UNLV hosts historic Super Bowl Host Committee

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Punam Mathur (left) speaks to attendees at the UNLV Super Bowl 58 Host Committee event in the Thomas & Mack Strip View Pavilion, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, in the Thomas & Mack Center Strip View Pavilion. Panelists share the Super Bowl's impact on the Las Vegas sports environment. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/Allister Dias)

The societal structure of Las Vegas, historically known as a gambling capital, has shifted, thanks in part to its hosting of Super Bowl 58.

Las Vegas has quickly become a more prominent sporting-event host, and while gamblers can still place their bets, the focus is more on enhancing hospitality for major sporting events like the Super Bowl and Formula 1 racing rather than on casino action.

UNLV hosted the Super Bowl Host Committee at the Thomas & Mack Stip View pavilion, ahead of Super Bowl 58 in February 2024. The event included a panel of guest speakers, each describing the logistical and societal factors involved with the planning and development of February’s game. The panel was moderated by Punam Mathur (Executive Director of Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation). The rest of the panel consisted of Erick Harper (UNLV Athletic Director), Bill McConnell (COO of Las Vegas Super Bowl 58 Host Committee), Lisa Motley (LVCVA Senior Director of Sports and Special Events) and Hunkie Cooper (UNLV Director of Football Player Development and Community Engagement). 

The panelists described how the Super Bowl in Las Vegas has reshaped the societal structure of the city. Las Vegas, being historically known as a gambling capital, is quickly being replaced by a more prominent sports presence. The NFL approached the City of Las Vegas to host the Super Bowl, after initially requesting New Orleans to do so. Timing conflicts with Mardi Gras caused the city to turn down the NFL’s request. Panelists further expanded upon the fact that the Super Bowl further incentivizes Las Vegas’ culture of hospitality, advising attendees to thank and welcome visitors to the city during February’s game. The event concluded with a final briefing and a watch party of the Las Vegas Raiders versus Detroit Lions game.

Coby Carner, a graduate assistant for UNLV Sports Innovation, served as the chief architect of the event and facilitated its success. “The idea for this event started when I was a summer intern for the Las Vegas Super Bowl 58 Host Committee,” Carner stated. “I thought about bringing the #VegasSuperBall to campus. That idea quickly turned into a fully-fledged event with a panel discussion and Raiders watch party. The Host Committee staff listened to my idea and helped me continue refining and developing it into something tangible.”

Carner further described the challenges of planning the event as well. “I think the biggest challenge we faced was that by the time the fall semester began, we had just about two months until the event date. With UNLV Sports Innovation being involved in so many different projects, we weren’t able to fully shift our focus until early October, but it all came together in the end.”

Carner concluded by stating that students will be able to learn more about the history of the Super Bowl coming to Las Vegas and the broader implications of getting involved with the host committee, while also understanding how sports plays a role in other professional applications.  

Bill McConnell, COO of Las Vegas Super Bowl 58 Host Committee, served as one of the panelists and described his perspective on the impact the Super Bowl will bring to the Las Vegas community. “The impact that we want to bring with the Super Bowl is delivered for Las Vegas in a way that everyone who lives here or goes to school at UNLV is proud that the Super Bowl represents the community. I think that’s kind of an overall goal that we have. There is a great sense of pride for all of us.”

McConnell expanded upon how the Super Bowl also provides further utility of Las Vegas locals. “There is an environmental impact through the Super Bowl NFL Green Program. From a business standpoint, there is a vibrant business connect program that has a legacy beyond the Super Bowl that lines up local, established, capable businesses who may have been previously underprivileged or underserved, so they may have a connection to the NFL. When further events come to Las Vegas, this infrastructure is built so they are lined up to continue to be successful.” 

McConnell explained how the logistical challenges of planning the event, coordinating the venue, and setting up the host committee served as a time-sensitive setback for the event itself. McConnell concluded by describing the broader implications of Super Bowl 58 on UNLV students. “I think the fact that sports can raise the profile of an institution and how it provides opportunities for development of young people who are going on to graduate to gain experience through sports that can be transferable to other things.”

The Super Bowl is set to occur on Feb. 11, 2024.

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