By ALAN SNEL
The UNLV hockey team was preparing to play Colorado last Friday and Derek Stevens was hanging out in the McKenzie River pizza pub waiting for the puck to be dropped at City National Arena in Summerlin.
A few days later on Tuesday night, he was at T-Mobile Arena for the Vegas Golden Knights’ first home game.
And Stevens, co-owner of the D Las Vegas casino and hotel in downtown Las Vegas, can’t wait for Oct. 3 when the Golden Knights hold their fan fest in front of The D. Stevens has a six-year deal with the Golden Knights for the D to be the team’s official downtown hotel and casino.
Stevens is building an expanding sports-marketing portfolio after unloading the Las Vegas 51s Triple A baseball team to Howard Hughes Corp. and other partners a few years ago. Stevens’ all-purpose outdoor entertainment center near the D is also being marketed as a place to watch Sunday NFL games, while his Long Bar at the D is another magnet for watching sports.
Stevens said his Downtown Las Vegas Events Center has hosted crowds of 300, 400 and 650 for NFL watch parties during the last three Sundays during the NFL season’s first three weeks.
And he supports outdoor MMA and boxing matches at the outdoor events center, and he’s looking forward to combat sports events Oct. 4-7.
“I love boxing outside,” said Stevens, adding he had an eight-fight series with CBS at the outdoor downtown events center.
His recent expansion of the Golden Gate hotel and casino (with its 1 Fremont Street address and access to both Main Street and the Fremont Street Experience) even includes a tower of TV screens set to sports programming.
Today, for example, LVSportsBiz.com met Stevens at Golden Gate’s new fountain of screens, which were showing the Indians-Twins baseball game, college football and ESPN’s NFL Live.
As much as he loves hockey, Stevens, who grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan, won’t be attending tonight’s Golden Knights’ pre-season game against the Colorado Avalanche because he wants his sales and office staff at the D to be there so that they know exactly what Golden Knights games are all about at T-Mobile Arena.
Stevens is packaging Golden Knights games with tourist visits to the D, hoping to drive more traffic to his downtown casino and hotel with NHL hockey as an appealing lure. He has 750 rooms at his disposal between the D and Golden Gate and is redeveloping another block-long site along Fremont Street Experience.
He said hotel guests are already booking stays with Golden Knights games as a Las Vegas entertainment attraction. Stevens said guests are booking anywhere from two to four days.
“The Golden Knights are having a great impact on people determining whether they will visit Las Vegas. They’re building trips around the team’s games in Las Vegas,” Stevens said.
Stevens is also looking forward to the arrival of the new Las Vegas Lights soccer team. Stevens, a major player in downtown redevelopment, sees the United Soccer League team at Cashman Field as a boost for downtown.
Stevens said he has talked with Las Vegas Lights owner Brett Lashbrook, but he noted it’s too early to discuss any sponsorship deals. He declined to comment further on that except to say, “I love (Lashbrook’s) passion. The soccer team has to hit home with the locals.”
Lashbrook has already told LVSportsBiz.com that he wants fans from the Fremont Street Experience to join the street march to Cashman Field before Las Vegas Lights games.
Stevens liked the idea — and it could be a boon to his D and Golden Gate hotels.
“The soccer fans come early and like to march to the match and have a few beers and have fun,” Stevens said.
Sounds like his kind of crowd.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com