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Podcast: Exploring Sports Innovation with Jay Vickers at UNLV

Listen to this month’s live podcast featuring Jay Vickers, Chief Operating Officer for UNLV’s Sports Innovation Institute 

Exploring Sports Innovation with Jay Vickers at UNLV

Highlights include: 

  • 02:13 Jay Vickers’ Journey from Notre Dame to UNLV
  • 04:09 Career Transition into College Athletics
  • 05:42 The Impact of Sports on Personal and Professional Development
  • 06:37 Choosing Notre Dame over Florida State
  • 08:48 The Birth of the Sports Innovation Institute at UNLV
  • 10:10 The Role and Impact of the Sports Innovation Institute
  • 13:13 The Future of the Sports Innovation Institute
  • 22:47 The Impact of Sports Teams on Las Vegas
  • 29:25 The Success of the Super Bowl in Las Vegas
  • 34:52 The Potential of Major League Baseball in Las Vegas
  • 37:48 Conclusion and Contact Information

In this episode of the MVP Interactive Podcast, host James Giglio engages in a compelling conversation with Jay Vickers, the Chief Operating Officer of the Sports and Innovation Institute at UNLV. The episode delves into Jay’s remarkable journey, tracing his steps from a student athlete at Notre Dame to his current role as a professional in athletic administration. Throughout the discussion, the pivotal role of education and hands-on experience in shaping Jay’s career becomes evident.

A significant portion of the podcast is dedicated to exploring the inception and mission of UNLV’s Sports Innovation Institute, which was established in 2018 with crucial support from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The institute’s vision is to seamlessly integrate sports research, education, innovation, and economic development. Jay emphasizes the institute’s commitment to showcasing the intrinsic connection between sports, society, and personal health.

Listeners gain insights into the institute’s noteworthy contributions to workforce development and its role in enhancing the impact of sports teams on the Las Vegas community. Jay sheds light on the unique opportunities that arise from being situated in a city that hosts large-scale sports and entertainment events. Additionally, he provides a glimpse into the institute’s future projects, including the omni-channel sports, entertainment, and innovation conference (CECON).

The podcast concludes with Jay reflecting on Las Vegas’s evolution into a global sports city. The episode not only offers a captivating account of Jay Vickers’ personal and professional journey but also provides a comprehensive overview of the Sports Innovation Institute’s mission, initiatives, and future endeavors.

More about Jay Vickers

Jay Vickers is the Chief Operating Officer for UNLV’s Sports Innovation Initiative providing direction and leadership to position UNLV as the hub of the global intellectual capital of sport and entertainment, Las Vegas! Vickers, is a senior leader with more than 20 years of experience in the areas of management, fundraising, sales, marketing, and customer service, with a proven record of measurable outcomes.

A graduate of Notre Dame, Vickers was a member of the Fighting Irish football team from 1996-2000 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He is a founding member of Game Changers United, the U.S. Soccer Federation Board for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging and leads the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee internship program partnership with UNLV.

As a results-oriented leader, Vickers has had success at two Mountain West programs, Fresno State and UNLV, in the PAC 12 at Arizona, in the BIG 10 at Wisconsin, and in the MAC at Northern Illinois University. He has a comprehensive understanding of the role of higher education external divisions aligning with institutional priorities while increasing private philanthropy.

Vickers has worked for Learfield | IMG UNLV Sports Properties where he served as a Business Development Manager. At Northern Illinois University he was the Senior Associate Athletic Director and oversaw Huskies’ sports performance, equipment operations, and revenue generation units. He also served as the sports administrator for the NIU football program and led the charge for the Huskies’ strategic planning process.

At Wisconsin, he was the Senior Assistant Athletic Director for Advancement for two years
and managed the Wisconsin Athletic Development and Ticket Operations units that generated a combined annual revenue of $60 million. Under Vickers’ guidance, the UW Development office increased revenue, brand awareness and loyalty through a new website, an annual giving campaign, and a revamped endowment program. His cultivation efforts resulted in the growth of Wisconsin’s annual fund to well over $12.5 million.

Prior to that, Vickers held athletic development and fundraising roles at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the University of Arizona, and Fresno State University, significantly increasing revenue for each of those athletic departments. Before working in intercollegiate athletics, Vickers acquired several years of experience as a marketing manager with extensive background in customer service, sales, marketing, and management at numerous major corporations, including Pfizer and Hershey’s.

