UFL moves Locomotives' Third Game Moved to Las Vegas in likely corrective action

Tobi WritesAnalyst IOctober 16, 2009

The UFL's Commissioner Michael Huyghue announced the league will be moving the third home game for the Las Vegas Locomotives to Las Vegas. It was originally scheduled to be played in Los Angeles.

This is an excellent and clear headed move by the commissioner and the owners. Over the first three games of the UFL season the league has averaged an announced attendance of 12,524.

Two of those games were in Vegas and were to be the only games for Vegas this season, leaving the Vegas franchise with a really, really bad looking season attendance number of 13,185 and facing very dim prospects of that city having a UFL team next season.

When you add in the published impression that the numbers in Las Vegas were inflated, it was the kind of situation that would look horrible to potential fans this year and to potential owners in the offseason.

The early attendance numbers could have translated into a lower than expected turnout in Los Angeles. (One suspects the league may have already seen sluggish Los Angeles ticket sales and that might have been part of this decision making process.)

Having Las Vegas showing an unwillingness to support a UFL team and then drawing poorly in LA, say 18,000 or less, could have turned off potential owners in both markets.

(Remember the LA game was supposed to be Las Vegas vs. what looks to be the worst team in the league in the NY Sentinels. That late season game would draw a lot better in Vegas with LV chasing a playoff spot than in LA where fans would not have a stake in either team.)

By playing a game in LA off a weak start the league was looking at potentially burning LA as a market too. That would have been devastating. Far better to hold off on LA until next season.

Now the league really needs to sell that last Vegas regular season game. If they can draw 30K for that game the Vegas average will be a respectable 18K—about equal to what the worst teams in the USFL averaged in their initial year.

In that kind of scenario, even the fact that Las Vegas only averaged 18k is more acceptable because you can attribute it in meetings with potential owners to a slow developing market.

This reads to the public like the league working with the city and fans of Vegas. That will help with the draw on the final Vegas regular season game.

The Championship Game Factor

Las Vegas is also the site of the league championship game. With the murder of a CFL franchise on the city's resume, the Vegas choice was a very debatable pick for the league's first championship game. San Francisco would have been much safer. This change dramatically decreases the chance of a championship game black eye for the UFL.

Putting on my handicappers hat, IMO, there is now about a 40 percent chance Las Vegas will be in the championship game, and that would really help the league draw a decent crowd. If Las Vegas draws 30K to their last game and makes the championship game, the odds of a face-saving sellout would be dramatically higher.

I am critical of many of the decisions of the UFL leadership, but this was a good move by Huyghue and the league owners and it is an excellent first step in pulling the league's premiere season out of the toilet.