The Las Vegas metropolitan area is home to close to two million people. This makes it one of the largest markets in the United States without a major league sports team. It only makes sense that a major league would want to infiltrate the neon lights of fabulous Las Vegas, right?
It’s true that Vegas already has a few sporting features to its name. The Las Vegas 51s play AAA-level baseball and the Las Vegas Wranglers play minor league hockey in the ECHL at Orleans Arena. Of course, Sin City is also home to dozens of major boxing and MMA events every year. And don’t forget about the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, home to several annual NASCAR events, the USA Sevens rugby sevens tournament, the Las Vegas Bowl and the occasional Mountain West men’s college basketball tournament.
But there have been a few times when major league sports have tried their luck (no pun intended) in Vegas. The XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws and UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives both struggled to make a foothold just like their respective defunct football leagues; proof that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t necessarily stay there.
The Las Vegas Posse of the CFL was an even worse endeavour. Created during the CFL’s ill-fated attempt to expand into America, the Posse struggled with a shorter-than-CFL-standard field and the region’s extreme heat and couldn’t even get fans through the gate with their scantily-clad cheerleaders. The team even tried folding before their last home game but was forced to play it on the road. And let’s not forget the team’s national anthem singer once accidentally singing the Canadian anthem to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.”
So, will a professional sports team ever work out in Las Vegas? This could technically happen, what with the city being such a popular place and presenting a good-sized market. However, there are many obstacles in the way that could just as easily turn this idea into a pipe dream.
What’s the Local Economy Like?
Sure, Las Vegas is a very popular tourist destination. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimated that the tourism industry supports more than 350,000 jobs in the area. It also says that 39.7 million people visited the city in 2012 and that more than 21,000 conventions take place each year in the city. The city even generates more than $9 billion in gaming revenue a year. But what about the locals?
The Las Vegas economy struggled dramatically with the economic downfall of the past few years and was really hit hard by the housing bubble. However, Brookings Mountain West reports that it has recently made some worthy strides towards recovery. Home values have increased in recent years and job numbers are growing at a rate of close to 1% per month.
Still, there are issues over how much time it will take for the market to actually get back to 100% of its old financial value. The same Brookings report found that the average home price in Las Vegas is 40% of its value from before the market crash. In short, the $165,000 average value of homes in the metropolitan area is still much lower than what it was in the mid-2000s when homes were averaging at least $300,000 in value.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also says that the unemployment rate in Las Vegas is much higher than the national average. As of December 2013, Vegas’s unemployment is at 9.4%, a substantial rise over the 7% average in the entire country.
This could end up harming the potential for a local team to be supported. The market is catching up from an economic standpoint, but locals are still being hurt by their financial situations and as a result may not be able to afford to head out to many games.
Too Much Distraction and Competition!
To say that there are loads of things to do in Las Vegas would be more than an understatement. There are 122 different casinos in Vegas and several more places that have been legalized to offer gambling activities around the area. There are also hundreds of various restaurants, shopping centers and shows for people to watch in and around the city.
Let’s not forget some of the more unusual activities to enjoy while in the Entertainment Capital of the World. These range from places like the Adventuredome theme park and Pinball Hall of Fame to the Dig This construction equipment playground, Neon Museum and Vegas Indoor Skydiving center. There are so many things to do in Las Vegas that it may be difficult for people to even notice the presence of a major league sports team in the area.
Who’s Building the Stadium?
You need a stadium if you’re going to have a major league sports team, and such an establishment will inevitably cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yes, Vegas already has the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the Mandalay Bay Events Center, but those two places are packed throughout the year with other events. Several competing efforts to build an arena or stadium in Las Vegas have been set up over the years and this competition may sound welcome, but it could complicate the process of Vegas ever getting a team.
Harrah’s Entertainment announced a desire to build a $500 million arena near the Bally’s and Paris casinos. However, the REI Group LLC had plans to use 85 acres of downtown space to build a $9.5 billion complex that has a sports arena build into it.
Former NBA player and businessman Jackie Robinson even recently proposed plans to consider a $1.3 billion stadium near the Fontainebleau Tower. AEG and MGM Resorts International also have ideas for an arena on the Strip, too.
With so much competition and billions of dollars at stake, it’s clear that the construction of a new stadium in Las Vegas could be a huge problem.
Do Teams Want To Risk Players Being Hurt/In Legal Trouble?
Of course, there are ongoing issues surrounding the variety of amusing activities around the area and what effect that will have on athletes. With so many adult-themed entertainment points like casinos, clubs and bars around the Strip, pro athletes will find distractions around literally every corner.
It’s estimated that DUI arrests have increased in the past year by nearly 15% and that about $110 million are spent each year on prostitution-related expenses in Sin City. The risk of the many vices found in Las Vegas could be a problem that pro sports leagues may be reluctant to touch. It’s unfortunate that such a vibrant city which already has so much to offer in terms of entertainment seems unlikely to host a pro sports franchise any time soon. That is, unless someone out there is willing to take a big gamble.
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