Thursday, March 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Statistical report offers a beyond-the-stereotype look at NASCAR fans
- Five sporting events that have a major impact on the local economy
- NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas means free driver appearances, autograph sessions
- Speedway employing iPhone, Android apps to help ease traffic problems for NASCAR weekend
Dozens of stock cars and their superstar drivers have started rolling into Las Vegas for NASCAR Weekend, bringing with them tens of thousands of fans who are expected to generate more than $100 million in local economic activity.
Local appearances by the NASCAR drivers — including Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson — were scheduled to start Wednesday evening and continue through Friday, at which point the action will switch to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the weekend races.
About 150,000 people, including locals, are expected to attend Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 race, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Visitors in town for last year’s NASCAR Weekend generated about $136 million in nongaming economic activity, a number the LVCVA expects this year’s event to match or slightly exceed.
“You have to take into consideration the economy is ticking up, and tourism is associated with that,” said Julian Dugas, the LVCVA’s director of sports marketing. “We’re confident it’s going to be as good or better than last year.”
Unlike in 2011, this year’s NASCAR events overlap with the Mountain West Conference and Western Athletic Conference basketball tournaments, but Dugas said the city was more than capable of accommodating all the extra visitors.
“Obviously, it increases demand for rooms, but the city has a huge amount of capacity, so it can handle it very easily,” he said.
According to VEGAS.com, average room rates on the Strip for the weekend range from $63.67 at Circus Circus to $288.33 at the Cosmopolitan, comparable to weekend rates throughout the rest of March. VEGAS.com is owned by The Greenspun Corporation, which also owns the Las Vegas Sun and lasvegassun.com.
NASCAR’s Las Vegas stop also will be a big weekend for executives from its official partners. Representatives from nearly 50 sponsors — including Coca-Cola, Office Depot and Bank of America — will be on hand Friday at the Encore hotel for a business council, said Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s chief marketing officer.
“It’s kind of like speed dating for sponsors,” Phelps said. “It takes away the layers that exist typically. (The companies) are all in a room together and they’re able to make deals quickly without a lot of the bureaucracy.”
NASCAR’s presence also will benefit local businesses, Phelps said, by bringing attention and interest to the Las Vegas market.
Along with NASCAR weekend and the conference basketball tournaments, the NCAA Tournament and upcoming Big League Weekend baseball games should contribute to a strong March for the Las Vegas tourism market, Dugas said.
“Big League Weekend won’t drive an awful lot of tourism to town, but it gives us the opportunity to host Major League Baseball and have those games broadcast in local markets, which is big for us,” Dugas said. “Overall, March should be a very, very good month for Las Vegas.”