LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Whether or not Las Vegas secures a new baseball team and ballpark, new research shows the valley’s sports renaissance has already attracted millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of spectators, and an increased need for transportation and other infrastructure improvements.

The question posed: What impact has the professional sports industry made in Southern Nevada?

A panel of sporting and event specialists gathered inside UNLV’s student union Wednesday during the Sport & Society Conference, where that question was posed.

A panel of sporting and event specialists gathered inside UNLV’s student union Wednesday during the Sport & Society Conference (KLAS)

Andrew Woods, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research and one of the panelists, recently published a whitepaper on the exact topic.

“You look at how quickly we bounced back after the pandemic, would that have happened without sports?” Woods said to the audience Wednesday morning. “About 5% of all spending generated from tourism in Southern Nevada, we can tie back to the sport.”

Through the research, he found 285,173 spectator seats, 39 “significant” sporting events planned through 2024, and out-of-town visitor spending of $1.845 billion during the fiscal year 2022. Data also shows positive impacts on golfing tourism and youth female sporting activities, such as hockey and flag football.

“Roughly one in 20 visitors are coming here just for the sole purpose of sporting events,” Woods said after the panel. “We know that when they come for sporting events here, for visitors, they tend to stay longer and they bring a bigger group, and they also spend a little bit more than a traditional weekend Warrior visitor.”

To Woods, it’s not if the sporting industry will continue to grow here, but what needs to be done now to avoid growing pains, especially with tourism and population booms on the horizon.

He pointed to the valley’s transportation – or rather, lack thereof of what’s needed to support future growth and a “strain” on existing infrastructure.

Other UNLV research forecasts roughly 700,000 new residents by 2040 and 50 million people in annual tourism, which the Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority said was 39 million people in 2022.

“Supporting our visitors so that they can come and visit for the weekend and get home and catch their flights or drive. But, it’s also for our locals so that we’re not discouraged from coming to a game because it takes four hours or we don’t have a choice in how we get there,” Woods said. “We don’t have a comprehensive plan, I think, in Southern Nevada.”

Woods said that though efforts to increase transportation capacity are in the works – like the Tesla Loop expansion or the Brightline proposal from California to Las Vegas – nothing so far has addressed mass transit needs themselves.

The whitepaper additionally forecasts related employment to grow by 12.4%, or nearly 3,000 jobs, by 2030. The “conservative” estimate considers the potential of hosting Major League Soccer, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball teams.