May 6, 2022

LVCVA exec: Imagination is the only limitation on what kinds of sporting events Las Vegas can host

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This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

Las Vegas tourism officials late last year introduced a national advertising campaign that refers to the city as the “Greatest Arena on Earth.”

The drive is part of a new focus on Las Vegas as a sports marketer’s dream—a tourist-friendly city with state-of-the-art venues, nice weather, plenty of hotel rooms and a flurry of recent announcements about major sporting events that will take place here in the coming years.

One of the people squarely behind the effort to help brand Las Vegas as a sports mecca is Fletch Brunelle, vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Brunelle worked at the LVCVA in its research department in the late 1980s before moving on to a 27-year career at MGM Resorts International, where he worked in the areas of finance, sales, marketing and operations.

In 2019, Brunelle returned to the authority to lead its marketing efforts. We visited with the Las Vegas native to get some insight on how the city has positioned itself as a sporting powerhouse.

How was the decision made that the LVCVA was going to go all-in on marketing Las Vegas as a global sports entertainment leader?

When you go back, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was championship boxing at Caesars Palace and, at that time, the Las Vegas Hilton. There was also championship boxing at the Convention Center. One of the major sports milestones came in 1985, when Las Vegas went after the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) and we were able to bring the show here from Oklahoma City. As a young person working in the hospitality field before that, I can remember when things were very slow in Las Vegas between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The city was not nearly as busy as it is now. Today, if you look at the month of December, we have the NFR, the PAC-12 championships and other conference championships here in December, and the Las Vegas Bowl. Those things all helped move us in the direction that we’re heading today.

With a Super Bowl set to be played here in 2024 and a Formula One race set for 2023, is there an event that tourism officials are particularly focused on securing?

We’re an attractive partner for all types of sports. We had the Pro Bowl here in February and we’ll host the NFL Draft in April. The imagination is the only thing that will keep us from getting some of the other major domestic and international events. I don’t want to mention a specific target, but I can say that we’re interested in all types of sporting events. Looking at Allegiant Stadium, there are a lot of different events that we could put into that venue that would be on a world stage.

Las Vegas has also long been talked about as a possible home for an NBA team team, a Major League Baseball team and a Major League Soccer franchise. Can the Valley support them all?

When we look at entertainment on the Strip, the entrepreneurs that bring sports entertainment and shows here will be the ones to determine whether we’ve reached a saturation point. Right now, it doesn’t appear that way. With the interest from leagues like the MLS and the NBA and Major League Baseball, there’s still people asking what Las Vegas can do for their brand.

When you sell people on Las Vegas as a sports entertainment destination, how do you describe the city?

As we know as locals, this is a full sports and entertainment experience, and it’s unlike any other city. The difference is that the party doesn’t end after the game or, frankly, before the game. People can enjoy world-class dining, residencies and concerts, epic nightclubs and bars, those are things that other destinations might have some of, but certainly not condensed like they are here.

Were Vegas tourism officials able to learn anything about how the most recent Super Bowl was staged?

As far as the NFL Draft, we had a group visit Nashville in 2019 to see how that event was put on. For the Super Bowl, it was the same thing. We met with organizers and partners there to see what the process was like. If you look at the walkability of the Strip and the proximity of the Strip and Allegiant Stadium to our airport, those are things that we can deliver on, frankly, at a higher level than other destinations. We’ve had a lot of large events at Allegiant Stadium now, and we’re going to learn from those events. We’re going to have an “only in Las Vegas” experience here for the Super Bowl.

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