LAS VEGAS — The words Las Vegas and sports have always gone together. However, with the addition of several major league sporting teams, Sin City is quickly becoming a genuine sports town.
In 1955, the first boxing match was held in Vegas, according to The Bleacher Report. Then, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway opened in 1972 following the closure of the Stardust International Raceway. The Las Vegas 51s (formerly Stars) have been playing minor league baseball in the city of lights since 1983.
Fast forward to 2017 and the sports scene in Las Vegas exploded. Two new teams began playing in Sin City. First, we had the addition of the Las Vegas Lights FC professional soccer team at Cashman Field. That was followed by the newly-formed Vegas Golden Knights NHL expansion hockey team at T-Mobile Arena. Later in 2018, the Las Vegas Aces WNBA women’s basketball team began playing at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
A panel discussion titled ‘Sports Journalism in Las Vegas’ was held on Saturday at the 2018 Las Vegas Book Festival. It featured a group sports executives and sports journalists. They all agreed that Las Vegas is now a major sports town with the likes of Denver and Phoenix.
Jeff Motley is the vice president of public relations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He also hosts a radio show called “Gone Racin'” that airs on SiriusXM satellite radio channel 204. Previously, Motley worked as a sports reporter at The Roanoke Times and The News & Advance newspapers.
“We are now known as a major league city,” he explained. “The speedway was built with not $1 of public money. I don’t know you can do that with today’s money. Having other teams here is giving us opportunities to work together. I think it was easier for the NHL. If we don’t have the arena first, then none of it’s happening. Therefore, businesses are looking to relocate here.”
Don Logan is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas 51s professional baseball franchise. The team is in the middle of building a new stadium in the Summerlin district of Las Vegas. In addition, they recently signed a new partnership to be the minor league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
“This has always been a sports town,” he said. “For years, I think everybody knew this was a major league town. They’ve never given credit for NASCAR. It’s interesting that it took as long as it took to happen. What the [Golden] Knights did on the ice was impressive as an expansion club. The Knights were a tsunami that nobody expected. There’s other leagues interested…the NBA, the MLS.”
Bill Bradley serves as the assistant managing editor of sports at the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. He previously worked as a sports editor at the Sacramento Bee, Nashville Tennessean and at the Arizona Republic.
“I think the leagues woke up,” Bradley explained. “Gambling isn’t going to hurt you. Maybe we ought to take advantage of this fan base. MGM built a state of the art arena. The NHL was the first one to come. If you’re on ESPN’s SportsCenter, you cannot buy that national exposure. This must be a cool city. I think we’re the only newspaper that’s hiring. We’ve gone from 14 people to 24. We were sold to a new owner who said sports is important and let’s get it done.”
Bryan Salmond is the main sports anchor at News 3 Las Vegas (KSNV-TV). He grew up in the Bay Area and got his first job at CNN Sports Illustrated. Salmond also worked at TV stations in Boston, New Orleans and Missoula, Mont.
“A lot of major league teams have embraced sports betting,” he said. “WNBA has come here. You can bet than an NBA team is coming here soon. Floyd Mayweather has brought a lot of money to Las Vegas. A buddy in Seattle called me for Golden Knights gear. The media coverage has exploded.”
Don’t forget…the Oakland Raiders NFL football team is coming to Las Vegas in 2020. A new 65,000-seat stadium is being built to support the team just west of Interstate 15 and The Strip. They will be renamed the Las Vegas Raiders when they start playing here.
The NBA has hosted its Summer League series in Las Vegas since 2004. All of the panelists agreed that the possibility of an NBA expansion team or a current NBA team coming to Sin City is very likely. It’s just a matter of time before it happens.
Las Vegas has always been known as the city of lights and the entertainment capital of the world. However, you can now add major sports town to that list.