Monday, May 3, 2021 | 2:51 p.m.
The expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center will play a big role in reviving the Las Vegas trade show industry, Nevada’s senior U.S. senator said.
After a tour of the $989 million West Hall expansion today, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., called the facility a “game-changer.”
“The architecture and the high-tech ability of the West Hall expansion, it adds a new level,” Cortez Masto said. “It’s mind-blowing. This is a premier space for businesses to bring their trade shows and bring their employees and customers to show their products.”
The Tobacco Plus Expo, set for May 12 through 14, will be the first trade show to return to the Convention Center since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
Ellie Hansen, director of the Tobacco Plus Expo said organizers are expecting about 4,500 attendees.
The larger World of Concrete show is scheduled for next month and will be the first major convention at the West Hall.
During her visit, Cortez Masto also toured the Convention Center’s underground tunnel transportation system, which will take passengers from one end of property to the other.
The $52.5 million loop system, which uses electric Tesla vehicles, is the creation of the Elon Musk-owned Boring Company. The system will be available at no charge for convention-goers.
Cortez Masto used today’s visit to tout the recently introduced Transportation Resources Adding Vital Economic Longevity Act, which she hopes will eventually become law.
The legislation would boost Nevada tourism by pushing the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve freeways that bring visitors to Las Vegas. It would earmark $1.2 billion for projects to decrease congestion and “promote the efficiency of long-haul travel.”
As visitation to Las Vegas recovers, traffic jams on Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles have returned.
In 2018, Southern Californians accounted for about 20% of all visitors to Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“Tourism and travel is so important to Nevada, and that’s one of the primary areas I focus on as a senator,” said Cortez Masto, whose father, the late Manny Cortez, led the tourism agency from 1991 to 2004.
“We need to rethink how we design infrastructure. Our transportation sector has not traditionally focused on tourism and travel. Growing up here in Las Vegas, you see I-15 on the weekends and see the people coming in and out. If we pass this act, more people will be able to come into our communities.”