Las Vegas has no shortage of sports offerings these days, but no events will get more coverage or notoriety than then F1 race and the Super Bowl.
Both Formula 1 and the Super Bowl are expected to draw more than 100,000 fans to town.
More than $1 billion in revenue is expected to be added to the region's coffers for the F1 event and more than $600 million for the Super Bowl for things such as hotels, car rentals, restaurant and bar tabs.
Somewhat surprisingly, one thing that seems to quickly draw some ire, particularly amongst Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority officials, is comparing the two events.
Las Vegas is the sports capital of the world for the next three months.
Sin City not only will host this weekend’s Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix in and around the downtown and The Strip areas, but 11 weeks later, the land of pricey shows and cheap buffets will host Super Bowl LVIII on February 11
In-between, the city will not only play host to home games featuring the Las Vegas Raiders NFL team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL team and UNLV’s men’s basketball. It also hosts the Pac-12 college football championship game on Dec. 1 and National Finals Rodeo from Dec. 7-16.
And to top it all off, it’s likely that Major League Baseball owners will vote in the coming days to formally approve the move of the Oakland Athletics to Vegas, baby!
That’s a lot of sports events, indeed. But no events will get more coverage or notoriety than then F1 race and the Super Bowl, with both expected to draw more than 100,000 fans to town, not to mention an expected $1 billion-plus in revenue for the F1 event and more than $600 million for the Super Bowl in revenue for things such as hotels, car rentals, restaurant and bar tabs, etc.
And let’s not forget ticket price, which are ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, to get yourself through the front door to watch the Big Race or the Big Game close-up.
More specifically regarding the F1 event, you can get into the grounds for $200, but that’s only for Thursday’s and Friday’s practice or qualifying. It does not include a race day ticket, which at last check was going for roughly $1,200 a pop (although you can find some tickets for cheaper prices with private parties).
As a point of reference, F1 initially began ticket sales by offering three-day packages that included practice, qualifying and race day for $2,500. Because those packages didn’t exactly sell as well as anticipated, it prompted officials to offer ala carte pricing where fans could at least get on the grounds for practice and qualifying sessions on Thursday and Friday for about $200 per person.
But if you want to see Saturday night’s race in-person, be prepared to shell out more than a grand. However, some fans may wait until the last minute, when prices have the potential to drop precipitously rather than to go unsold.
Some Actually Avoiding Vegas This Week
F1 coming to town has caused considerable grumbling, to the point where some Las Vegas residents are actually leaving town for the weekend to avoid the even bigger-than-usual crowds and vehicular traffic, as well as the drama that is associated with such an event.
There’s a sense of irony there in that folks come from places like Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit Las Vegas on typical weekends, whereas for this weekend, Las Vegas residents will be going to places like Phoenix, LA and ‘Frisco themselves just to escape the jumble that will overcome Las Vegas.
“There are so many people who are actually staying away from The Strip for the F1 race,” said Alan Snel, publisher of LVSportsBiz.com, a watchdog site that bills itself as “Covering the convergence of sports, business, stadiums and politics.”
“It's interesting that they've created this event that they think will draw a lot more people than usual,” Snel said. “But I will say that there are a lot of people who are staying away from Las Vegas and The Strip specifically because they don't want to deal with the congestion and the traffic and the stress the headaches of having this big, you know, profile event going on.”
And then there’s the ticket prices, which seemingly are out of reach of most locals in Las Vegas, or even those who might consider flying into town if the ducat costs weren’t so high.
“I will tell you that locals were astonished, they were blown away by how expensive (tickets were),” Snel said. “At the time, this race was the most expensive average ticket on the F1 circuit. People were really ticked off that they thought F1 was trying to really mislead them by offering this $200 ticket that was not for race day.”
But hey, this is Vegas, baby. And the old adage of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is true with the F1 race coming to town, at least in terms of how this event stacks up to F1 races in other locales not only in North and South America, but around the world.
