Las Vegas: Gambling mecca to sports mecca



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Oakland A’s new stadium update January 2022 Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Score another one for Las Vegas (US).

American billionaire businessman Wes Edens and Egyptian billionaire businessman Naseef Sawiris have entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Major League Soccer (MLS) to move toward bringing an expansion team to Southern Nevada (US).

The ‘Las Vegas Review Journal’ stated that pending final agreement, Las Vegas is poised to become home to the MLS’ 30th team, winning out over competing bids from Phoenix and San Diego. It is unclear when the team could potentially begin play in Las Vegas, but in December 2021 the MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, said the 30th team would not begin play before 2023.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 28 teams – 25 in the United States and 3 in Canada – and plans to expand to 29 teams by the 2023 season.

Edens and Sawiris said in a joint statement, “As one of the world’s premier sports and entertainment markets with a fast-growing and diverse community, Las Vegas is the ideal home for an MLS expansion team. We believe that the rising popularity of soccer and development of talent in the United States puts the MLS on a path to becoming one of the top leagues in the world. This is an important step to build on our relationship with the MLS. We’re optimistic we’ll reach a final agreement soon to bring a world-class franchise and significant economic and cultural benefits to the greater Las Vegas community.”

The exclusive agreement means the two sides will now work together, focusing on market analysis and planning for a practice facility, corporate offices and stadium in Las Vegas. The team would be jointly owned by Edens and Sawiris.

The two businessmen have pro sports ties. They co-own the Premier League’s Aston Villa F.C. The duo purchased the team in 2018 and in less than two seasons earned promotion from the English Football League Championship Division to the Premier League.

Edens is a co-owner of the National Basketball Association (NBA’s) Milwaukee Bucks. He and a group of partners purchased the team in 2014. Similar to the turnaround of Aston Villa, the Bucks went from having one of the league’s worst records to winning the 2021 NBA championship five seasons after Edens took control of the team.

Edens and the ownership group also landed the Bucks in a new arena, the $524 million 17,341-capacity Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, which is the centerpiece of a 27-acre entertainment district.

Edens is Co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, which also, through an affiliate, owns high-speed passenger rail line Brightline. Brightline is working on connecting Las Vegas and Southern California with high-speed passenger rail.

Plans call for the company’s Southern Nevada train station to be located on Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road. Last year, the National Hockey League (NHL) team Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley said Edens’ group was looking to build a possible MLS stadium next to the planned rail station. That has yet to be confirmed by Edens or Sawiris.

Remarked Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, “Bringing MLS to Clark County will be another major step in developing our significant sports economy. I have worked with the potential ownership team and have met with MLS Commissioner Garber and I am confident that they can get it done. For Southern Nevada, professional soccer means new investment, jobs and opportunities.”

Sawiris has an extensive business background. He serves as Executive Chairman of NNS Sarl, Executive Chairman of Aston Villa F.C., Director of Adidas AG, is a member of the J.P. Morgan International Council and a member of the Cleveland Clinic’s International Leadership Board Executive Committee since 2011.

Edens and Sawiris were behind a group who filed in June 2021 to trademark the name ‘Las Vegas Villains’ tied to a professional soccer franchise.

MLS is in the midst of expanding from 27 teams to 30 with Charlotte FC kicking off play this season and St. Louis City SC in 2023.

Stated Garber, “As we witnessed at this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup, at Leagues Cup and other marquee soccer matches in Las Vegas throughout the years, the City has a passionate soccer fan base, and we believe it could be a terrific MLS market. We look forward to finalizing our agreement with Wes and Nassef.”

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) Gold Cup Final soccer match between the US and Mexico drew 55,000 fans to the spectacular 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas) in August 2021 while the Leagues Cup showdown between the Seattle Sounders of the MLS and Liga MX’s (top professional football division of the Mexican football league system) Club León drew 16,014, according to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority data.
 

Oakland Athletics no longer Las Vegas bound?

