(Photo from Press Release)
This past week Las Vegas got a little closer to bringing the MLS to Sin City when the city reached an agreement on an estimated $410 million soccer stadium. Now as one may expect, this agreement is contingent upon the MLS actually approving of a team heading to the desert, whether it be an expansion team or a current team in need of a move. With all that said I think I speak for many of us when I ask…is soccer in Las Vegas really a good idea? Well why don’t we take a look at some of the things that may come up if the MLS really does decide to gamble in Nevada.
History of Professional Sports in Las Vegas:
Obviously one of the big worries is legal gambling, but I will be straight up honest right now and say that although I consider myself well versed in many aspects of professional athletics, gambling doesn’t happen to be one of them. At the very least, I am not knowledgeable enough to make a good argument one way or the other in this article, so I will abstain from speaking of this potential problem for now.
When it comes to professional sports in Vegas, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. It’s one of the largest cities in the United States to not have a professional sports team and most relatively large attempts at having a professional team in the city have failed.
Whether it be the XFL (remember that folks?), the Canadian Football League (yeah remember when they tried an American expansion as well?...ok well I do) or the UFL, every single attempt at professional American football has flopped in Vegas. In fact in the cases of the CFL’s “Las Vegas Posse” and the XFL’s “Las Vegas Outlaws”, both teams only lasted a year before folding (mind you, the XFL only lasted a year as a league in general). The Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL did last a little longer, but eventually folded three years after their 2009 inception.
As for minor league sports, Las Vegas is represented by both hockey and baseball. The AAA, “Las Vegas 51’s” are a part of the New York Mets organization and the ECHL’s “Las Vegas Wranglers” serve as an affiliate for the NHL’s, Calgary Flames. Although the Wranglers have had success as a team, the franchise has found itself homeless in 2014 which resulted in having to ask for a voluntary suspension from operations until the 2015-16 season. As for the 51’s, they have only managed to fill half of their 9,000+ stadium over the past few years and they currently sit in last place for average attendance in the Pacific Coast League this season so far.
Sure college sports have done ok in Vegas and both Rugby 7’s and National Finals Rodeo tend to be a hit in the city, but they are only there for a short time before they leave each year. It’s hard not to worry that even those popular events wouldn’t suffer the same consequences if they were given time for the shine to wear off.
I will be the first to admit that I am a weather nerd, so it’s always one of the first things I think of when an outdoor sport like soccer decides to move to a climate known for its severe weather one way or the other. Given the current MLS schedule, it seems nearly impossible that an MLS team would be able to play outdoors in Las Vegas being that through the midway part of the season, Vegas is pushing triple digits in the daytime.
Although the summer lows in Las Vegas do reach the almost perfect temperature of 75 degrees, it would still take some time for it to cool down to that level. San Jose is known to start matches as late as 8:00pm, but as I type this right now at 7:47pm in late August, the temperature in Vegas still reads at 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even putting soccer indoors would be rough as I have been inside arenas in that sort of heat and it doesn’t get much better inside…in fact most of the time it’s worse.
Not Worth the Gamble:
I am trying to come up with any pros to having soccer in Las Vegas, but to be honest I am drawing a blank. I feel bad for the true soccer fans that do live in Nevada, but I couldn’t imagine them being enough to support a franchise, especially when attendance in the MLS is on the rise and we know there are other options that will surely do better, such as Sacramento here out west. Experimenting with soccer in Sin City at this point seems completely reckless and irresponsible as the league is finally finding its feet.
I would love to be proven wrong, trust me. If soccer ended up taking off in Vegas, it would basically be the first professional sport to do so and how amazing would that be for the growth of the game domestically? But the realistic side of me just can’t see the sport fitting into the personality of the city whatsoever. Perhaps I am missing something and if that is the case, feel free to post your comments and let me know. Maybe I just need to be more of a gambler.