“Vegas is kind of a unique outlier market and stuff that happens (elsewhere) really doesn’t even matter here,” Snel said. “The only thing that mattered was to the hotels, which run The Strip, and in effect run Las Vegas.
“All they know is that they're getting more people on a weekend that is typically low, it's the weekend before Thanksgiving. To them, November's typically a slow month, and they’re just looking at this event as this big, splashy spectacle event that will draw a lot more people to the market than otherwise would be here.
“So stacking up (the Las Vegas race) to other F1 markets and events, you can do that, that’s fine. But to me, the only thing that mattered for Las Vegas was that they're bringing in money during, in their minds, a slower time of the year. That was part of the equation of allowing it (the race to be held).”
The Economic Impact
But even with the high costs, the traffic congestion, the wall-to-wall people in attendance and so forth, Snel said there definitely is one thing that will stand out above all other elements of the event.
“This is going to be visually a spectacle,” Snel said. “I mean, there's no doubt about it, you will be seeing amazing footage and video and photos coming out of that night race.
“But I would caution anyone in terms of putting an economic number, and believing this is going to be a bonanza, because there are so many people who have talked to us locally, who don't want anything to do with this, they don't want to come at all.”
Autoweek reached out to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and received the following nuggets of economic impact that the F1 race will have on the community:
Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix
Provided by Applied Analytics
• The estimated impact of the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix is nearly $1.3 billion.
• This includes an anticipated $966 million in F1 visitor spending and $316 million in event operations and support costs.
• The race is expected to employ more than 7,700 people with around $361 million in salaries and wages tied to those jobs. This includes employment beyond just the race, including construction roles and roles within the partnered experiences.
Mick Akers is the lead writer covering both the F1 race and Super Bowl for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Talking with Autoweek, Akers said that even though tickets are definitely costly, sales are still strong and F1 officials have told him they anticipate a complete—or near-complete—sellout of the event on Saturday night.
(As an aside, it’s notable that this will be the first time in Formula 1 history that the series itself has served as the lead promoter for an event anywhere in the world in its 77-year history.)
“For the most part, it looks like it's pretty much sold out,” Akers said. “There's a couple of areas here and there, they still have some pretty good amount (of tickets remaining) like (seats) near The Mirage and Hard Rock. The building's main grandstand, it has kind of obstructed view on two sides of the suite area. That may push people away from that one. So I would say there’ll be anywhere between 105,000 to 120,000, just depending on how many people fit in those other ones.”
Not Las Vegas' First F1 Rodeo
This will be F1’s second go-round in Sin City, albeit in a much different environment than the first time the global racing series visited Las Vegas back in 1980 and 1981 in a race through the Caesar’s Palace parking lot.
Las Vegas didn’t exactly need Formula One to come to town, but quickly embraced the global significance of the event and has since rolled out the red carpet to welcome F1 officials, drivers, teams as well as fans who are high-rollers.
“I wouldn't say (Las Vegas) really needed it,” Akers said of the F1 race. “Obviously, they've been trying to showcase, ‘Hey, we're a world class, professional sports city.’ That helped with the Knights coming to town, then the Raiders came. Now we have the A's about to get approved by Major League Baseball.
“So (Las Vegas is) kind of making it’s mark in the professional sports ranks. Obviously, with F1, it’s a worldwide appeal. They're trying to grow their brand in the U.S. So I'd say it's kind of F1 wanted Vegas and Vegas saw it as an opportunity to further submit themselves in professional sports market. I think it was like a little bit of both ways, it's F1 using it to their advantage and Las Vegas as well.”
While F1 officials have high hopes that Las Vegas will at least partly mirror the success it has had in Austin, Texas at Circuit of the Americas—routinely drawing more than 425,000 for the entire weekend—and to a lesser extent, the first two races in Miami, the world will be watching in more ways than one, and not just who wins Saturday night.
