American sports and the temptation of Las Vegas, an inevitable rapprochement?

Since the announcement of the NHL’s expansion in 2016 to Las Vegas, these are alls major sports in the United States which are increasingly studying the option of setting up a franchise in Nevada. Of the Golden Knights, precursors, to Assumed move from the Athletics, through the possible expansion of the NBA, zoom on a more than attractive market for American sport.

The Golden Knights example

If the frenzy around expansions and other moves in Las Vegas is very real today, we were still far enough from it only five years ago. Whether SinCity is an intriguing and mysterious market that many leagues half-dream about, none of which have yet taken the leap by setting up a franchise in Nevada. NBA, NFL, MLB (major leagues), MLS, and even WNBA or NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League), none seem close to setting up a team in Las Vegas. None, except the NHL. In the midst of an expansion project, the National Hockey League explores his options, and the decision is made on June 23, 2016 to award the league’s thirty-first franchise to Las Vegas. A landmark choice, and which will pave the way for other leagues as this bet was successful.

In many respects, the arrival of the Vegas Golden Knights, the name of the new Las Vegas hockey franchise, can today, five years later, be considered a choice that has paid off. Sportingly, the franchise has already established itself as a league headliner. In four seasons, the Golden Knights have participated in the Stanley Cup – in their first season – as well as two Pacific division titles and four playoff appearances. It’s hard to get a better introduction. From a marketing point of view, the franchise is also quite a winner. In addition to the image of winning franchise that it has developed, it has been able to prove that a real audience exists in Las Vegas, with a magnificent hall, the T-Mobile Arena, which regularly fills up. As proof, during the 2019/2020 financial year, the last before the arrival of Covid-19, the Golden Knights posted an average of 18,310 spectators per game, in an arena with just over 18,000 seats.

Thus, the  » Golden Knights model “, if we can qualify it as such, demonstrated the reliability and the potential financial windfall that was the establishment of a franchise in Las Vegas. An observation quickly made by other leagues and especially by other franchise owners, who did not hesitate to move to SinCity.

MLS in the same vein?

Five years after the NHL, a new American sports league is preparing to take the plunge by granting a franchise to Las Vegas via an expansion: the Major League Soccer. In full development since its creation in 1996, the league is growing at high speed and should see its number of franchises triple between its creation and the middle of the current decade. From 10 twenty-five years ago, MLS has grown to twenty-seven teams this year, then will reach 29 in two years and 30 in the future. If the 28e (Charlotte) and 29e (St. Louis) franchises are already known, the location of the thirtieth is still unclear, but Las Vegas is gradually establishing itself as the most serious candidate. Large urban metropolis, the 29e largest in the country, but smaller market than Phoenix or Sacramento, other cities that often come up in the discussion, SinCity today has a reputation for it as a sports city*, thanks to the example of the Golden Knights but also to other teams, notably linked in the past to California. Something to reassure and interest the MLS, whose commissioner Don Garber recently declared to be “ excited about the market, as are all other leagues in North America « . A fine proof that the sporting success of Las Vegas is today a reality that attracts the eye and candidates for relocation.

* Note that Las Vegas already has a soccer team, the Las Vegas Lights FC, which is now playing in the second division.

California at his feet

The Raiders on board…

The wave of interest generated by Las Vegas has a more than symbolic case: the move of the Raiders. NFL franchise based in Oakland before said move, his departure to Nevada is symptomatic of the malaise of the Oakland franchises, but also of the certain attractiveness of Las Vegas. Illness, why? Historically in the Bay since 1960, despite an initial move to Los Angeles between 1982 and 1994, the Raiders owed their departure largely because of a disagreement with the city over the construction of a new stadium. Refusing to pay to offer a new enclosure to its American football franchise, the town hall of Oakland opened the door for the first time to the departure of one of its historic franchises, and consequently made Las Vegas an ideal candidate.

Ideal candidate, why? If the Raiders first studied the possibility of moving a second time to Los Angeles, SinCity quickly became the best and only option. While Oakland refused to use public money to finance a new stadium, Las Vegas on the other hand had no qualms. Proposal ? 750 million dollars from public funds, in order to pay for what was announced as a jewel, theAllegiant Stadium. An offer impossible to refuse for the franchise, pressed by the NFL to find a solution to its stadium problems and faced with a project too solid to refuse.

