UC Davis alumnus, Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher has a front row seat
Nearly 15 years ago, Maurice Gallagher ‘71 and his wife Marcia cut the blue ribbon at the grand opening of their namesake, Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall, the new campus home of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Their generous gift has had a lasting impact on the school and the student experience.
Gallagher is founder and CEO of Allegiant Travel Company, with an airline at its heart, that has its headquarters and hub in Las Vegas. The fast-growing ultralow-cost carrier got a huge recognition boost after winning the naming rights to the NFL Raiders' football stadium while it was under construction in its hometown.
On February 11, Allegiant Stadium will host Super Bowl LVIII—a rematch of the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.
As superstars to super-fans alike are about to descend on “Sin City,” Gallagher has a front row seat to the preparations as chair of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee.
From his office in Las Vegas, we caught up with Gallagher as he counts down to the kickoff.
Would you describe yourself as a “big” football fan? When did you start getting interested in the game?
I am a football fan. Perhaps not the most robust, but I’ve been a closet Niner fan for many years. When I lived in the Bay Area in the 1980s it was fun to watch them under (head coach) Bill Walsh and (quarterback) Joe Montana. This Super Bowl is really going to be interesting. The dynamic duo of Patrick Mahomes against Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant, seeing if he can do his thing. But I'm very interested in seeing the outcome of this. It's going to be a fun week getting ready for it.
Can you take us back to your negotiations with the Raiders to name Allegiant Stadium and how that partnership arrangement got done?
The Raiders were very interested in finding the right partner for their new stadium in Las Vegas. They approached us in the fall of 2017. My knee-jerk reaction to it was, “it's just a big billboard.” What would I want with a billboard? It's right there on Interstate-15 and would get a lot of views, but at first pass I was not interested.
From Allegiant’s perspective, we don't sell that many seats in Las Vegas. Our seats are sold to those who come to Las Vegas. Then a friend approached me about how powerful the NFL was and that I should take a meeting and listen to it. So, in February of 2018 they put together a very compelling presentation and they talked about impressions, and they suggested that this would be worth four billion impressions a year.
We listened and I became intrigued. Our CMO Scott D'Angelo was much more sophisticated about this than I was. He started doing the math, and he didn't disagree. He discounted the impressions down to a billion and a half from four. And it still made sense for us. We got down to the terms and negotiations and those are top secret, but needless to say, we did the deal ultimately.
It is a 30-year deal and a big investment for us, more so than we probably were comfortable.
We've blown the doors off of impressions. There's only one Las Vegas. Now everybody knows Allegiant Stadium: Europe, Far East, everywhere. It's the highest-used stadium for entertainment away from football in the world. We couldn't be more pleased for what it's done for us and the credibility it brings.
You've lived in and been a business leader in Las Vegas for many years. Recent media stories describe how the Super Bowl is a triumph for a city that has made a meteoric rise in the sports world. What’s your perspective?
Las Vegas has seen a sports revolution over the last decade. The Raiders cut their deal in 2016-17, built the stadium, and they were off to the races. And so that really lit the candle.
The Raiders show up and there's plenty of hotel rooms, it's easy to do things, and there’s a mindset as an entertainment world destination. Now the rush is on. You just had Major League Baseball announce Las Vegas is on a short list for a new franchise, and the rumor is the NBA will announce a new Las Vegas team.
Candidly, I don’t know how the town is going to support all these teams, but what they do have going for them is that it’s the best destination for a professional sports opponent's team to travel. At Raiders games, we are half full of opponent’s team fans who are traveling here.
Fast forward to 2024. You're now the chair of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee. What’s that been like?
My role is a more ceremonial post, which is just fine with me. Every Super Bowl has a host committee that works with the NFL to coordinate efforts. There are literally 11 separate areas with volunteers who are doing the work to make sure the Super Bowl comes off as planned. I’m the chair of the host committee, but the work is being done by the executive director and a team of volunteers who are running the day-to-day operations. Our Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority is right in the middle of all this and they're very good at this type of event and figuring the logistics out. We’ve hosted F1 racing and many other big events before.
Are there lessons learned to share with future Super Bowl host committees?
You need to be well organized. You need to have a lot of very good volunteers. The NFL and these host committees are very polished having done this for more than 50 years. The host committee for New Orleans, which will host the game next year, will be here and see everything we're doing. And New Orleans has already hosted. There's a pass down routine that is very well oiled.
What are some of the fun things that you've seen or been a part of preparing for the Super Bowl?
I'm really looking forward to the game. I'm getting to meet a lot of people. Seeing us perform as a community and being there for the game. The ultimate outcome of all this hard work will be really very big ratings and fun.
Is the Super Bowl supercharging Allegiant's business? Are you seeing a spike in trips?
We certainly are selling. The hard part is getting tickets for the actual Super Bowl. According to what I've been reading, they're the most expensive tickets in the history of the game. Just to get a ticket is $6,000 and up. You've got to want to come here to go to the game. But having said that, I'm sure we're going to sell a number of trips.
Taylor Swift and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce?
Well, Ms. Swift is an icon of this age of these youngsters. And people are just interested in her. And I think it's just part and parcel of putting energy into the game. And the romantic couple of 2024 is alive and well. So, people like that, and in the social media age and era, it's even more powerful.
It's a real privilege to be in this position. We're a great town. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. It's been quite an eye-opening experience understanding the belly of the NFL, how good it is, how big it is and how incredibly professional. You don't understand the scale and size until you look at all the preparation that goes on. Every night there's something going on, parties, events. This is not just a Sunday game; this is a whole week. The game is in many ways the least active part of her the whole week.
There's an incredible amount of money going into sports—serious money, especially from the sale of pro teams. It's really the latest and greatest of fads, but right now it is hotter than a pistol.
Will you be secretly rooting for the 49ers?
Probably not even secretly.