Las Vegas keeps proving that it’s the best place in the world to host any type of event.
Las Vegas remains the undisputed winner when it comes to hosting business conventions, meetings and special events. Other cities may never sleep, have broad shoulders or boast angelic beaches, but Las Vegas simply can’t be beat in offering non-stop entertainment, a plethora of hotel rooms and millions of square feet for all sorts of gatherings. “The greatest advantage that Las Vegas has is that we are truly the only city that has evolved specifically to host people and events,” claims Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
Las Vegas put its all-inclusive reputation to a big, unprecedented test on October 19, 2016, when it staged the third and final Presidential Debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ (UNLV) Thomas & Mack Center. The city has a storied tradition of welcoming U.S. presidents and international dignitaries, yet the stature and worldwide focus on this much-anticipated event presented not only a unique challenge but also a perfect opportunity to prove it can get any job done right.
“When UNLV approached the LVCVA to partner in the effort, there was never a doubt that we needed to be a part of history,” Ralenkotter recalls. That meant marshaling more than 5,000 members of the media, providing the highest level of security possible and attending to the various special needs that arise during a spectacle of this magnitude. “Fortunately, the entire community understood its value and importance,” he says, “and everyone delivered the expertise and resources necessary to make it a success.”
The story behind how the debate ended up at UNLV is another indication of Las Vegas’ accommodating nature. Nearly a year beforehand, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates invited UNLV to submit a detailed host bid, at which time the LVCVA was recruited. “From our standpoint, because the business message is such an important part of Las Vegas, we thought putting the two brands together would be great,” Ralenkotter told UNLV Magazinelast fall.
The university and the LVCVA weren’t the only local entities involved in pulling off the intricate feat. “This was a great example of how our community comes together to get things done,” says UNLV president Len Jessup. “We not only had the core partner in the LVCVA, but we were also working with the city, the county, the airport and the Regional Transportation Commission.” There was a small army of students and staff who volunteered to help out as well.
Keep in mind, too, that the debate took place in the midst of the everyday hive of activity that attracts more than 42 million business and leisure visitors to Las Vegas each year. This may have been a rare one-off among the 20,000 or so conventions, trade shows and other conclaves booked here annually, but considering the enormous stakes, it went off without a hitch. “We’re used to dealing with crowds and different kinds of functions,” states Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, adding, “We had zero issues, and that’s a testament to our community.”
Along with thousands of media members and hundreds of attendees at the Debate, another 71.6 million viewers witnessed it on TV, according to Nielsen, making it the third-most-watched such occasion in history. The return on investment wasn’t too shabby either, as it garnered $114 million in publicity for the university and this nonpareil destination. In the end, the world got to see the city in a different light, proving once again that serious business gets done in Las Vegas.