“For all the players, coaches, administrators and fans who over the years have proudly worn the silver and black, this is our field of dreams,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said last November as the NFL team officially broke ground on its new home in Las Vegas.
The proposed $1.9 billion stadium is anticipated to be completed in time for the 2020 football season, but the city is already getting ready.
Las Vegas has held a prominent place in the history of sports. It’s been home to over 100 PGA and Champions golf tournaments and has been the site of legendary fights. But until 2017, Sin City had no major-league sports team. All of that is changing, and fast.
Last year saw the launch of the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team along with the deal-brokering and groundbreaking of the NFL’s Raiders stadium. This year, the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team and Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team will both kick off their inaugural seasons.
“Las Vegas has been a great sports destination for decades. Four new professional franchises to the destination — and bringing in the NHL, NFL, WNBA and USL leagues — will only add to that,” said Lisa Motley, director of sports marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Las Vegas will be a destination city for fans of teams in these leagues, and we’re excited to continue building our sports reputation.”
The arrival of the Las Vegas Golden Knights initially didn’t draw the same attention — or drama — as did the negotiations to build the football stadium and lure the Raiders from Oakland, Calif. Yet many locals were excited to finally have a hockey team to call their own, and when the Knights began a winning streak late last year, even more fans turned out.
“The Vegas Golden Knights are an amazing story, and the success they are having is more than anyone could have imagined,” Motley said. The team sits at the top of its division.
In August 2017, before the season began, the Westgate sports book gave them 200-1 odds of winning the Stanley Cup; in January, those odds stood at 7-1. Ticket sales are brisk at the T-Mobile Arena, and the Golden Knights rank fourth in their league for merchandise sales — not bad for a team that didn’t exist a year ago.
The Knights’ arrival has been a boon for many local businesses, but some are even more excited about another sport that’s coming to Las Vegas.
Jaysse Lopez, owner of sneaker boutique Urban Necessities, told FN: “We do get a lot of tourists who come and say, ‘I’m in town ’cause I’m here for a convention’ or went to watch the Knights play, and it’s generated sales. But the sport that will generate and has generated a lot of sales already is basketball. There’s so many tournaments that happen in Vegas, and some of them bring thousands of kids and grown-ups into the shop that all want the hottest shoe.”
Now Las Vegas is finally getting a hoops home team in the WNBA’s Aces.
The Aces were formerly the San Antonio Stars. The team’s president and head coach, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Laimbeer, won three WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock and is optimistic about the Aces’ odds in Vegas.
“It’s new. It’s professional basketball, whether it’s guys or girls,” he said. “And with the stage we’re at with women’s empowerment, I think
it’s a great opportunity. Challenges? We’re building from scratch. It’s a lot of work to get this thing launched.”
The Aces hope to draw some out-of-town visitors but plan to focus on the local fan base, according to the coach. “That’s what the WNBA is — it’s a grassroots organization,” he said.
The team will play in Mandalay Bay Events Center, which will get a makeover.
“MGM has made a huge commitment to completely refurbishing the entire place — the electronics, the locker rooms, all-new seating, a Jumbotron,” added Laimbeer. “It’s going to be a great fit.”
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