Even for Las Vegas, the Super Bowl is a huge deal: 'I've never really seen it this busy'

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LAS VEGAS – The pill – casino jargon for "roulette ball" – landed on No. 11. The people wearing San Francisco 49ers jerseys at the table had their chips on the black oval with white "11" letters. Winners, they whooped and hollered.

"Aiyuk!" said the one in the San Francisco Fire Department bucket hat, as the two men reached for the kind of high five fueled by that certain type of rush.

If that doesn’t sum up the Vegas flair and influence on Super Bowl 58, which will feature the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, what does?

Thousands of fans descended upon the bottom of The Strip the day before "the Big Game." It was an influx 10-year Vegas resident Dominick Lynch, a host at Wahlburgers in "The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay" mall.

"I’ve never really seen it this busy. We’ve always had a rush-in with the conventions and stuff, but it’s never been quite like this," Lynch told USA TODAY Sports. "You can just feel it walking around. It’s great."

Nearly every team in the NFL was represented on the apparel worn by fans on site throughout the Super Bowl festivities. A steady stream of a sea of (different shades of) red poured into Vegas throughout the week.

"There’s a lot of red in this room," one security worker shouted Saturday near the convention center.

The fan distribution appeared about even, perhaps a bit tilted in the favor of San Francisco; the Niners’ fan base flocked from nearby California, while “Chiefs Kingdom” has always been a well-traveled bunch.

Vegas and its gambling and entertainment allure has always been even more of a tourist destination during Super Bowl weekend. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 500,000 additional people are expected to travel to Las Vegas for Super Bowl 58 than any previous Super Bowl weekend. The LVCVA expects hosting the Super Bowl will bring in between $600 million-$700 million for the city, most of which would be earned around Allegiant Stadium (via ticket sales, concessions and merchandise) and the surrounding casinos.

Dealers at the casinos toward that end of The Strip near the stadium wore jerseys of NFL teams.

Beginning Friday, casinos across town began filling up. Travelers kept checking in Saturday. There were families of all sizes and age ranges. One was that of Niners fan Henry Bande, who traveled to Las Vegas from Seattle, Washington, for the weekend. His sister lived in north Las Vegas, and the group was attending the Super Bowl Experience at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. He doesn’t have a ticket to the game, but he and his family wanted to experience the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

"Just to be here, the atmosphere. This is incredible," Bande told USA TODAY Sports. "This is probably one of the biggest events for Las Vegas, to have this, right?"

A fan walks by signage for the Super Bowl as the Bellagio fountains erupt along the Las Vegas Strip ahead of the Super Bowl 58 NFL football game Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Las Vegas.
A fan walks by signage for the Super Bowl as the Bellagio fountains erupt along the Las Vegas Strip ahead of the Super Bowl 58 NFL football game Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Las Vegas.

Bande said he felt at home with the number of Niners jerseys he saw.

"Nothing beats Vegas when it comes to big events like this," he said.

As for what appealed to him, Bande said “just the fact that the stadium is so close to The Strip and all the hotels and all the things happening around the city, it’s unbelievable.”

Around 2 p.m. PT Saturday, fans – $50 per person ages 13 and up – lined up hundreds deep to enter the NFL-run Super Bowl Experience. The journey there, however, proved to be borderline treacherous for some. Lack of direction and organization led to an uncomfortable situation in the narrow hallways of Mandalay Bay as thousands tried to reach the entrance and others attempted to exit. Security staff finally controlled the situation but needed to limit the flow of foot traffic to allow the safe passage of the pedestrians.

The Mandalay Bay scene mirrored Las Vegas Blvd. Car horns became the soundtrack of the standstill traffic. The CBS shows that broadcasted from a set in front of the Bellagio fountains had to navigate the constant blaring. Even for local residents whose work does not take them to The Strip, the traffic has caused backups across the city, Lynch said.

"You gotta plan ahead," he said.

Casinos up and down The Strip were packed, and more than a dozen A-list celebrities held events throughout the weekend. A drone light show appeared in the sky Saturday night, and a scalper was hawking tickets (authenticity unverified) outside the CVS near the Park MGM: $3,000 per ticket, with four available in Section 412 Row 10.

"It’s cool, man," Lynch said. "It’s a blast. We’re happy to have it. But I’ve never seen this volume, this high-energy, and this fun."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Las Vegas' Super Bowl 58 sparks wild tourism weekend in city