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Las Vegas embraces the Super Bowl – and a new vision of itself

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Las Vegas’ first Super Bowl will be a christening of the city’s new status as a pro sports destination. 

When officials agreed to help pay for Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Raiders, they expected a benefit of 450,000 visitors a year. The reality has been nearly double. The arrival of the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 alone is expected to bring 330,000 fans. 

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

The Super Bowl is the latest indication of Las Vegas’ transformation into a pro sports hub. Aside from an economic boon, what has it done for the community?

For a city built on gambling and renewed through constant evolution, professional sports is the next big thing. As America’s attitude toward betting changes, the city is finally taking a prominent place in the pro sports landscape. 

It wasn’t that long ago that professional sports avoided Las Vegas because of its association with gambling. The city wasn’t allowed to advertise during the Super Bowl. But the transformation has meant more than money. Pro sports have brought a new sense of place and stability. Not to mention something to root for together.

“Usually before the game … you look at each other and go, ‘We’re probably going to hug at some point during the game. Are we OK with that?’” says Sondra Cosgrove, a season ticket holder for the champion WNBA Las Vegas Aces. 

On game days, the football pilgrimage starts across the highway.  

Crowds thread through gold-paneled casinos, pyramid-shaped and gaudy, before emerging onto a street-turned-pedestrian walkway. Ahead is Allegiant Stadium, the $2 billion home of the Las Vegas Raiders. But the scene also reveals something more: a new vision of Las Vegas itself.

While many of the fans making the trek from the famous Las Vegas Strip are local, more than half are not. Pro football, it seems, is now a part of the Vegas tourist experience. When local officials agreed to pay $750 million of the stadium bill, they expected a benefit of 450,000 visitors a year. The reality has been nearly double that. The arrival of the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 alone is expected to bring 330,000 fans.

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

The Super Bowl is the latest indication of Las Vegas’ transformation into a pro sports hub. Aside from an economic boon, what has it done for the community?

For a city built on gambling and then renewed through constant evolutions, professional sports is the next big thing. As America’s attitude toward gambling changes, the city is finally taking a prominent place in the pro sports landscape.  

For generations, professional sports avoided Las Vegas because of its association with gambling. “Two decades ago, Las Vegas tried to advertise on the Super Bowl, and the NFL wouldn’t allow it,” says Michael Green, professor and chair of the history department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Times have changed to say the least.” 

Yet the transformation has meant more than money. For many in Las Vegas, it has also brought a new sense of identity. For the city of glittering lights, often criticized as transient, pro sports have brought a new sense of place and stability. Not to mention something to root for together. 

Image of Sport/Sipa/Reuters/File

Allegiant Stadium, seen in 2021, is the Raiders’ $2 billion home.

“Usually before the game, if it’s somebody new, you look at each other and go, ‘We’re probably going to hug at some point during the game. Are we OK with that?’” says Sondra Cosgrove, who has season tickets to the Las Vegas Aces, two-time champions of the Women’s National Basketball Association.



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