Podcast Transcript

 Hi everyone. This is James Giglio, CEO of MVP interactive and welcome to the MVP podcast. Our podcast will bring insight to a range of topics involving technology, consumer engagement, experiential marketing, and general business related subjects. This show will host not only our great roster of clients from the professional sports world, along with fortune 500 brands and agencies, but other entrepreneurs and startups.

We hope our podcast brings value and thank you for listening. For general inquiries or topic requests, please email mvppodcast@mvp-interactive.com. And please subscribe to our YouTube page and follow us on Twitter. Facebook, Instagram, and SoundCloud with the account name MVP Interactive. 

Okay. So welcome back to another edition of the MVP Interactive live podcast series. I’m James Giglio. And today we have a. Very special guests with Jay Vickers, who is the chief operating officer of the Sports and Innovation Institute at UNLV. He is an experienced athletic administrator with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry with strong community and social services, professional skilled and nonprofit organizations, budgeting, sales, event management, and team building.

Jay, welcome to the show. We’re thrilled to have you today.  James, I thank you very much for having me. I’m excited to be here and love to get into the conversation and talk about what we do at UNLV, the Sports Innovation Institute. So very welcome opportunity to do that. Thank you. Awesome. Awesome. Well, before we get into that fun stuff, I mean, looking at you, it looks like you can still play competitive football.

You’re, you’re a great shape. We understand that you were a former student athlete at Notre Dame and playing for their football team. And, you know, one of the things working in and around professional sports, I really, and even. In division one collegiates you know, you see a sort of special character when it comes into student athletes and, you know, there’s a certain mindset that translates into their maybe professional sports career or even their professional career.

So I’m really interested to learn a little bit what your experience at Notre Dame was like as a student athlete, and then how that sort of parlayed into your professional career. So if you can take us from, you know, your playing days to graduation, to where you are today, we’re really interested in that that journey. 

Well, I can tell you this. The reason why I went to Notre Dame is because of the great folks that are there. But also really believing in what was, as we would say, the recruiting pitch that was presented to us. And I had the great honor to be recruited by legendary head coach Lou Holtz.

And What I love about the recruiting pitch, and we talk about this all the time among our football alums, is it’s not about the next four years of your life, of what Notre Dame can do for you, it’s the next 40 years. And he spent more time talking about the alumni base. The support system, having friends for life, things of that nature and loving and caring for each other.

And I can tell you we’ve done that. And so when I went to Notre Dame as a first generation college student, it was eye opening moving from Tallahassee, Florida. Going up north, experiencing snow in true cold weather for the first time was pretty interesting but I learned to communicate with different people from all over the world because of the notoriety of Notre Dame as well as having the opportunity to meet lifelong friends.

And so the game, so everything that we experienced there was bigger than the game itself. It was about learning together. How can we be successful? Yes, everyone has the, they want to be a, to go to the NFL and participate in that level, but you don’t always get there. And so having an education that Notre Dame provides.

I felt set me up for the career track that I’m on now. So since then, I, I had the opportunity to not only be involved in our career center when I was as a, as a student athlete. So I worked there and helped critique resumes and part of resume workshops and that sort put me in a great position to work for three Fortune 500 companies out of college.

Gallo, Hershey, and Pfizer, respectively. But still wanted to have interest in, you know, what was happening in college athletics. And, and that’s how I found myself, taking that track through working through revenue generation and those type things that some really prominent universities such as Fresno State, University of Arizona, UNLV, University of Wisconsin, Northern Illinois University, and now back at UNLV in the role that I am in now. 

So you weren’t kidding when you earlier said offline that you had the experience of 11 different cities throughout your professional career. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. So what was that? We’re it’s, I, I didn’t realize this in your bio, but you know, we’re here in Philadelphia and you, you referenced Hershey and you know, that’s not too far, but what were, what were your, what was your experience there?

And what was your role?  Well, I didn’t that’s the beauty of it, you know, these companies are so large, they need folks all over the country, so my experience with Hershey was very positive there’s a lot of chocolate, you gotta be ready for that part of it,  from a sample standpoint but I was initially based in Orlando was, we did some great things there, they promoted me to the state manager of South Carolina and and which is where I lived in Columbia, South Carolina, and really enjoyed that place.

