Motor racing-Las Vegas Grand Prix speeds city's transformation into sports juggernaut

Las Vegas Grand Prix, Inc. CEO Renee Wilm and Terry Miller of Miller Project Management give a tour of the Las Vegas Grand Prix paddock construction site, in Paradise, Nevada, U.S., March 3, 2023. REUTERS/Rory Carroll

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - The Las Vegas Grand Prix is still more than seven months away but at the corner of Harmon Ave. and Koval Lane, the race is already on to build the massive, state-of-the-art Formula One paddock.

On a recent tour of the bustling construction site, project manager Terry Miller said the goal was to complete work in September, leaving little margin for error with November's inaugural race down the Las Vegas Strip fast approaching.

"It's a symphony," Miller said while donning a hard hat as bulldozers sped around behind him.

"All of the pieces that come in, the logistics of how people move around the site, F1's significant race communications and controls - it all comes back to here," he said.

"This is the heartbeat of the event."

Formula One will get pulses pounding when it returns to Las Vegas after a decades-long absence with a big and brash Saturday night race, the third U.S. F1 event following Miami and Austin.

Organizers expect more than 105,000 fans per day to attend beginning with open practices on Nov. 16-17 and the race on Nov. 18. They estimate it will inject around $1.2 billion into the local economy.

"We think this is going to the biggest sports and entertainment event of the year," Renee Wilm, the CEO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, told Reuters.

"There has been an absolute transformation in this town and we were so excited to be part of it."


The race dovetails with Las Vegas' metamorphosis from Sin City to Sports City, which began with the launch of the National Hockey League's Golden Knights in 2017 and continued with the relocation of the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces in 2018 and the National Football League's Raiders in 2020.

But Formula One brings an international profile on a completely different level from the usual domestic North American sports.

"There is no better way for Las Vegas to draw the attention of our international customers than through Formula One," Steve Hill, CEO of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, told Reuters.

Hill, who was instrumental in bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas as well as the building of Allegiant Stadium, said the addition of F1 puts a global face on the city's sports boom.

"The anticipation of this race has injected a sense of excitement into the city that's going to be around for years," he said.

"It's a real phenomenon."

Formula One, whose popularity in the U.S. has surged thanks to the popular Netflix series 'Drive to Survive,' plans to hold the annual race for at least the next decade.


And the Las Vegas sports bonanza won't stop at the F1 finish line.

The city will host its first Super Bowl a mere three months later and organizers of the NFL's championship game will watch with keen interest to see how Vegas responds to the massive influx of visitors for F1.

Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics are also in discussions to move to Las Vegas, and Hill said the team could be playing in a new stadium close to the Strip in 2027.

"This should happen. The A's want to be here, and we want them here," Hill said.

"We're making progress pretty quickly along those lines... I'm optimistic."

LeBron James has expressed interest in bringing a National Basketball Association team to Las Vegas at some point when he transitions from all-time great player to potential team owner.

And Major League Soccer has expressed its desire to add a Vegas team that would play in a new soccer-specific stadium, with an announcement expected later this year.

One reason the city is so attractive to team owners is that officials in Nevada's Clark County have ample experience approving multi-billion-dollar projects like new sports stadium and arenas, Hill said.

"They know how to make it happen and are committed to figuring out a way to say yes," he said.

Hill predicted that all five of the major North American sports leagues will have teams in Las Vegas at some point in the future.

"When they're ready, we're ready."

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Las Vegas; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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