By ALAN SNEL
There’s so much media attention lavished on the new Las Vegas sports kids on the block — the Golden Knights, Lights, Aces and Raiders in 2020 — that it’s easy to overlook the old guard.
So while the Las Vegas sports market looks forward, the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame singles out athletes and sports leaders of the past who have set the foundation for the market’s explosive growth this year.
For the record, the 2018 inductees named Tuesday are boxing broadcaster Al Bernstein, former UNLV hoops star and ex-NBAer Armon Gilliam, former UFC fighter Forrest Griffin, former UNLV swimming coach Jim Reitz and the old Las Vegas Thunder hockey team.
And there’s one inductee who makes headlines in every newspaper section — Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter.
LVSportsBiz.com spoke with Ralenkotter, who turns 71 in August and will soon mark his 45th year at the LVCVA. The convention authority is arguably Las Vegas’ most powerful public agency, with an annual budget of $448 million used to promote the region’s tourism and casino-hotels.
Ralenkotter’s LVCVA also has a sports role in the Las Vegas market. The LVCVA and its Las Vegas Events arm have made Las Vegas home for the National Finals Rodeo and the NBA Summer League, while promoting everything from an upcoming rugby tournament to two NASCAR weekends this year.
“We’ve been a sports town for a long time,” Ralenkotter said.
His LVCVA also gave $80 million to Howard Hughes Corp. to help build the Summerlin developer’s new Las Vegas 51s 10,000-seat ballpark in Downtown Summerlin a mere 25 feet from the Golden Knights’ City National Arena training center. The $80 million was a 20-year naming rights deal that calls for Howard Hughes Corp., the 51s’ owner, to call the new venue, “Las Vegas Ballpark.” It’s the highest Triple A baseball park naming rights deal I have ever heard of.
Howard Hughes Corp. will have a groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. for the new Triple A 51s ballpark.
Ralenkotter, a 1969 Arizona State graduate with a marketing degree, played high school basketball against local automobile dealership owner Cliff Findlay. Ralenkotter noted his Bishop Gorman team didn’t do too well against Big Cliff’s squad.
These days, Ralenkotter is warding off Las Vegas Review-Journal stories hammering the LVCVA CEO in stories that assert that his agency is not spending money appropriately. As way of a disclosure, the RJ’s owner, casino tycoon billionaire Sheldon Adelson, competes against the LVCVA’s Las Vegas Convention Center, which is undergoing a massive expansion thanks to millions of dollars in public money. Another disclosure: I worked at the RJ from 2012-16.
Local Hall of Fame announcement events are not exactly forums where leaders such as Ralenkotter break news. So, LVSportsBiz.com chatted with Ralenkotter on three sports-business topics.
What’s a guess at the percentage of opponent fans at Golden Knights games who are out-of-town visitors?
Ralenkotter estimated about 25 percent of Golden Knights’ opponent fans are tourists.
What’s his take on the NBA coming to Las Vegas?
Ralenkotter thought it will eventually happen, though it’s unclear whether it would be via NBA expansion or another team moving here. He was bullish on the NBA being here because he said the league will see the success of the Golden Knights and the Raiders. “It’s viable.”
And on eSports in Las Vegas?
“It’s exploding with facilities and more construction. It’s the world of computers.”
The Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame now has 104 members and the 2018 six inductees will be honored May 11 at the Orleans Arena. The local Hall is a non-profit that gives $50,000 a year in sports programs to kids.
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