That is a awesome city to live in because of its proximity to Charleston and Charlotte, North Carolina. So learned a lot there. But again, it gets to the point of How do you make an impact in your career? And I’m one of those guys that I like to see when I say used to word impact. It’s not about the impact for me, but the impact for others.

And I wanted to use some of the skills I learned from those great companies, which is all relationship management skills. I want to use that, those skills to help support other future student athletes like myself and know a lot of first gen students. I didn’t understand. I’m out of high school that the reason why I’m on this scholarship is.

It’s because of, one donors who really care about the success of their program, but also want to see young people graduate.  And you need folks that can go out and build those relationships and get donors excited about their university, their football program, their basketball program, or what have you, and be willing to give back if they’re at that distribution stage of their life.

So that’s why I went into the, the fundraising field versus just the sales field. Oh, interesting, interesting. So being from Tallahassee, how difficult was it for you to not play at Florida State and be recorded or recruited to a arrival?  Well, you know, the thing is, is that Florida State they have always you know, Had a special place in my, in my heart ever since I was a kid, right?

I grew up watching Deion Sanders play, Ward Dunn, Charlie Ward became friends with Peter Warwick. I have teammates from high school that actually went to Florida State Deion Rackley and Ron Dugan. Ron Dugan is now the receiver coach at Florida State, and he does a fantastic job. And so it was an opportunity to do that.

And I, I could have. decided I could have selected Florida State as my school of choice. So it’s grateful for that opportunity, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to get away. At that time, I had only been to two states, Florida and Georgia, and I’ve always had the mindset that the world is much larger and I want to experience that.

And not only did Notre Dame give me that opportunity because we don’t play regionally, we’re an independent university as it relates to football. And I. The fact that I knew I was going to play games in California or in Michigan or in Florida or what have you, Ireland or Hawaii, you know, we, we play all over.

I wanted to have that experience and I wanted to see the world and Notre Dame gave me that opportunity. Not saying that Florida state cannot have done that in some form or fashion, but I saw the schedules for Notre Dame. So I knew that was going to happen. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And to that point, it sounds like Counterparts like Chip Kelly feels that all the division one program should be independent for that very, for that very sake, but in any event, so we’ll, we’ll move and transition into, to UNLV and obviously that campus and that university has no  of state of the art facilities and renovations as recently, or notably as the Fertitta football complex.

But, you know, obviously we’re really interested in learning about the sports innovation Institute and, you know, when did it start? Who was it created? Why was it created? And certainly what the mission is.  Absolutely. So it initially started in 2018, as far as the concept. And we received seed money through our governor’s office of economic develop development, which we all go at.

And the reason why they felt the need to build out a, at the time was called sports research innovation. Program or initiative is that we knew that we were about to embark on a sports renaissance in the city of Las Vegas. We didn’t know exactly what it looked like, but we know the landscape was changing rapidly.

We knew the Raiders were coming. We knew that at the time that the Golden Knights were already here we were getting WNBA team. We knew these things were starting to, at the time, as you would say, bubble up. So use that that phrase doesn’t necessarily sound right considering now we have a Stanley Cup champion  as well as a two time WNBA champion and we just had the Super Bowl.

So all these themes were starting to happen. It was like, man, what does that mean? And more importantly, as a public research institution, we needed to understand what does that mean for our students and for our faculty. And how can we create something that there’s a platform for our faculty and students to showcase the great work they do in sports related research and innovation.

Through surveys, we identified that we had over 130 plus full time faculty members involved in some form of sports related research and innovation. And which meant that we had some subject matter experts on our campus that needed a platform to showcase.  That their work and to be heard and also create trajectories that they, if they have the right product or the right innovation we can get them through commercialization.

And so we wanted to build out a multidisciplinary unit that can initiate support and aspire sports research, education, innovation, and economic development with the mindset that sport is an integral part of society and personal health. That’s pretty much it. That is our mission. That’s where we move forward.

So after that, once we, and we didn’t have that mission developed in 2018, that happened in 2019  when we actually formalize our team and that starting team is myself Dr. Nancy Lowe and Dr. John Mercer. Dr. Nancy Lowe oversees our sports management program within the Institute, as well as Dr.

