The many NASCAR driver meet-and-greet events and deafening varooms befitting plenty of exciting dirt track racing action all started yesterday in Las Vegas. By the time the marquee Sprint Cup Shelby American on Sunday is over, an estimated 300,000 people will have experienced the roar of racing in their ears and smell of gasoline enticing their nostrils. That’s four times the attendance at the Super Bowl, according to Chris Powell, president of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
For the Sprint Cup race alone – the biggest event of the weekend – in 2009 about 140,000 spectators saw the race. That’s down from about 152,000 in 2008 and the record attendance of 156,000 in 2007.
Regardless of the ending attendance figure this year, the significant question is if those people can translate into record spending. Most Las Vegans are hoping and praying it does, giving their languishing economy a much needed economic bump.
Out-of-towners hold the key trump card to this weekend’s economic prosperity, comprising 70 percent of the race crowd invading Las Vegas.
Attempting to lure more tourists to the track than prior years, race ticket prices at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway have been greatly reduced this year. With more people attending, hopefully, that will translate into more ancilliary spending on goods and services.
Las Vegas hotels will undoubtedly be the major economic beneficiaries. The recessionary price levels of hotel rooms that have plagued Las Vegas for the past year have virtually disappeared, albeit temporarily. The Riviera, mirroring what most Las Vegas hotels are doing, is jacking their weekend’s room rates to a whopping $224 per night. But next weekend the Riviera will zoom back down to their customary $79 level.
Budget hotel are also raising their rates, as well the higher priced Strip hotels, such as Harrah’s that is sold out all weekend, and Wynn Las Vegas and the Hard Rock Hotel, both sold out on Saturday.
VEGAS.com reports their Web site’s hotel room sales are up 30 percent.
Rolling up the total revenue picture, excluding gambling revenue, the associated revenues from last year’s NASCAR weekend raked in $107 million, according to the Las Vegas convention and Visitors Authority.
But that doesn’t come close to 2008 revenue, when the haul was $134 million. Most don’t think this year will equal that level. However, should the heavy rain that is anticipated to blanket Las Vegas intermittently on Saturday postpone Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 race and cause the race to move to Monday, that might be just the silver lining needed to help close the revenue gap, keeping race fans in Las Vegas and extra day or two, perhaps aided in no small part by the dangling carrot of being able to see heartthrob racer Danica Patrick strut her stuff.
Will this year’s racing events add up to yielding the top revenue producing weekend in Las Vegas?