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Is Las Vegas Getting Sportier?

29 August 2014Printer Friendly VersionPost a CommentTell a Friend about this Article

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When will Las Vegas get a pro sports team?  That's a question Las Vegans have been asking for years.  And they may soon have an answer, although it might not involve one of the sports they're accustomed to watching and cheering over. 


As we previously reported, MGM Resorts is planning to build a $350M dining and retail district called The Park. That project, to be located between New York-New York and the Monte Carlo, will be based around a 20,000-seat arena.  Scheduled for completion in 2016, this new venue could potentially host a pro basketball or hockey team. 


However, a proposal that looks more likely to score in the near future would bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to Las Vegas. MLS is currently in the process of expanding from 19 to 24 teams, and Las Vegas is in the running with four other cities for the last of those spots (New York, Miami, Orlando, and Atlanta have already been chosen to fill the other vacancies).   


In fact, there are currently two competing groups working on plans to bring soccer to Las Vegas. The first, headed by Findlay Sports and Entertainment, proposes to build a stadium in Symphony Park, one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the US, located in downtown Las Vegas.  But the stadium project has run into funding problems.  It would rely largely on public funds, and the parties involved, including the city of Las Vegas, have been unable to work out their differences.


The second soccer-enthused entrepreneur, Jason Ader, is an outsider from New York, but obviously knows the ropes as a director of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.  Unlike the Findlay group, Ader's proposal would not rely on any public money.  Instead, his 20,000-seat covered stadium project would raise the needed capital from investors, including some Asians via the federal EB-5 visa program.  That's the same program utilized by the recently completed SLS Las Vegas casino to raise a significant portion of their renovation funding.


Other players have been itching to get into this game as well, including former NBA player Jackie Robinson. He announced last December that he plans to build an arena at the north end of the Strip. His project will be privately funded and feature a retractable roof and 22,000-seat capacity.  


Robinson says his proposal, five years in the making, will include a five-star hotel and 300,000 square feet of retail and dining space. He's obviously counting on his experience in the NBA to help bring a team to Las Vegas, mentioning in his announcement that some of his former colleagues now hold high-level positions in the organization. 


However, there are still some roadblocks that must be overcome before a team of any kind can call Las Vegas home.  Many professional leagues are hesitant to locate a team in Las Vegas over concerns that the legal sports betting there could have a corrupting influence on the games.  And with so many entertainment options to choose from, there remains some question as to whether Las Vegans will choose to go see a game.  Some fans might not even be able to go to a game due to their work schedules. Las Vegas is not a nine-to-five town.


On the positive side, Las Vegas has some demographics working in its favor. The city has a significant Hispanic population, and they traditionally tend to be much bigger soccer fans than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Las Vegas also attracts a lot of tourists from Europe, where soccer is king.


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