John Mercer oversees our sports reform as an entrepreneur program.  And together we were able to be very very thoughtful and interactive with not only our campus community, but also with our external community. Not only can we, with a bridge or the hub, if you will, to all of our external constituents as it relates to their sports related research and innovation needs.

And what I mean by that is we don’t go to the Raiders and say, Hey, we want to help you build an Expo Jackson. That’s not what they need us for. What they, what we need them to do is say, Hey, this is what we offer. We have 13 pillars of excellence. They range from eSports, diversity, equity, inclusion, and sports leadership to sports technology, right?

We have all these different pillars, and we have the subject matter experts on our campus that can help you with these areas. How can we, how can we best help your organization be better? Whether that’s UFC,  Whether that’s the Raiders, the Knights, the Lights, the Aces, you name the team, that’s the approach we take.

And what we’ve learned is we’ve been able to create great opportunities for our faculty for partnerships and also have a major impact on workforce development through our sports management program that Dr. Nancy Lowe runs. And she actually built and is the founder of our intercollegiate and professional sports management master’s program.

And we’ve had several students be involved in every organization in our town.  So those are some of the things that we’ve done to build out the Institute. But at the time, as I mentioned before, we were initiative,  but thanks to the seed fund from go ahead. Also funding from  Congresswoman Susie Lee from a federal grant, we’re now able to continue to build out what this hub looks like.

And with that being said, we have three cornerstone pillars as we move forward. And that’s sports data analytics,  It’s what we’re building up now. We want to be able to provide and research and in depth data analytics as it relates to different subject matters of our sports teams, both internally and externally.

We have a significant focus on sports performance and entrepreneurship. Through the sports performance piece, we also have a Calis Grant Program. That Calis Grant Program to date, we have awarded nearly a million dollars in grants to support sports innovation and research. And also, and lastly, we have our Sports League Program, which will be announced later this year.

And that is a leadership executive advancement program, where you will get the best and brightest to come in and have a week of training. and learning from what we do in our great city and our sports entities that we have. And they’re working on a special project that they’re going to say, Holy cow, I can’t do this in a week.

But then they’ll find out by the end of the week, not only can they do that, they have also had been educated and collaborated with some like minded folks. Within their industry. So that’s going to be the premise of that program because of all these programs and what we’ve been able to accomplish we were officially approved an institute on December 1st about a system of higher education board. 

Really excited about that. Thank you very much. And, and part of that is, is really why we’re all here as a institution is it’s about our students. And I’m proud to say that our students this achieved as well as participated in one of the greatest events ever been on TV and just this past year, Super Bowl 58 we, I’m happy to say with the help of Sam Joffrey, CEO of the Las Vegas Super Bowl host committee, we created the first fully paid internship program in Super Bowl history.

That’s amazing. And so all of our students, I had 40 students participate and building out the Super Bowl and all the areas of the Super Bowl. And you, you’d be,  you’d be surprised how many areas they need help in from the volunteer side to the marketing side, to the sales side. They learn every aspect of how to.

Our city bids on a Super Bowl. Sam Joffrey and his team were absolutely amazing and great mentors for our students. And our students got the experience of a lifetime. So really excited about that program. Yeah, I’m sure. And on that student note, how powerful of a recruitment tool is this innovation center?

I mean, I’d imagine you can leverage that to not only your student athletes but as you referenced the business students as well. And those focused in and around sports, even scientists, right? When you talk about sports medicine, there’s, there’s a host of technology. So I’d love to learn more about how you guys, or what you’ve seen in terms of the recruitment process and how you’ve leveraged that.

We’re leveraged it very well. So I’ll give you an example. When we first started the IPSM program, I think she Dr. Lowe had probably 10 students. Now she has over 70 and that’s just over two years. They see we’re one of very few cities that you can, throughout your time here, you can get an internship with a Stanley Cup champion. 

A WNBA champion, one of the most known and respected  NFL teams, historic NFL teams in the world with the Raiders, as well as worked for a sports and entertainment giant, UFC, which is born and raised here. And that’s just the top four. And to be able to put on your resume, and we have students on our campus now, to put on your resume, you have experience with all these entities of sports.

