The city of Las Vegas is actively looking to house more professional sports teams within its wonderfully deviant city limits, and one thing is going to help this great town achieve that goal.
There used to be two notions about why Las Vegas couldn’t support professional sports franchises.
One was stigmatic.
The other was transience.
Pro sports leagues wouldn’t touch Las Vegas with a 10-foot baseball bat in the past because of the stigma. Sin City had, and continues to have, legalized sports books that accept wagers on games. Why do you think Super Bowl weekend and the opening weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are two of the most highly anticipated time frames of the year for Las Vegas?
The leagues thought Las Vegas would corrupt its players. That thinking has long since passed. Vegas has always been the home to boxing, an expansion National Hockey League franchise begins play there in 2017, the Oakland Raiders of the NFL would like to relocate there if a stadium can be financed, and MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren is pushing for an NBA franchise to relocate to Las Vegas.
The NBA not only had its All-Star Game in Sin City in 2007, but routinely has its Summer League games there. In addition, college conferences now regularly hold in-season and postseason basketball tournaments in Las Vegas – not to mention such places as Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas and the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut, both of which have arenas to hold the venue and both of which have legalized gambling – as well as a college football bowl game.
Not to sound like a jerk, but if somebody was going to try to rig a game or beat the system when it comes to gambling on sports, well, it’s already been proven that there are enough nefarious characters all over the country to do that. And the onset of online sports betting has just about killed the idea that physically being in Las Vegas is a detriment to players.
No, this is no longer about stigma but more about whether a city of transient residents and workers can support a professional sports franchise, much less multiple franchises.
I have been to Las Vegas numerous times and have done it all – partied like a rock star in my younger days, seen all the big shows, dined at incredible restaurants and gambled.
And when I was there I also went to several fights over the years, saw University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball at the Thomas & Mack Center, and even hit a minor league baseball game.
Even without the influx of tourists, I believe Las Vegas can and will support several pro sports franchises. Las Vegas’ full-time population is estimated at roughly 623,000 people with no pro teams. Baltimore’s population is about 621,000 and the city hosts the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and MLB’s Baltimore Orioles.
Now start tossing around the tourism statistics.
Baltimore drew 24.5 million tourists in 2014.
Las Vegas drew 42 million, including six million who attended 21,000 different conventions.
Tell me fans who are just a short drive or even shorter flight away – Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, to name a few – wouldn’t go to Las Vegas to see their team?
Tell me fans of, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn’t fly in on a Friday night, spend the weekend, go to a Sunday football game against the Las Vegas Raiders and fly home on Monday morning?
Tell me regular tourists to Vegas who happened to be fans of the NBA wouldn’t try to score tickets to see LeBron James or Steph Curry or Kevin Durant or James Harden when their respective teams were in town for a game.
This is what’s going to push Las Vegas over the edge as a pro sports town.
And it’s going to happen sooner than you think.