Stadium problem, money galore but also a nascent sporting tradition, with more and more teams in the city and more than promising results for them, here is the cocktail that seduced the Raiders to make the NFL franchise the one of the first to move to Las Vegas. A scenario that is likely to repeat itself for a former neighbor who also came from Oakland.

and the default Athletics?

Five years after the start of the imbroglio around the new Raiders stadium refused by the city of Oakland, which therefore led to the latter’s move in 2020, a new resident team from the San Francisco Bay Area could leave very soon. Indeed, a similar problem arises for the Oakland Athletics, MLB franchise, which was refused the construction of a new stadium by its city and which is therefore in the process of changing city and state. And there again, the miracle solution would probably be called Las Vegas.

If nothing is yet recorded and that the A’s are still negotiating with Oakland in the hope of finding an agreement, the track of the move has been officially activated this year and things are slowly becoming clearer. Already linked to Las Vegas by the Las Vegas Aviators, a Triple-A (minor league) franchise affiliated with the Athletics, the franchise is approaching a departure towards SinCity thanks precisely to the Aviators. Indeed, the minor league franchise recently offered land in the Las Vegas Valley suburb of Summerlin to build a new stadium. An offer that fits with the various trips made to the zone by the A’s during the year, and which puts a little more pressure on Oakland to make a final decision on the construction of a new ball park.

For Oakland, this departure would be yet another blow to the sporting image of the city. After losing the Raiders (NFL), also residents of Memorial Colliseum in California, but also the Warriors (NBA), passed from theOracle Arena local to new Chase Center San Francisco, seeing Oakland go would be a big setback for a city with a strong sporting heritage. For Las Vegas on the other hand, it would be a new big catch, which would once again show the sporting power of the city, developed for several years now. The ball is now more or less in the A’s court, whose move could only be another part of the snowball effect caused by the arrival of the Golden Knights in 2016.

The NBA Possibility

Today, Las Vegas has franchises in many major American leagues. With teams in the NHL (Golden Knights), NFL (Raiders) but also in the WNBA (Aces) and perhaps soon in MLS (expansion) and MLB (Athletics), the North American sports landscape is almost entirely represented there. Almost, because the NBA has not yet tackled this market. However, all this could soon change. In effect, SinCity no longer hides its desire to host an NBA franchise if the league were to seriously consider the idea of ​​moving to more than thirty franchises. And arguments, the city of Nevada has plenty.

First of all, Las Vegas and the NBA currently have pretty strong and pretty obvious ties. If no team is domiciled there, the league settles there once a year, during the summer, in order to play the Summer League. Thus, Adam Silver and consorts are already aware of the interest that reigns in the city for basketball, even if the competition inevitably attracts fewer fans than during regular season meetings because of the absence of stars, but also of the logistical organization and the behavior of the premises towards the NBA. Furthermore, the National Basketball Association already has a successful example of basketball success in Las Vegas with the case of the Aces, a WNBA franchise. Installed at SinCity Since the beginning of 2018 and the takeover of the San Antonio Stars by the MGM Resort group, the franchise has had a more than successful start there. In four years, the Aces have established themselves as one of the best teams in the league thanks to good sports results (participation in Finalstwice the best record of its conference), but also knew how to find its audience, the franchise having created an important fan base.

From an infrastructure point of view, the NBA would also have nothing to worry about. Recently, the city confirmed plans to build a new hall, the All Net Arena, which should at least host Aces matches in addition to other cultural events. Financed in part by the private group Comcast, this brand new setting will cost four million dollars and will be able to accommodate 23,000 spectators. A more than solid argument to become the lair of an NBA franchise, and the league knows it very well. Two months ago, Adam Silver, commissioner of the league, had also declared that Las Vegas would be among the candidates when the league decides to add a franchise, which is however not yet relevant.  » Silver said the NBA isn’t going to get bigger right now, but also said Las Vegas would be in the race to have a franchise when the time comes reported Mike Akers of Las Vegas Review-Journal on this subject. Further proof that Las Vegas is popular and has truly become an attractive market for American sports, making the city an almost inevitable place to invest for the big major leagues.

In just over half a decade, Las Vegas has become firmly established in the American sports landscape, to the point today of being a must. Each sport is turning to it little by little and things should not change in the years to come, with always more formalizations, possibilities and rumors. The rapprochement was inevitable, and it seems far from being able to stem.

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Louis Rousseau

The words « Minnesota Miracle » and « No-Call » are scratched from my vocabulary. My heart mourns the retirement of Drew Brees and the loneliness of RJ Barrett in Madison Square Garden.

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