Getting a job and, and, and spelling out a career path for yourself is very easy in that space, right? But then also when you have faculty that are looking at why would I want to come to Las Vegas or UNLV to show them that we have the, these true connections, these aren’t just. Right. Things we say, Hey, look, we work with the Raiders.

No, our students do work there and we do do project with the Raiders or UFC and the fact that we take a multidisciplinary approach doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer.  Or in sports science, computer science, work in athletics, it doesn’t matter what era you’re in, if you are doing any sports related research innovation, there is an opportunity for you to be involved in those conversations and to have support not only to what we do internally, but also externally.

Yeah. Now, knowing that it’s just a few years old here, I, you know, I do want to give some grace period, but it’s an innovation lab. And so I’m, I’m sure that you’ve seen some really fascinating technologies come through the, the Institute. So can you talk to about, talk to us about maybe some of your favorites or what you’re allowed to talk about in terms of the future?

And maybe has there been a product that spawned out of the Institute that is in the wild and as a, as grown into a legitimate company.  But right now, I would tell you that the, the biggest successes that we’ve had is, is centered around our students. From a commercialization standpoint, those things take a little bit of time to your point as far as timing and the ones that I’m really excited about, I’ve signed NDAs on, so I can’t really talk about those right now. 

Unfortunately, but the fact that our students and our faculty have the opportunity to work on these. On these projects is really what’s really exciting, whereas before we didn’t have that opportunity to do that. And now we have more and more folks reaching out to us saying, hey, how else can I engage with the Institute?

What and they’re reaching out to us through LinkedIn or sending us emails, whatever the case may be. Whereas. That wasn’t the case before. So now because of the impact we’ve had on workforce development the type of events that we’ve had across our community, more and more folks are saying, how can I get involved?

And one of the ways that we’ve established ways people can get involved is we’ve done a unique partnership with Syracuse University and DeFault College with their Sports and Human Dynamics College and also a local company here by the name of Circle. And we are. Doing the first omni channel sports, entertainment, and innovation conference that we call CECON and that would be July 15th through the 18th at Virgin Hotel which is also during the time of NBA Summer League and so we partnered with them as well.

And so this would be a place where not only can you have different subject matters that range from diversity, equity and inclusion in sport, but also up to technology, AI, innovation, gaming, all the different hot buttons that we now see in the sports ecosystem. And with some very unique partnerships that we will be announcing here pretty soon.

I think that it’d be something that no one’s ever seen before, which is really exciting. So we got a six month runoff now, we’ve been working on it for two years. So July is coming up pretty fast and we’re, and not only is, are we excited about it as the, as the institution, and Syracuse is excited about it our community is becoming more and more excited about it as well. 

Yeah, I can only imagine. And so I hope to be in Las Vegas well in advance of that, but please send us an invite. We would love to participate in any capacity, even if it’s a attending,  but I think it’s really smart, especially with the partnership with the NBA, because when it comes to a league that really.

Focus is on a technology driven engagement, both from a marketing and sports science standpoint, the NBA really does it great on a global scale. And I think this weekend we’re going to witness some of these advancements in technology with what they’re going to be. presenting and I’ll just leave that up to everyone’s imagination.

I, that’s a spoiler that I don’t want to ruin for folks, but we’ve had the pleasure of working with the NBA. And I think, you know, with all of the leagues and they all do a great job independently in their efforts, but I would say over the past decade, it’s, it’s been. A marked or significant advancement with where the NBA has invested their time and energy again globally when it comes to technology across the board.

So that that’s that’s a perfect, partnership and and good timing, you know, nba is  The NBA is ahead of the curve as it relates to innovation and they always have been, right? They take something, they’re not afraid to try something new and give it a shot. And I think that’s, we want people to do that.

You know, this is why, that’s part of the reason of how we built the institute is we wanted people to think outside the box of what is sports related research and innovation, not just Sports science. You know, there’s also eSports. There’s also the sports technology side of it. How do you bring all those pieces together?

The sports marketing piece. There’s so many ways that you can do things. Whereas as we continue to build out the Las Vegas sports ecosystem, we’re seeing new jobs arise, new interests from students. And there’s no doubt what we just witnessed in 18 months, which is the shortest timeframe anyone has Ever put on the Super Bowl had to put on the Super Bowl, which is a typically to when you’re awarded a Super Bowl.

