Product diversification has been the name of the game in Vegas for the past decade or so, an era that has seen the rise of pool parties, mega-nightclubs, the country’s leading electronic dance music scene, five-star dining, high-end retail and other enhancements.
The group market is no exception, as the recent emergence of special event programming, including mega-music festivals and amped up sports opportunities, is adding new muscle to the city’s powerhouse body of convention and tradeshow business.
Pump Up the Volume
In 2013, Rehan Choudhry, an experiential marketing professional previously with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Caesars Entertainment, launched the three-day Life is Beautiful Festival. Offering programming built around the four pillars of music, food, art and learning, the inaugural event, taking over 15 blocks of downtown Las Vegas, attracted some 60,000 attendees. Last year, headliners that included The Foo Fighters and Lionel Richie, along with guest speakers such as superstar chef Jose Andres (see “Delectably Diverse” section, page 16), drew roughly 90,000 revelers.
Now run by Las Vegas-based WENDOH Media, the festival will return this September.
“Las Vegas is becoming a top destination for music festivals, and Life is Beautiful is the city’s first home-grown, large-scale festival,” says Paul Doherty, WENDOH Media co-founder.
While Doherty and business partner Justin Weniger are “committed to making Life is Beautiful one of the top music festivals in the nation,” Rock in Rio, the world’s largest music festival, made its American debut in Las Vegas last month.
Vegas is no stranger to large-scale gatherings—this April, the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, honoring Jerry Lewis, topped 98,000 attendees, and the city’s annual New Year’s Eve party draws some 300,000 people from around the globe—but mega-music festivals are a relatively new phenomenon in town.
“Four years ago there was no music festival in Las Vegas,” says Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, the independent organization that works closely with the LVCVA to secure, manage and execute events for Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. “In 2015, we will host more than a dozen, all on the Las Vegas Strip, selling close to 1 million tickets combined.”
Among the festivals is the multicity Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), one of the world’s largest electronic dance music festivals. According to Christenson, the event, which first came to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011 and returns again this June, attracts 400,000 attendees that “pack the nightclubs and pools 24/7.”
Christenson points to Life Is Beautiful, Rock in Rio and EDC as “three great examples of how the combination of Las Vegas and any event are powerful.”
Other than the 11 “home” games played by the NBA’s Utah Jazz at the then brand-new Thomas & Mack Center in 1983, Las Vegas has never had a major-league sports franchise.
That could change, though, with the anticipated spring 2016 opening of the new 20,000-seat Las Vegas Arena. Hopes are high that the multipurpose venue, a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and AEG, can attract an NHL expansion franchise.