Super Bowl is a monolith — but other sports are capitalizing in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — It’s Super Bowl week, which means the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are starting to feel that nervous tingle as football’s greatest show rapidly approaches. 

As Super Bowl LVIII closes in on Sin City, the golfers are fine-tuning their short games, the boxers are making their grueling weight cuts, the hockey players are licking their wounds and the Power Slap “athletes” are doing whatever they do to prepare for combat (more on Power Slap later).

Savvy sports promoters realized long ago that scheduling events in the Super Bowl city during the week of football’s biggest festivity is a fine way to tap into both a willing audience in search of a good time, and what is essentially a giant sports-business convention. With Vegas the host this year, that has taken things up a level.

“From our point of view, it is incredible,” veteran boxing promoter Bob Arum told me via phone. Arum’s Top Rank staged a WBO junior welterweight world title fight on Thursday where Teofimo Lopez defeated Jamaine Ortiz at Mandalay Bay’s Michelob ULTRA Arena, just a few steps from the Super Bowl’s media center. 

Arum continued: “You have all the advertising executives, all the television chiefs, all the marketing and business people, all in one part of the same city at one time. Then you have 350,000 people coming into town who are already known to be sports fans. I know we are not the only ones to think this way, but it makes perfect business sense.” 

He’s right. As well as the boxing card, the money-flush competitors of LIV Golf began play on Thursday and will continue Friday and Saturday at nearby Las Vegas Country Club, benefiting from fortunate timing with the pelting rains finally dissipating. 

The LIV event’s midweek pro-am features current NFL players like Derek Carr and Will Levis, as well as expected high draft pick Drake Maye all taking part. By design, it seeks to borrow from the success of the PGA Tour’s WM Open in Phoenix, which boasts a raucous party-style atmosphere and coincided with the Super Bowl last year and in 2015. 

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“I think it’s us trying to create a spectacle for the United States,” 2020 U.S. Open championship Bryson DeChambeau told reporters. “I think we haven’t been highlighted enough here in the States, and I can’t wait to see what the response is like with football fans and Vegas fans alike.” 

Was the 49ers or Chiefs Super Bowl run more impressive?

In the early iterations of the Super Bowl, rival sports would steer clear of the host city, reasoning that with so much focus on the big game, there would be little bandwidth left for anything else. 

That’s no longer the case, especially since the NFL pieced together a full week of events designed to bring people into town earlier. 

Rather than schedule around the Super Bowl, local pro teams now lean into the arrival of the Super Bowl. At Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis, a Pacers basketball game during the prior week drew a raucous crowd containing large numbers of football fans. Poor Kris Humphries of the New Jersey Nets, then embroiled in legal wrangling following his separation from Kim Kardashian, took the brunt of fans’ attention as he was jeered most of the night. 

On Tuesday of this week, one of the most significant games of the National Hockey League season took place on the Strip, where the hometown Golden Knights scuttled the Edmonton Oilers’ bid to tie the all-time NHL win streak record of 17

Inevitably, there is also a collection of more offbeat activities, all trying to grab an audience share. In 2019, in Atlanta, an enterprising promoter named T.J. McAloon brought “No Ring Bar Wrestling” to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, renting out a facility and setting up his patented show, which as the name suggests, involves wrestlers doing their thing not in a ring, but among the crowd in a regular bar. 

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This week’s equivalent might be UFC president Dana White’s fledgling Power Slap. The event features competitors who forcefully slap each other until one can no longer continue. It is not for the faint of heart, but this is Vegas, and there is a market here for everything. 

“It is no surprise that there is so much going on,” Arum said. “Everyone knows about the Super Bowl, the best of the best, the biggest thing in professional team sports. It is like a festival and if you can bring your product close to that audience it can be powerful.” 

Outside the Mandalay Bay, a group of 49ers fans who had just attended the weigh-in for Lopez-Ortiz were heading next to get their LIV Golf tickets, excited that the price of admission was a mere fraction of what they had shelled out for Super Bowl seats on Sunday. 

With the sun out and the Chiefs-49ers clash just days away, Vegas is hitting top gear, and sports is very much a part of it. 

 Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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