It’s three. You have at least three or four years to planning.  We pulled off what is now regarded as the best in 18 months, and that’s because of our community and the people that are involved, and they really care about how Las Vegas is branded and how we viewed across the world. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

And this is actually a good segue, right? Because, you know, it’s pretty clear and obvious that Las Vegas has been known for a lot of things in the past, you know, especially it’s a sin city moniker but as you alluded to, and over the last few years, it’s really become one of the most. Desired sports and entertainment cities in the world, right?

And so talk to us firsthand what your experience has been like from when you arrived and, you know, how the changing landscape has, has moved so far in advance in a very short amount of time. It’s pretty remarkable.  Yeah, I think those are some of the things that you were here about to and why it was significant for us to build out C time because in conversations with Lawrence Epstein of UFC Steve Hill of LBCBA Tina Quigley of LBGTA, as well as our very own governor and Joe Lombardo we knew that we will become a global sports city.

But how quickly will we become that? We didn’t know at the time. Right? Because that takes community that takes effort when you don’t, when you haven’t done something before, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. But soon as the allegiance stadium open and the first season, we saw the impact of sports and how it brings people together and how fans just started circling on my team plays the Raiders on this date.

I’m there.  So, that sold out. You saw the community support behind VGK, but also more importantly, you saw how VGK supported our community. And, you know, they are born and raised here. And you saw the fans come out and we sell out T Mobile Arena. And then you started to see the fan engagement. You started to see the things, people started to see what Vegas is known for.

And that’s entertainment capital of the world. Best in class. Now, regardless of the old monikers of Sin City and everything else, one thing what people always say was best in class, whether it was a restaurant experience, entertainment experience. And now we took those same qualities because of the leadership that we have in our, in our community.

And we instilled that into the game day atmosphere at Allegiant stadium and Michelob Ultra for our WNBA champions aces or in our T Mobile arena. And you saw that aspect of it. And I think that’s where people said, I need to come visit. And that’s how we quickly grabbed the attention, not first our community, which I think was fantastic, but also the rest of the world, because now you’re starting to look at things and say, wow, I went to a UFC event, a basketball game, a hockey game all in one weekend.

Yeah. That’s what’s funny too, because  yeah, yeah, exactly. And it’s like, you know, there’s this, the old saying that, you know good ideas seem like the obvious ones before they’re done. Right. And so it’s like, you’re in Las Vegas, you see Las Vegas now. It’s like, well, of course there’s sports teams here.

Like it’s, it’s such a natural fit when it comes to weaving in the entertainment piece. And so I recall you had referenced the golden Knights and we’re both.  and personal friends with Brian Killingsworth, who is the former CMO. And I had met with him early as the team was building. And you know, one of the first things I, you know, if you remember what their inaugural season, they did very well, but you know, their social media Twitter platform was.

The best in class, right? And so one of the first things I did when I went to visit Brian, and they were literally still painting the walls. I mean, it was literally, you know, brand new in the preseason. And I was like, I need to meet whoever’s running your, your Twitter handle because it’s hysterical. And they were able to generate such buzz and such humor.

Not knowing because traditionally,  you know, expansion teams aren’t going to be very good historically, you know, in the first couple of minutes, but yeah, yeah, and they caught lightning in a bottle. And, you know, the other thing I thought was really interesting, and you’d reference a couple ownership groups is.

You know, the impact or at least the compliment that the Foley family has within their own personal portfolio, right, when it comes to food and wine and and sports and entertainment. So I’m not sure I’m kind of putting you on the spot here, but I’m not sure if you’ve had any involvement or sort of seen some of the community programs or, you know, from an ownership standpoint, how ownerships take on the sort of community of Las Vegas. 

Absolutely. I think that’s why our teams are so, so successful, right? There’s great community involvement from not only Mark Davis be a Foley you’re going to start seeing that also from formula one. And some of the plans they have coming down the road is I think you’re going to start. That’s the number one thing here about our community.

