Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Having helped lead his city out of troubled times, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Las Vegas’ ascent from tragedy shouldn’t be as tough.
Oklahoma City was still confronting the effects of the 1995 bombing of a federal building when he took office a decade later, Cornett said this week in Las Vegas. But Las Vegas’ international reputation will help accelerate recovery from the Oct. 1 mass shooting, Cornett said.
“I don’t think anybody thinks Las Vegas is a more dangerous place to visit afterward,” he said. “It was a fairly random act that could've happened anywhere. It just happened to happen in Las Vegas.”
Cornett was actually in Las Vegas for a regional planning summit scheduled for Oct. 2 when the shooting occurred. He was asleep in his off-Strip hotel, and he wasn’t aware of the news until he woke up to get ready for the summit.
“I was able to ascertain what happened within a minute of waking up and watching the news, Cornett said. “I looked at my cellphone, and my family had been trying to get ahold of me looking to see if I was OK.”
After returning home after his abbreviated trip, he reflected on the situation and it brought back some dark memories.
“I spent a couple of days trying to come to grips to it, just like everybody else,” he said. “Of course, I related momentarily back to 1995 with what Oklahoma City went through (the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building left 168 dead and more than 500 injured). But I never doubted for a minute the city of Las Vegas couldn’t handle it.”
Cornett, who returned for the rescheduled summit last week, credits various organizations that promote Las Vegas’ brand.
“I don’t think the shooting is going to have any long-term repercussion on Las Vegas,” he said. “It will be emotional to those who are directly involved, but Las Vegas is known for so many more things that I don’t think it’ll hurt the city like a branded image. Oklahoma City didn’t really have anything else for people to think about us besides the bombing.”
With Las Vegas in the midst of its first major league sports season with the Vegas Golden Knights, Cornett knows what a sports team can do for a city.
Cornett played an instrumental role in bringing the NBA to his city in 2008, luring the Oklahoma City Thunder to town from their former home in Seattle.
The Thunder’s inaugural season gave the city final push it needed to pull through, Cornett said. He said major league sports might help Las Vegas a little, but it won’t be the magnitude that a pro team had on Oklahoma City.
“It helped us more than it will help Las Vegas. Their footprint on pop culture is so large, it’s hard to imagine it’s going to make much difference,” he said. “It’s just one more reason to live in Las Vegas, one more reason to come to Las Vegas, but it’s not like the city lacks brand awareness.”
The Thunder helped expose Oklahoma City’s brand to world, with the NBA’s worldwide audience, Cornett said.
Much like Las Vegas, before landing the Golden Knights and then the Oakland Raiders and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, Oklahoma City’s professional sports mainstay was a Triple-A baseball team. Now, instead of playing small-market teams, the city is playing big-city teams nightly.
“There’s nothing wrong with the Triple-A towns … But now we’re playing in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles,” he said. “That’s a world of difference. It may sound superficial, but you’re given this superficial level of quality based on who your sports teams play.”