Local governments bet public money on Super Bowl to diversify economy 

Sports-related industries targeted for economic development 

By: - August 17, 2023 5:38 am

What began as a Super Bowl soiree has evolved into plans for a series of special events-oriented outings with corporate bigwigs, leading to the prospect local governments will be asked again to fund the excursions. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

Clark County and the City of Las Vegas will join North Las Vegas in spending $850,000 to woo big business leaders during two days of Super Bowl weekend festivities focused on exposing CEOs to Southern Nevada and all it offers for work and play. The money will augment more than $1 million to be raised by the private sector, which will pay for Super Bowl Sunday’s events, including a VIP suite at the big game. 

Henderson, asked to pitch in $150,000, has yet to decide if it will participate, say officials. 

LV Councilwoman Victoria Seaman cast the sole dissenting vote of the 19 municipal officials polled thus far. She said the expenditure of public money “violates the trust of the citizens. While these tax dollars may have entered the general fund from the redevelopment agency, they can and should be used for vital services.”  

Seaman asked presenters why the state did not commit funding via various economic development agencies, such as the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, which receives public and private funding.  

“In the last (legislative) session, GOED was given absolutely no resources for economic development,” gaming executive and former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst, representing the LV Super Bowl Host Committee, responded at Wednesday’s city council meeting.  Jones also attended the Clark County Commission meeting Tuesday, where she expressed concern about losing businesses to Florida and Texas.

“I don’t care what the newspapers say,” she told the County Commission. “We have an excellent education system. We have a Carnegie-rated university. We have a med school, a law school.”  

Jones Blackhurst said Southern Nevada officials have failed to tout the benefits of living and doing business in the valley. She praised the efficiency of local development processes. 

“The development process is cumbersome,” responded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. “Don’t try to cover everything and say it’s wonderful when you know it isn’t.”  

Professional sports is a multi-billion dollar industry that has rebounded from the pandemic with record revenue and attendance in some areas, according to data assimilator Statista

Officials say they are courting Fortune 500 companies and have identified eight potential CEOs to target for the Super Bowl event, but did not name them. 

LV Councilman Brian Knudsen said that at a recent presentation fiscal analyst Jeremy Aguero suggested sports medicine is an industry that pairs well with Southern Nevada’s array of sports teams. 

“And the question that I asked was ‘Will they come here?’ And the answer was ‘No, they will not.’”

Goodman, sounding like a mother imploring her children to behave, warned officials not to air their dirty laundry on the global stage, but rather to accentuate the positive.  

“The eyes and the ears of the world are upon this city. Therefore we have to put forward our best step,” she said. ”I would beg not to consider pointing out things where we are not proud at this time. People want to be part of a winner.”

First traunch?

What began as a Super Bowl soiree has evolved into plans for a series of special events-oriented outings with corporate bigwigs, leading to the prospect local governments will be asked again to fund the excursions.  

Local governments and economic development officials are “looking at this as an opportunity for all types of major events that come to our community,” Shani Coleman, director of Clark County’s Community and Economic Development office told commissioners.  

The effort’s initial moniker, the Governors’ Corporate Combine, was scrapped due to a lack of universal adoration for Joe Lombardo, according to Jones Blackhurst, and is now the Local Opportunity Collaborative Advancing Transformative Economic Development (LOCATED). 

The corporation and non-profit are being drawn up by Jeremy Aguero, treasurer of the LV Super Bowl Host Committee. 

“Our understanding is that the organization will be able to operate in good faith as long as they do not receive a different determination from the IRS,” Coleman told the County Commission.  . 

Commissioner Justin Jones said he’s talked with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) president and CEO Steve Hill “about providing more opportunities just like this” and said Hill, the former director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, should be involved in shaping the effort. “I want to see them as participants in economic development.” 

“This isn’t a tourism-related initiative…” LVCVA government affairs vice-president Lori Nelson-Kraft said via email, when asked about the Super Bowl events for CEOs.  

“The LVCVA has no qualms asking Clark County for tens of millions of taxpayers dollars to lure sporting events and venues to Las Vegas,” Jones told the Current Wednesday via text, referring perhaps to the County’s commitment to provide $120 million in funding for a major league baseball stadium and a request in June from the Grand Prix to spend $40 million in taxpayer money on repaving for Formula 1. “It is not too much to ask that LVCVA leaders identify opportunities to invite attendees at these taxpayer-supported events to relocate their non-tourism related businesses to Southern Nevada and truly diversify the economy.”   

The LVCVA did not respond to requests for comment on Jones’ statement.

“It’s not a new idea,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said of soirees with CEOs in the name of development. “This is what they do around the country anytime there’s a big event. There just has to be some real accountability because if we’re going to invest in this, we’ve got to figure out right away what works and what doesn’t work.” 

Kirkpatrick added the LVGEA is already “supposed to be utilizing the Convention Center with a booth in there” to meet business leaders at conventions. 

“Steve Hill was in charge of Economic Development when we put that in place in the Convention Center,” Kirkpatrick said via text.

But the LVGEA says it does not have an agreement to “utilize LVCVA floor space” and does not attend conferences and conventions.

Spokeswoman Carolyn Kresser says LVGEA intends to “expand its presence” at conferences that offer access to decision makers. “All conferences do not afford us this opportunity,” she said. “Some do.”

Note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Coleman’s name. 

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.