Length of the Deal
F1 has a 10-year agreement to hold the race within Clark County, of which Las Vegas resides within, although technically the race itself will be held in unincorporated jurisdiction, not within the city of Las Vegas itself. However, only the first three years of the deal between F1 and the county are guaranteed, primarily through a promotional and marketing affiliation with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority.
“So (F1 has) a three-year deal with the LVCVA to host it for this year and the next two years,” Akers said. “And then after that they would negotiate another deal and basically see how the first (few races) do and then go from there.”
Admittedly, TV coverage in the U.S. on ESPN may struggle as the race takes the green flag around 1 a.m. ET and 10 pm PT in Vegas. That means the event will likely not conclude until well into the middle of the night on the East Coast.
Another element to keep in mind is the weather. Because it can get chilly in the desert, preliminary forecasts call for the temperature at race time to be about 47 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. If that forecast comes to pass, or it’s even colder, the race potentially could be one of the coldest in all F1 history.
The late start is not unusual for sports events as a whole in Las Vegas, but it was designed to give daytime or prime time viewing for the rest of the world.
Nobody Asked Las Vegas Motor Speedway
One significant surprise is F1 officials did not tap into the resources or expertise of holding big races in town gained by Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which has been holding NASCAR races since it opened in 1996. It also played host to IndyCar until the tragic death of Dan Wheldon there in a race in 2011, which prompted the series to pull out of any future events.
When it was first built, LVMS had original seating capacity of 125,000, which has steadily decreased to about 80,000 today. And while a NASCAR race on a 1.5-mile speedway is completely different than an F1 race through the streets in Las Vegas, F1 never tapped the knowledge base garnered over the years from LVMS officials such as track president and general manager Chris Powell, who will celebrate his 25th year in charge of the track next month.
Even though F1 will in one sense steal some of LVMS’s thunder as the primary motorsports venue in town, Powell holds no ill will to the F1 race. He wishes it all the best because what’s ultimately good for F1 will definitely be good for Las Vegas in the long run.
“I think to any community, F1 brings a worldwide following and passion about motorsports and here at our Speedway, we want to believe that anything that is good for motorsports in the Las Vegas community is good for our Speedway and it's good for the city,” Powell said. “So in that regard, we're fully supportive of Formula One's presence here in Las Vegas.
“And I think it points up the enormity of what motorsports can do in a community. That’s something that we believe we've been doing now here for more than 25 years, because the Speedway was opened in 1996. So for more than a quarter of a century, motorsports has had a tremendous impact on Las Vegas just through our Speedway.
“But without question, Las Vegas is a destination city. And so when you sit back and think about it, it's hard to believe that it's taken Formula 1 this long to have made its way to Las Vegas.”
Although he will attend Saturday’s race in theory as just a fan, Powell will still be keeping a watchful eye out on what happens both on and off the racetrack, to see what he can potentially learn from F1’s successes (and mistakes, if it makes any).
“We'll have some coattail benefit from it,” he said. “Primarily my joy in seeing this event come to town is just for the city itself, because we work throughout the year so closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and we like to see this city succeed. And without question, Formula One's presence is more proof that this city is such a world-class destination. And it will continue to be so in large part because of Formula One’s presence. We know, in addition to NASCAR and NHRA, as well as the driving experiences we have here on the property, (having F1 in town) is good for everybody.”
In a way, LVMS helped pave the way for other professional sports to build a home in Las Vegas. Back in the 1990s, when LVMS was constructed, the city only had one minor league baseball team, a minor league hockey team and even played host for a year to a Canadian Football League team.
In other words, prior to LVMS being built, Las Vegas was nothing more than a minor league city sports-wise. But the Speedway’s construction, and the eventual addition of The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway dragstrip and the adjacent Bull Ring dirt track, showed that pro sports could not only survive in Sin City, but also thrive.
“I think the Speedway’s presence here and being able to bring NASCAR here proved to a lot of people in this community that major league sports could succeed here,” Powell said. “I'd like to believe we were the first major league sport that got here. And not only that we did succeed, but (attracting other sports teams and leagues) it has grown exponentially ever since after our arrival.”