The ‘Las Vegas Review Journal’ further stated that the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Oakland Athletics’ push for a new waterfront ballpark in the Bay Area cleared a crucial hurdle on January 19th, 2022 giving momentum to efforts to keep the team from moving to Las Vegas or another City.

The Oakland Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the City Council certify the environmental impact review for a planned $12 billion development that would include a $1 billion waterfront Major League Baseball ballpark. The vote came after a four-hour public meeting full of commentary both in support and opposition of the project.

The Oakland Athletics, often referred to as the ‘A’s’, are an American professional baseball team based in Oakland, California (US). The Athletics compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League West division. The team plays its home games at the Oakland Coliseum.

The 63,132-capacity Oakland Coliseum, branded as RingCentral Coliseum for naming rights reasons, is a multipurpose stadium in Oakland, California (US). It is located on 7000 Coliseum Way, adjacent to the Oakland Arena along Interstate 880.

That final certification of the environmental review could come next month at an Oakland City Council meeting.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf touted the Planning Commission’s vote as a “huge win” for the region.

Schaaf said in a statement that the vote “puts Oakland one step closer to building a landmark waterfront ballpark district with the highest environmental standards.”

The project at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal would include a 35,000-seat ballpark tied to a mixed-use development that would feature 3,000 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 50,000 square-foot indoor performance center, 400-room hotel, and 18 acres of public space.

‘A’s’ President Dave Kaval said before the vote that the environmental process for the project was two years in the making – “It has taken a great deal of time, but it is a very big project. We’re talking about billions of dollars in private capital. We’re really reimagining the Oakland waterfront, ensuring that the ‘A’s’ are going to stay in Oakland for many generations to come. And creating a new neighborhood, enhancing the quality of life for the people who live in that part of the City right now.”

The ‘A’s’ brass are still exploring their options in Las Vegas, as the team has been in the process of negotiating land deals with owners of various sites of interest in Southern Nevada.

After the process to build a new stadium in Oakland dragged on for years, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred gave the ‘A’s’ the green light to explore relocation sites. Thus far, Las Vegas has been the only market the team has looked at for a possible move.

All areas of the Las Vegas Valley have been scoured by the ‘A’s’, including the Resort Corridor, Henderson and Summerlin. Howard Hughes Corp. said last year that it would be open to donating land to the organization if the ‘A’s’ opted to relocate and build a stadium in Summerlin, Las Vegas.

‘A’s’ officials, including Kaval, have made several trips to Las Vegas over the last eight months, with reports that the team was eying the land the Tropicana hotel sits on as a possible site for a $1 billion stadium.

There are still other aspects of the Oakland project that need approval before shovels could hit the ground. Among other things, the City and the ‘A’s’ must work out differences over the project’s infrastructure, affordable housing and community benefits.

Although there is no timetable on when a final vote could occur, Kaval said that once it does, the process to get construction started could happen relatively quickly – “In terms of when you could actually get a shovel into the ground, probably within a year of getting the final approvals.”
 

Hot destination

 

In the last 5 years, Las Vegas has added a:

 

  • NHL team (T-Mobile Arena)

The 20,000-capacity T-Mobile Arena is a multipurpose indoor arena on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, United States, and is the home venue for the National Hockey League’s (NHL’s) Vegas Golden Knights, who began play in 2017.

In 2016, the NHL added Las Vegas to its 30-team league, its first expansion in 16 years in the form of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The National Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America comprising 32 teams – 25 in the United States and 7 in Canada. It is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and is one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.
 

  • NFL team (new Allegiant Stadium)

The jaw-dropping 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (Nevada, US) serves as the home stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League (NFL).

The brand new stadium opened in July 2020 and on September 21st, 2020, the first-ever Raiders game was held at Allegiant Stadium against their peer team New Orleans Saints and the former registered a 34-24 win over the latter.

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference.
 

