Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas may not be at the top of the list of weekend getaways or vacation hot spots for BYU fans, but throw in a football bowl game and get out of the way.
The Cougars will play today in their fifth consecutive bowl game at Sam Boyd Stadium — this one called the Maaco Bowl — and their fans may add another notch to their own championship belt: In the 18-year history of the bowl game, BYU followers have contributed to the four most profitable ones. Today may make No. 5.
Largely because of the money BYU fans leave behind, the bowl is expected to break the $150 million mark in economic impact over the bowl’s history, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“When BYU comes in here, it means it’s a sellout,” authority spokesman Vince Alberta said. “They bring fans who would otherwise not be in Las Vegas, and they are spending money.”
Indeed, the Las Vegas Bowl has sold out for four consecutive years. Alberta estimated that the total economic impact for the area would be right around last year’s figure of $14.2 million.
“We’ve seen consistent numbers — and they’ve been consistently great,” Alberta said. “Since BYU has been in the bowl, it’s the highest economic stimulus we’ve ever had.”
Before BYU became a fixture in the bowl game, the Las Vegas Bowl struggled financially. The average attendance from 2001-04 was just more than 22,000. Those games generated about $9.3 million for Las Vegas, plus what was spent gambling.
Since 2005 — with BYU in town — the average economic impact has been $13.6 million annually. The attendance at Sam Boyd Stadium has eclipsed 40,000 each year.
“Five years ago, this bowl game was on the verge of not meeting its attendance requirements,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “If you look at the partnership, which is what it has been with BYU, it’s been sold out ever since then. That’s because of BYU.”
Last year’s game between Arizona and BYU attracted about 32,700 attendees from out of town. For today’s game, about 32,000 will be from out of town.
By the end of today, more than 300,000 out-of-town fans will have seen Las Vegas Bowl games.
“All that adds up to a very winning combination to, ultimately, the residents of Southern Nevada because it’s helping the economy and creating jobs,” Alberta said.
He said the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas is one event that has made Las Vegas more popular in December than it had been in previous years.
The others: the National Finals Rodeo, NASCAR Champions Week and the Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon.
“Historically, there were hotels that either shut down their showrooms or shut down parts of their facility for maintenance,” Alberta said. “Now, December is a busy month for the destination.”
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