Ten years ago I was hired to work a medical conference that was being moved from Las Vegas to Chicago. My assignment was to help the transportation for the event’s secondary hotel for convention attendees. I was to make sure that 2,500 people got fed breakfast then promptly moved to McCormick Place, Chicago’s primary convention center as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So when the organizers of the event were asking what support I needed or wanted, my reply was to have 45 buses lined up and ready to move along Lower Wacker Drive. Apparently that was something out of the ordinary for Chicago events because they had to research to see what that would take to do. In Vegas, moving 2,500 people is moving a family reunion and nobody blinks twice at lining up 45 buses. For this, they needed a permit and it also made a few people nervous wondering what was going to happen and could we pull it off without incident.
With a staff of 5 people to manage the boarding procedure, we were able to move 2,500 people in under 45 minutes without anyone getting lost, left behind or traffic being hindered on Lower Wacker Drive. As the last bus pulled away, one of the police officers assigned to help with traffic smiled and said, “That was amazing!”
When the International Builders Show decided to start rotating their annual convention and moved it one year from Las Vegas to Orlando, I was in Orlando working another event and watched in amazement on how this one show WAS the news. Almost every news story was about something having to do with the Builders Show itself. The people that were attending were being interviewed about their experience. Headline-making stories about all the rehearsals and hours of practice police, security and traffic people had before the event. Media crews eagerly traced the bus routes to show how they moved and how they would work.
Here in Las Vegas, CES brings in 150,000 people and our media covers it like it was a Tupperware party. Telling us to just avoid the convention area. What does make the news here is what’s in the event. Same goes for other events hosted here as well: NASCAR, NFR, NAB, SEMA, etc… It’s not the event but what’s in the event that makes the news. And when it does make the news, its usually after the first break. Same goes for the traffic. Moving large crowds of people and vehicles from hotels to hotels, convention or event facilities is not anything new to us. It’s not something large staffs of people need hours of prep time or rehearsals for. We just show up and do it. It’s something we do almost every day like its normal, not newsy.
I was thinking about all this as I was preparing to exit the Monte Carlo Casino parking garage after the grand opening festivities of the T-Mobile Arena. The fact that as Las Vegas locals, we kind of get spoiled and forget how good we actually have it here when compared to other so-called “tourist destinations”. I often remark to my tour guests that when you live here, you really need to leave here occasionally to remember that Las Vegas is a universe unto its own and that this is not how other cities and people actually operate.
Las Vegas is a place that is used for test markets for new products, new stores and food or entertainment choices. We get to see, taste and sample many things long before the rest of the world even gets a sniff of what’s to come. We can have our choice of almost any form of eating or entertainment at any time of the day or night. Living in Las Vegas means that at 9pm on Sunday we can go shopping and not worry if the store is closed or not. We also like to complain about all the horrible congestion on the 215 while people from Chicago, LA or New York just laugh at us. To them, it’s like a speedway at the worst of times.
Yes, we will have to suffer a little and give into MGM’s greed and pay for the privilege of parking in their garage. Yes, there will be a line of cars waiting to exit as the slower people get a clue and figure out how to feed the little paper ticket into the machine to open the gate to exit. But once we exit, the movement of traffic is in the hands of some of the best people trained to quickly move traffic in and out of a congested area because they do it almost every day.
The one thing we can say about Las Vegas when it comes to large events is that we know how to move people better than any other place on earth!