Why I love the city of Las Vegas is that if you show love, we show love back. Right. And they understand that. And you’re starting to see a lot of community events, whether they support what we do here at UNLV and our Clark County School District and some of our other communities, like on the West side, you’re starting to see the Raiders, the Knights, the Aces, there’s a presence.

for them. There’s a presence for young people. They care about the trajectory of our of our families and their involvement in what we do. You know, we had a very tragic thing happened on our campus here back in December, and all of our sports teams took a moment of silence to honor those that we lost, but also make sure reached out to our president, reached out to different folks.

Say, How can we help? What do you need from us? And that’s the type of connection we have. And I think you’re starting to see a sports family of people, you know, we have great intellectual capital here in Las Vegas, which is why when you look at fan engagement, you look at the things that are happening within our communities while those things are happening, you have people here and some very prominent positions.

That care about the trajectory of where this city goes how this city is viewed not only domestically, but also internationally. And that’s why, in my personal opinion, why we have quickly become that sports and entertainment giant, if not the top sports and entertainment capital of the world. Yeah, you know, that’s a very good point that I have probably overlooked and now thinking about it is that international draw because Las Vegas had that independently, right?

You know, so people from all over the world would come and participate in the casinos and the hotels and just the lifestyle. And so you just add American sport to that and you know, expand globally. That’s, it’s really smart. It never dawned on me. Hello. You know, it’s just one of those obvious things, but okay.

So we were four days away from, or four days removed from the Superbowl. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend as I was hoping to, but I would love to hear your thoughts as you’d referenced, you know, the 18 months leading into the super, super ball. I mean, that’s a remarkable feat that I was unaware of.

What that was like, and then, you know, the leading into the event, because we all know if we’ve, anyone has been to a super bowl, it is the who’s who of business commerce, entertainment, sports, and, and just overall American lifestyle. Right. And so I would love to hear a little bit more about what that looked like and then what’s it look like today.

I mean, is there, I’m sure it’s a, it’s a pretty long hangover for some people. So I’m curious to know what it’s like four days.  Well, I say this is that first and foremost, I think we have to give great big round of applause. And I don’t think there’s enough to be given around to the Los Vegas Super Bowl host committee led by their CEO, Sam Joffrey.

Sam got here and on, on day one, he had just got his car, barely got into his apartment. Where he was staying, and he reached out to folks right away. He was on our campus talking about recruiting students was very open to the idea of doing something that hasn’t been done before as related to the internship program but he built relationships.

And I think he built sustainable relationships. He got people to really believe in the vision and the dream that, Hey, look, a Super Bowl is coming to Las Vegas  and we can do this, and we, but we need to do it together. And he pulled together our community stakeholders in rapid time. And that goes to say, that goes to the fact that he’s a great relationship builder.

And he put together an outstanding team of folks to help not only mentor our students, but also be a connecting tissue to the community abroad and put together some really unique programs to get people really excited about. And so, when, when you hear about the, the, the praise that the Super Bowl has gotten,  You, you got a community here that’s very proud of that place because everyone feels they played some role in it, you know, whether or not.

Granted, we have a little bit of traffic. Of course, everyone has traffic for it a bit that large. But beyond that, I think it was flawless.  And it was flawless. It was a beautiful environment. The entire city was activated, no matter what casino or hotel you went into. There was fun events, family events community events.

It was, the entire city was activated because of the Super Bowl. And because of the work the, the host committee put into it. So I would say that being at some of the meetings that I saw, and listening to Roger Goodell, there’s no question. That they’re, they’re saying, okay, when can we get back to Las Vegas?

Yeah, absolutely. There’s no question in my mind that that’s not the next thing that they’re looking for. Sure. You know, and it’s really interesting too because you look at the infrastructure of other American or host cities that have had events like the Super Bowl. And Las Vegas is obviously very unique because it’s, it’s a strip, right?

Like it’s not a grid. It’s not something that necessarily sprawls until in terms of, you know, expanding cities like a New York city or Los Angeles it’s really refined to a few mile long city. And so how, what was your take on the infrastructure and how well it was managed? I mean, traffic aside, I mean, that’s a, that’s a  no, you know, that’s given.

Yeah, like talk to us about some of those other elements. Well, well, the infrastructure, I think, is the easy part for us. We’re not, we’re not strangers to large events. You know, some of the largest conferences in the world are, they see Las Vegas as home base. Whether at CES, GTE we’ve held, we’ve held basketball tournaments, championships, whether it’s Pac 12, Pac 12 football championships, the Las Vegas Bowl.

