As the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas has long been synonymous with vibrant nightlife, iconic resorts, and exhilarating entertainment. And in recent years, the city has upped the ante like only Vegas can, emerging as a dynamic sports destination that is impacting the region and its economy.
Recognizing the significance of this shift, UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), in partnership with UNLV Sports Innovation, explores the intricacies of Las Vegas’ burgeoning sports economy in its latest white paper, “A Summary of the Sports Economy in Las Vegas.” The study sheds light on the economic impact of the sports economy on greater Las Vegas as well as the impact on the quality of life for its residents.
As of April 2023, Las Vegas had 17 primary sports facilities and arenas that boasted a combined capacity of 285,173 seats. If eight additional planned or proposed facilities open – including a proposed new stadium for Major League Baseball's Oakland A's – the city will gain more than 120,000 new seats. According to UNLV researchers’ estimates, sporting events in Las Vegas generated $1.845 billion in economic activity from out-of-town visitors during the fiscal year 2022 alone — and forecasters anticipate an even greater return in the future.
“One in four of our workers and nearly thirty percent of our real GDP is tied to recreation services. The linkages between the two industries are real,” said Andrew Woods, director of CBER and one of the authors of the white paper. “If sporting activity drives new businesses, new jobs, especially full-time skilled jobs, and improves the economic and cultural well-being for residents and their families, then it’s no doubt a positive effect on the Las Vegas economy."
Though the economic growth is positive, researchers point out that access to sports is not equally distributed across the region, which leads to areas they refer to as "sports deserts."
The paper also addresses the broader impact of sports on the Las Vegas community, specifically on girls’ participation in sports in the Clark County School District (CCSD). As the result of a Title IX case, CCSD added girls flag football in 2012 and has seen exponential growth in participation with 15,415 sport participation opportunities for girls in Southern Nevada. A similar pattern is being observed among young women and girls who play youth hockey, with a dramatic eight-fold increase from 67 to 573 players between the 2017 and 2022 seasons.
“The increase in sport opportunities for girls in Las Vegas mirrors an international trend toward greater investment in women’s sport,” said paper co-author Nancy Lough, director of education for UNLV Sports Innovation. “This trend is exemplified by the Las Vegas Aces winning the first professional sport championship for the city and shifting the perception of Las Vegas toward the new global capital for sport and entertainment.”
Key takeaways from the “Sports Economy in Las Vegas” white paper:
- Impressive Seating Capacity: Las Vegas’ capacity to seat nearly 300,000 fans across multiple professional sports venues highlights the city's readiness and ability to host major sporting events and accommodate large crowds.
- Abundance of Annual Sporting Events: Las Vegas is set to host a staggering 39 significant annual sporting events or tournaments through 2024. This robust calendar of sporting events further solidifies the city's reputation as a premier sports destination, attracting athletes, fans, and tourists from around the world.
- Growth in New Enterprises: The white paper highlights a correlation between the presence of professional sports teams with the growth of coaching instruction, which has increased 151% in Las Vegas, as an indicator of entrepreneurial activity.
- Projected Job Growth: Researchers conservatively forecast a 12.4% increase in employment within performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries from 2022 to 2030. This equates to approximately 2,944 permanent jobs, indicating a promising future for job seekers and individuals interested in career paths in the sports economy.
“A Summary of the Sports Economy in Las Vegas” was published on the Center for Business and Economic Research’s website in May.
In addition to Woods and Lough, co-authors include: Stephen M. Miller, research director, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research; John Mercer, director of research, UNLV Sports Innovation; Jinju Lee, deputy research director, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research; Coby Carner, graduate research assistant, UNLV Sports Innovation; and Zachary Allen, graduate assistant, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research. Additionally, input and interviews were conducted with Chris Cain, director and professor in residence in golf management at UNLV, along with the Golden Knights, R&R Partners, and The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.