By Barbara Ellestad
Saying that his company is “not asking you to do anything we haven’t already done,” Eureka Chief Operating Officer Andre Carrier addressed the Mesquite City Council at its Tuesday, March 27, meeting about the need for more sports fields in the community as a way to grow the local economy.
While Las Vegas is focusing on large major league sports events, Carrier said Mesquite needs to look at mid-size sports events to help fill off-season gaps in tourism. “Sports have been the center of the evolving story of the economy and culture. Mesquite is not immune to the changing spending patterns of the Nevada visitor. Finding new ways to attract more visitors is essential to long-term success of our family-owned business,” Carrier said.
One of the keys, Carrier said, is to attract new events to Mesquite and not cannibalize existing events and high-traffic weekends. But, he added, that local businesses and the city are leaving revenues “on the table” because of the lack of hotel facilities and sports fields.
Carrier said Mesquite is now a contender as a national destination for sporting events and tournaments “more than we ever considered because of favorable weather, existing hotel rooms and more importantly, because of our past investment in sports fields and diamonds that have been expertly maintained.”
He used that as a launching pad to request the city expand its existing facilities and add more softball and baseball diamonds and soccer fields. With that, he introduced Eric Sullivan from Sports Facility Advisory and Management, who spoke about the economic impact the city could realize from expanding its sporting facilities to accommodate more national events.
Sullivan explained that Mesquite already has a solid base of sports events upon which to build that includes adult sport and social clubs, senior games, semi-pro tournaments, distance runs and obstacle challenges, adult field day events, and college club sports and intramurals.
According to Sullivan’s economic impact analysis, eight multi-purpose sports fields could yield a low revenue of $587,810 to a high of $1.512 million in revenues with 16 multi-purpose sports fields.
He said Mesquite’s competitive advantages for attracting more events is its existing sports tourism market, its proximity to Las Vegas and St. George, an existing inventory of assets, a reputation as an adult and family friendly destination, 1,100 plus room nights with attractive rates, and a private partner with proven experience in the Rising Star Sports Ranch.
Carrier spoke about the seasonal advantages and disadvantages that not only Mesquite but many other destinations across the nation have. “We’re looking at an off-peak advantage for our marketplace.” He explained that other cities in the area are looking to nab the events that are being pushed out of the Las Vegas marketplace. “But we’re further along than they are,” he said.
Following Carrier’s presentation, the council discussed the possibility of issuing bonds that would pay for expanding the city’s sports fields. Councilman George Rapson said he was in favor of bonding for new facilities but wanted a solid set of data that would clearly outline needs and potential revenues from adding more fields. “We can get our economic development team to distribute the information to potential hoteliers who might be interested in building more hotels. Yes, we could use eight or 12 more fields but without the hotel rooms we’re sending a lot of the economic benefit up the road. How do we pull these two things together? We all have the same goal.”
“We pulled together a lot of data before we built the Rising Star,” Carrier said. “The city is welcome to all that data. We’d rather be the center of the hotel rooms than the ‘bedroom community’ to St. George’s hotel capacity.”
Carrier explained that with low average daily rates (ADR) that Mesquite hotels now get, it’s difficult to attract national hotel chains to come into the city. Mesquite’s ADR is around $50 to $60 while most chains look for $90 to $100.
Councilman Brian Wursten expressed concerns about any possible expansion of sports fields taking hotel rooms away from existing events on peak weekends. “People are sleeping in their cars when they come to the events in Mesquite because there aren’t enough rooms available,” he said.
Wursten, director of Golf for Mesquite Gaming, added that he and other golf course directors are becoming increasingly concerned that sports tournaments are taking available rooms away from golfers who then are forced to stay in St. George or Las Vegas. “Some groups have stopped coming to Mesquite because they can’t find rooms.”
“That’s called sales,” Carrier replied, saying that the sales process now for peak demand times is to convince them to either pay higher rates or come at other times. “There are certainly still times in Mesquite that both rooms and rates are available.”
Wursten said that in his 26 years in Mesquite he hasn’t seen the ability to bring people in during the off-peak demand times. “Those weekends when we’re strong, we are so strong. But those weekends are so few.”
Sullivan told the council that his company books some events 24 to 36 months out and once they decide to come to a destination they stay year after year. “We’re selling the inventory well in advance so we’re controlling the times that they come.”