We’re no stranger to large events. That’s something we do very, very well. And I think because of the success that we’ve had with other sport teams again, our Stanley Cup winning Golden Knights, our WNBA champions, our winning Aces who sell out quite a bit as well. You, when you look at the fact that we’re not a stranger to large events, this is just It’s not just another event, it’s the largest event.

But it was an event that our city was ready for. Again, we have great intellectual capital as it relates to events entertainment and sports. And so when you have people like L-B-C-V-A, Steve Hill and his team Lisa Motley and others in our city that they’re ready to activate at any time.

to ensure that we can make sure the infrastructure is in place. And also that takes overall, whether it’s from the governor’s office or from the university piece, it took the entire community to make sure this went off the way it did. And again, that gives us thanks again to the Super Bowl host committee and Sam Joffrey’s experience of working at other Super Bowls and knowing what was coming and how we can do it.

And I think that’s what made it easier. Not easier, but it made some things probably a little bit more smoother. Because, hey, we’ve done this for this event, so now you’re just, you’re copying and pasting as you move forward. But then adding the Super Bowl piece to it. Yeah. There, you know, we’re, we’re nearing our time here, but I wanted to ask one more question because you mentioned something earlier about the Institute you know, developing in around 2018 and you had some  notice or information about the Raiders coming to town and that maybe that was prior to general public, you know, or public knowledge.

I don’t know. But with that, you know, the talk of the A’s and, and sort of, you know, them relocating. Are you able to speak on any information as far as, you know, the excitement, enthusiasm of getting major league baseball to the city of Las Vegas?  You know, whether right now the talk star, that is the age, right?

But I think whenever an organization, Major League Baseball, NBA, you name it, and they’re talking about our city and our community to relocate a team or put a new team here, I think that’s a exciting conversation. And also, I believe it’s a no brainer. I think when you look at our city, they’re number one in tourism.

Number one in entertainment and having sports which our VP of economic development has called the fun economy. I think that is something that makes sense for any sports team. We’ve shown and proven that we can handle large scale events. We’ve shown and proven that if done correctly, you can also add to your bottom line as relates to ticket sales.

People traveling to see your team play and et cetera, and being part of your venue. I think that’s exciting and, but also giving giving those that your fan base and experience that they. Normally wouldn’t get someplace else because of what the city of Las Vegas has to offer from restaurants to entertainment and and by the way, you’re also here to watch a football game or hockey game or a basketball game or a baseball game down the road.

So I think the opportunities are there. And when you look at also those folks that are moving near their on their companies here. I think what they’re going to see is a community that really cares about each other, that support each other and that we’re not just a two mile strip. Right? We, we have great suburbs.

We have great, great parks and no, that’s our little unknown secret that people aren’t aware of is that we have a great living experiences for those that live in our communities, whether it’s Henderson, whether it’s Southwest Las Vegas or if someone area or even North Las Vegas, I think people are very surprised but pleasantly surprised when they move here, which is a lot of times people don’t leave.

Yeah. Yeah. You know, and I heard that firsthand from most of the initial inaugural executives that came over from other teams to join the Knights and, you know, whether they came from warm climate, other warm climates or cold climates, that the fact that the greater Las Vegas area was a really great place to raise a family and to live both.

On and off the strip for sure. I can only imagine what it’s like to live on the strip, but there’s a time and a place in all of our lifetime for that, right?  Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, Jay, this was really fascinating. I, I greatly appreciate your time. And one thing that we like to ask our guests is for anyone listening to the podcast, what what is the best way for them to reach you directly and to learn more about the Innovation Institute and you know, maybe carry this extension when any other conversations, whatever you’re comfortable with, there’s.

It’s up to you.  Yeah, absolutely. You can reach me on my email, j. vickers. unlv. edu. You can also find us on our website, sportsinnovation. unlv. edu. We’re very easy to find. And again, we’re a public institution and we want to be connected with those that are interested in sports related research and innovation and love what they heard today. 

Wonderful. Well, again. And until next time, everyone, thank you for joining. The MVP interactive podcast. We’ll talk soon.  All right. 

Podcast - Jay Vickers, COO, UNLV Sports Innovation


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