s premier sporting opportunity, and the fact that it is happening even ahead of the 2025 goal that was set when the stadium was under construction is really a testament to how well we have achieved the goals of professional sport in our city.

In the countryside for decades

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, played a significant role in the work Jones cited, campaigning for decades to bring major league sports teams to the Valley. Now, with multiple teams and a big weekend ahead, all that work was worth it.

“It had been a long time, and it was obvious that it would come,” the mayor said. “I’m very confident going forward that the NBA and MLS and all major league sports will look at the benefit of being part of this community.”

Goodman said she was thrilled to see the region reaping the financial benefits that big league sports provide.

“It’s no wonder this is happening, and I think the excitement and the economic benefits, the hotel rooms with heads in the beds and the restaurants and all the entertainment will only benefit the city,” Goodman said. “It’s just a boon to the city and Southern Nevada as a whole.”

Fifteen years ago, Las Vegas got its first glimpse of all-star action when the Thomas & Mack Center hosted the NBA’s mid-season showcase. It was a huge weekend for the city, but the behavior of some visitors had locals wondering if they wanted major league sports here.

Despite that, Hill said it was a learning opportunity and a building block that helped bring Las Vegas to where it is in the sports world today.

“The All-Star Game was a little bumpy then, so I think we learned some things from that event,” Hill said. “Las Vegas is a different city than it was in 2007. We’ve probably added a third of our population since then. We brought in venues like T-Mobile Arena and Allegiant Stadium.

“Having the (NBA) All-Star Game here certainly paved the way,” Hill added, “but a lot has happened here in the last 15 years.”

Contact Mick Akers at [email protected] or 702-387-2920. To follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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