  • WNBA team

The Las Vegas Aces are an American professional basketball team based in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The Aces compete in the Western Conference of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and play their home games at the 12,000-capacity Michelob Ultra Arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team landed in Las Vegas before the 2018 season.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is a professional basketball league in the United States. It is currently composed of 12 teams. The league was founded on April 22nd, 1996, as the women’s counterpart to the National Basketball Association, and the league play started in 1997.
 

  • NLL team

The Las Vegas NLL team is a planned box lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League (NLL). They will play at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Paradise, Nevada starting in the 2022-2023 seasons.

The National Lacrosse League (NLL) is a men’s professional box lacrosse league in North America. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the NLL currently has 14 teams: Nine in the United States and five in Canada.
 

In the next 5 years, Vegas will host the:

 

  • 2022 Pro Bowl

The 2022 Pro Bowl will be the National Football League All-Star game for the 2021 NFL season. It is scheduled to be played at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 6th, 2022.

The Pro Bowl is the National Football League’s All-Star game. Every year, the best players from the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference go head-to-head in an exhibition game to recognize their achievements from that season.
 

  • 2022 NHL All-Star

The 2022 National Hockey League All-Star Game is scheduled to be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, the home of the Vegas Golden Knights. It will be played on February 5th.

The National Hockey League All-Star Game is an exhibition ice hockey game that is traditionally held during the regular season of the National Hockey League, with many of the League’s star players playing against each other. Each team plays with four players.
 

  • 2022 NFL Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft will be the 87th annual meeting of the National Football League franchises to select newly eligible players. The draft will be held at the Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada, from April 28th to April 30th, 2022.
 

  • 2024 Super Bowl

Super Bowl LVIII, the 58th Super Bowl and the 54th modern-era National Football League championship game, will decide the league champion for the 2023 NFL season. The game is scheduled to be played on February 11th, 2024, at the Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada. The game will be televised nationally by CBS.

The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League. It has served as the final game of every NFL season since 1966, replacing the NFL Championship Game.
 

  • 2025 CFP Title

The College Football Playoff National Championship Game will reportedly take place at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium on January 6th, 2025.

The College Football Playoff National Championship is a post-season college football bowl game, used to determine a national champion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, which began play in the 2014 college football season.
 

The City is a favorite to land:

 

  • MLS expansion team

As mentioned above, Las Vegas is poised to become home to the MLS’ 30th team.
 

  • NBA expansion

Las Vegas is on the potential National Basketball Association (NBA) expansion list. The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hinted last year that Las Vegas will be in contention to land a franchise when the time comes for NBA expansion.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a professional basketball league in North America. The league is composed of 30 teams and is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. It is the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world.
 

  • The Oakland A’s

As mentioned above, the Oakland Athletics pendulum which was swinging between Oakland and Las Vegas may finally swing in favor of staying back in Oakland. The ‘A’ were seriously considering moving to Las Vegas and all areas of the Las Vegas Valley have been scoured by the ‘A’s’. A clear picture of whether the team will remain in Oakland will emerge only when shovels hit the ground.
 

  • An F1 Grand Prix

The ‘Sportscasting’ stated that Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said in November 2021 that there is genuine interest in bringing Formula 1 back to Las Vegas and 2023 may be the year to seal the deal.

This would align very well with Formula 1’s plans for expansion, not only in the United States but also as a destination sport that competes in some of the most spectacular settings in the world. Las Vegas is a natural fit as it already has the infrastructure to support F1’s traveling circus and easily has the hotels, meeting facilities and entertainment options required of an F1 race weekend.

Formula One is the highest class of international racing for open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
 

Sum-up

Las Vegas or ‘Sin City’ – the gambling mecca of the United States – has of late become the hot haunt of big-time sports franchises – Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Major League Soccer (MLS). The City has graduated from gambling mecca to sports mecca. There were times when sports teams used to develop cold feet at the thought of setting up shop in Las Vegas thinking about the gambling part. Not anymore. The City has proved that it has much more to it than just casinos and has undergone a 360 degree transformation in its image.

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