Event Has Been Disruptive, Even by Vegas Standards
While F1 is obviously hoping for a grand slam home run this weekend, much of the preparation for the event—which has taken several months of construction of special bridges and roadways for both fan and vehicular traffic, among other things—has not set well with many locals.
“I'm seeing basically just the public opinion about the roadwork that's been going on for several months,” Akers said. “Any time you impact any roads, especially in the resort corridor, you're going to get people complaining, not only those who live here but people who are visiting, obviously.
“It's been an ongoing thing with two different repave projects (on the streets on and adjacent to The Strip). Now, you set out the lighting and the barriers, getting everything ready for the race, and it's been a pretty large undertaking. So basically, if you're on the strip, you're going to be impacted by that. That was like the biggest thing, is (local officials) kind of dealing with the PR hit with people in Las Vegas saying, ‘Hey, you kind of messed things up for us here. It's hard for us to get to work.’
“After Year 1, it's not going to be as impactful when they actually do the setup. The next couple of years here, they'll have some things in place, it’ll be kind of like a plug and play thing. They'll have the experience of what worked and what didn't. So they’ll be pretty much a lot more confident in years to come. It won't be half as big as an impact (for this year’s race). But obviously, when they're setting these things up (for future races), it’ll be at least only a minor inconvenience.”
Winning Parlay: Formula 1, Super Bowl
One thing that seems to quickly draw some ire, particularly amongst Convention and Visitor’s Authority officials, is it does not want to be put in the position of comparing the two events.
When Autoweek used the phrase “vs.” to quantify the scope and impact of the F1 race and the Super Bowl, CVA officials initially refused to offer Autoweek its assistance, not wanting to give the impression they are favoring one event over the other.
After assuring CVA officials that this story would not pit the F1 race “vs.” the Super Bowl, the agency acquiesced with some of the stats and logistics seen in this story.
Three months from now, the NFL brings its biggest game of the year to Las Vegas for the first time. The host facility, Allegiant Stadium, typically holds about 62,500 fans. But for the Super Bowl, including standing room, obstructed view seating, etc., it’s anticipated that the NFL will squeeze in another 8,000 to 10,000 fans for the big game.
But in the whole big scheme of things, Super Bowl weekend is already one of the biggest weekends every year in Las Vegas, and hosting the big game for the first time ever is just a bonus of sorts, so to speak.
“Las Vegas on any Super Bowl year already attracts more than 300,000 visitors who come to Las Vegas that weekend, on Super Bowl weekend,” Snel said. “So keep that number in mind when you hear the numbers coming for the F1 event. Again, it's comparing apples and oranges (although the Super Bowl will likely attract more bodies to Sin City than the F1 race).”
Here’s the impact SB LVII will bring to the desert, per the LVCVA:
Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium
Provided by the Super Bowl Host Committee
Projected more than $600 million in total economic impact:
350,000 room nights
5,000 full and part-time jobs created.
1,600 private jet landings
100,000 departures on Monday following the game
While the CVA projects over $600 million in economic impact, there’s other residual income that could push its overall impact into the same range as the F1 race.
“If you talk to the people who look at the money, I think they say, definitely,” Akers said. “Obviously, you’ve got those two events, plus sandwiched in-between is New Year’s Eve, which always sells out every hotel room or increase room rates, just the same as these other two events. That's going to be three marquee events within a few months with F1. With the Super Bowl, when you add in the people that already come to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, watching (and betting at) the sports books, they're also projecting that to be a combined billion dollar weekend.
“So you're going to have two of the first-ever billion dollar weekend's within a few months of each other in Las Vegas. I think, all involved, we'll take that any day of the week, even if it causes some headaches along the way.”
Snel agreed, but added with a caveat: “There is no outward opposition to the Super Bowl like you have with F1 here. People are kind of kind of looking forward to it. They're probably looking more forward to the Super Bowl than the F1 race.”
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter/X @JerryBonkowski