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You Don't Know Vegas

Beyond the bright lights of the Strip, this Nevada metropolis is thriving—in business, sports and more. Here’s how Las Vegas has become a powerhouse in more ways than one. 

YOU DON’T KNOW VEGAS



We’re all familiar with the dazzling neon of the Strip, the famed dining experiences, the iconic performers. But beyond the bright lights, this Nevada metropolis is thriving—in business, sports and more. Here’s how Las Vegas has become a powerhouse in more ways than one.


A CITY WITHOUT FRONTIERS

THE SPORTS BUSINESS

Perhaps no city was hit harder than Las Vegas during the recession of 2008–2009. But a decade later, southern Nevada is on an upward tick, experiencing healthy growth in housing and a resurgent business climate. Along with Seattle, Las Vegas was one of only two metros in the country to see home prices grow by double digits in 2017. According to Bloomberg News, the issuance of single-family building permits is at a 10-year high. And the unemployment rate in the Las Vegas area is under 5 percent, down from a high of almost 14 percent during the recession.

The biggest economic driver for Las Vegas has long been hospitality. In 2017 alone, tourism represented 53 percent of the region’s economic output. It also supported 41 percent of the workforce. But those numbers alone don’t tell the full story: As entertainment options in Vegas have become increasingly varied and family-oriented, the reasons why visitors come here have diversified. That trend has broadened the economic base of the industry. “Las Vegas is very business friendly,” says Lawrence Weekly, the County Commissioner for Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, says that the causes for the city’s economic growth include reinvestment and innovation, continued development of international visitation and air service, meetings, conventions and sports.

Thanks to businesses like Amazon, Zappos, Switch, Hyperloop and others, the city has seen an influx of educated professionals. Other tech growth is supported by Rob Roy’s Innevation Center. Roy, founder and CEO of data design and construction company Switch, donated the Center, a 65,000-square-foot collaborative workspace and community event venue, because he believes that enabling a more diverse Nevada economy is a way to “pay it forward.”

Las Vegas has also transformed in a way that for most of its history, few would have expected: It has become a sports town. For a number of years, Las Vegas has been home to the premier boxing matches, the National Finals Rodeo and minor league baseball’s Las Vegas 51s. But in 2017, the city was transformed into a major league sports town with the introduction of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as they opened their inaugural season at the T-Mobile Arena. The city has embraced the expansion franchise with a passion and they are just the beginning of the sports evolution here. This year the Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team also debuted and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces will begin their first season in Las Vegas as well. On the horizon: By 2020, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will begin playing in a state of the art, $1.8 billion stadium on the south end of the Strip.

Then there’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Not only is the company’s headquarters in Vegas, but the mixed martial arts organization will be holding eight fights there this year.

“We continue to grow our business and are going to places that we’ve never been before, such as Russia and China,” says Dana White, UFC president. “But at the end of the day, Las Vegas is where we live.”

Las Vegas Golden Knights

The city’s National Hockey League team has been around for just one season, but it’s already exceeding expectations. Owned by financial services billionaire Bill Foley, the team made the playoffs this year. The Golden Knights also ranked 4th in the NHL in attendance, an astonishing mark for a new team in a city with no hockey history.

The Downtown Container Park

Originally funded by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, Container Park is home to art galleries, shopping, dining and an interactive playground. The sustainable shopping attraction also hosts live music and entertainment.

UFC

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been based in Las Vegas since the early 2000s. “UFC was really the first ‘team’ here in Las Vegas or the first sports league for the city,” UFC president Dana White says. “We’ve grown from a small building to the massive 184,000-square-foot facility we now have.”

Esports Arena Las Vegas

The Luxor Resort & Casino has opened the only permanent Esports venue on the Strip. At 30,000-square-feet, Esports Arena Las Vegas boasts a 50-foot LED video wall and custom PC and gaming stations.

City National Arena

In addition to being the practice facility for the Vegas Golden Knights, City National Arena offers free public skating and plays host to a variety of hockey, ice and figure skating lessons.


BUSINESS AND EVENTS

A DIVERSE ECONOMY

If there’s one thing Vegas knows how to do well, it’s hospitality. Thanks to the booming local tourism industry, the city has become easily accessible via flights through McCarran International Airport. And, with nearly 150,000 rooms in the city, securing lodging is a breeze. For these reasons and more, the city leads as a powerhouse location for trade shows, conventions, corporate retreats, meetings and more. “Today’s travelers are looking for experiences that build memories,” says Rossi Ralenkotter, the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Businesses in the Las Vegas community are creating attractions that far exceed people’s expectations.”

In 2017, Las Vegas set record convention attendance, with more than 6.6 million visitors throughout the year. Applied Analysis, the leading source for quantitative analysis on the statistics of Las Vegas, estimated that convention travelers supported $9.8 billion in economic output throughout the local economy.

And the Las Vegas Convention Center—at a whopping 3.2 million square feet—is about to get bigger: By 2020, the convention facility will expand by 1.4 million square feet. The expanded space will provide 600,000 square feet of new exhibit space. Phase Three of the project, slated for 2023, will give a complete renovation to the existing facility.

But it isn’t just the Las Vegas Convention Center that’s growing: In February of this year, ARIA Resort and Casino added 200,000 square feet of meeting space, and MGM Grand Las Vegas will open an additional 250,000 square feet in the spring of 2019.

McCarran International Airport

There are more than 950 inbound and outbound flights a day at McCarran, including nonstop service to and from more than 125 U.S. and international destinations. “Recently we’ve seen an increased percentage of Southern Nevada’s total visitor pool arrive by air,” says Chris Jones, the CMO of McCarran International Airport. “We’ve improved transcontinental service to markets like New York and Florida, and we’ve introduced our first-ever nonstop flights to Brazil, China and several European cities.”

Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Each December, Las Vegas plays host to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, where top contestants in standard rodeo events (bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping) compete over 10 days.

Sands Expo and Convention Center

Located inside The Venetian and The Palazzo, the Sands Expo and Convention Center is 1.8 million square feet of meeting and event space. Businesses can entertain clients in luxurious suites, dine with them at award-winning restaurants, and enjoy an array of shopping and night- life options without leaving the resort.

Vegas Uncork’d

Vegas Uncork’d is the premier culinary and wine event in Las Vegas. Bon Appétit and the LVCVA have partnered to bring together some of the biggest names in the industry, like Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsey and Christina Tosi, with culinary enthusiasts for four days of gourmet decadence.

The Las Vegas Convention Center

Adjacent to the Strip, the Las Vegas Convention Center is one of the busiest in the world. It boasts 144 meeting rooms, each holding from 20 to 2,500 guests, plus 2 million square feet of exhibit space.

The Life Is Beautiful Music and Art Festival

Each fall, this 6-year-old festival brings together top acts, influencers and culinary talent within an 18-block radius. In 2016, the event brought more than $40 million in economic impact to the city.


A BREADTH OF EXPERIENCE

CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE

You can’t talk about Las Vegas without mentioning its vibrant culture and lifestyle. More than 42 million visitors explore the city every year, and that figure is likely to increase as new construction rises. “Las Vegas uses every available tool to ensure we continue to offer guests experiences they simply can’t have anywhere else,” says LVCVA’s Ralenkotter. “We’re called the Entertainment Capital of the world for good reason, and ever-changing entertainment offerings play a huge part in attracting both new and repeat visitors.”

Between the MSG Sphere Las Vegas (in partnership with the Las Vegas Sands Corp.) set to start construction later this year and momentum on the Genting Group’s Resorts World Las Vegas, billions of dollars are slated for tourism-related projects in the years to come.

Much of Las Vegas’ culture remains relatively unknown to visitors. “People often complain there is no culture in Las Vegas, but it’s really all around them if they care to look,” says Rob McCoy, president and CEO of the Neon Museum, which explores the fascinating history of American signage. “Of course the Strip offers world-class entertainment. But there’s also a thriving community of local creatives producing all kinds of culture.”

Part of that creative culture is the food and dining scene. “In Las Vegas, you can do whatever you want, and you can eat whatever you want,” says restaurateur José Andrés. “Who would have thought that one of the most exciting global culinary destinations would be in the middle of the Nevada desert?”

The Mob Museum

This aptly named museum explores the history of organized crime, both in Las Vegas and around the world. Its emphasis on interactive exhibits­—visitors can hone their detective skills in a crime lab, for instance—makes a visit both informative and engaging.

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil has been a fixture in Las Vegas entertainment since the early 1990s. With the permanent shows it runs in the city—now including Zumanity, The Beatles LOVE and Michael Jackson: ONE—Cirque du Soleil helps Las Vegas play to an estimated 9,000-plus people a night.

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino

The single largest hotel in the United States, the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino has a lot to offer. In addition to premium accommodations, the MGM is the one-stop shop for entertainment in Las Vegas. A-list artists regularly perform at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, while Kà by Cirque du Soleil runs five nights a week.

The Neon Museum

The Neon Museum is a nonprofit organization that houses an expansive collection of neon signs from around the city. Donated and rescued signs stretch on here for two acres; the organization aims to chronicle changes in these signs’ design and technology from the 1930s until today. In February, the museum launched “Brilliant!,” an augmented reality experience that guides visitors through the history of Vegas in sight and sound.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

For the past six years, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts has been providing Las Vegas with international music, Broadway shows and other first-rate entertainment. The Smith Center serves as the home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet Theatre.

Mandarin Oriental

A Forbes triple five-star luxury hotel, the Mandarin Oriental offers the perfect mix of style, serenity and luxury. As one of only 13 hotels in the world to hold that title, this non-gaming hotel is truly one of the finest. Plus, the LEED Gold-certified building boasts Twist, a French restaurant by Michelin three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Just half an hour away from the Strip, Red Rock Canyon can feel like a world apart. The national conservation area is home to a wildlife refuge, where visitors can enjoy hikes, environmental programs and even camping.

é by José Andrés

Nestled within Jaleo, in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, é by José Andrés makes for a special dining experience. The clever and creative tasting menu is offered only at two seatings each evening; the space is purposely kept small to provide an intimate experience, drawing upon the chef’s concept of cooking as performance. Diners are advised to make reservations early—the hot spot often fills up and can be booked three months in advance.

DELANO Las Vegas

Located within the Mandalay Bay Complex on the Strip, DELANO Las Vegas, a non-gaming, nonsmoking hotel, is known for blending the chic style and relaxed vibe of the iconic South Beach brand. Among the hotel’s numerous other attractions: the award-winning BATHHOUSE Spa and its Beach Club, which is available only to hotel guests.

Aburiya RAKU

With a name that can be literally translated as “charcoal grill house enjoyment,” Aburiya Raku boasts authentic Japanese food in a traditional setting. As a James Beard semifinalist three years running, and a perennial Eater Vegas award nominee, this establishment reflects its chef and owner Mitsuo Endo’s commitment to quality ingredients and an unforgettable dining experience.

W Las Vegas

Completely revamped in 2016, the W Las Vegas is one of the Strip’s newer accommodations. If you want to be out of the fray, the 289-room tower is removed from the Strip, but it’s also close enough that you can enjoy the Strip whenever you like. W guests can enjoy all the perks of the SLS Hotels, as well.