It’s a Long Shot for a Pro Team in Las Vegas

L LCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2008

Gambling. Booze. Women of questionable morals.

For all the things Las Vegas is known for, sports teams aren’t one of them.

Sure, there are the major casino venues, like Caesar’s Palace Coliseum and the MGM Grand Garden Arena, who regularly play host to huge sporting events. The town has seen it all: Boxing, Ultimate Fighting, rodeos, you name it.

But I’m talking about local places to go where I can consistently attend a sport game—with a team that I can root for because of its regional convenience. Sin City-based spectator sports comprise the minor-league Wranglers (hockey), the 51s (baseball), college sports at UNLV, and the races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Not too impressive for the city that’s known as America’s Playground. And there is nothing more American as the testing of brute strength in front an audience drunk with cultish pride (amongst other things). 

There have been years of speculating Las Vegas would get a professional sports team. The idea has been thrown back-and-forth for a while and, frankly, I think without a new arena, no pro franchises will consider Vegas as an eligible market.

The recent economic crisis has hit Las Vegas, and optimism about landing a major pro team is wearing thin. The prospect of constructing a new arena in town is deemed unfathomable—at least, until the economy swings back and investors come along.

Many speculate teams are hesitant to move to Vegas due to the stigma of sports gambling and how it could affect a team’s image or integrity.

The city’s other drawbacks, mainly, the small size of the television market and the fierce competition for the entertainment dollar, make no guarantees a pro team would play to sold-out crowds.

Bottom line, sports teams are still a business based largely on season ticket holders. For most teams, this accounts for a large chunk of ticket revenue. In Las Vegas, this creates a difficult challenge to resell those seats to tourists and conventioneers on a nightly basis.

Nevertheless, entertainment people are always looking for ways to entertain their customers. Las Vegas may possess the corporate support and growth potential a league may be looking for in a franchise. No doubt, it is a unique and interesting market.

Pro leagues shouldn’t fold just yet when it comes to betting on Las Vegas as an eligible market. The city will just have to wait and see what hand it's dealt next.