One day after the Associated Press first reported that the NHL decided to award Las Vegas with an NHL expansion team, things in Sin City are only beginning to heat up.
Long associated with gambling and various adult pleasures, the so-called “Entertainment Capital of The World” is on the verge of becoming the newest player at the proverbial sports blackjack table. In being awarded a team, which would begin play as soon as the 2017-18 season, barring that it can come up with the $500 million needed.
When—not if—then the Las Vegas expansion team will take the ice inside of their spanking-new 17,500-seat T-Mobile Arena—located on the south end of the Strip to the applause of a city that has been starving for a team to call its own.
Geographically speaking, Las Vegas is located in the middle of large sports markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, Denver and Phoenix, so naturally rivalries with the Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Avalanche and Coyotes will be instantaneous and fierce.
On a personal note, when I was recently in Los Vegas celebrating my 40th birthday with my wife, Kathryn, there was an overwhelmingly large Sharks fan turnout glued to the drama that was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Naturally, with San Jose being 526 miles away, those fans cheered when San Jose scored as we were walking thru the Paris Casino and Resort.
Being a Cleveland—and non-West Coast sports fan, it truly felt like I was in enemy territory. That being said, with the NHL putting down stakes in Sin City, it is a smart and calculated gamble.
Some may scoff at the NHL being in Las Vegas–and the Sun Belt as a whole–but considering the success of Florida, Tampa Bay, the forementioned Sharks and Anaheim then this could be Gary Bettman cashing in at the winners table.
Other sports leagues are also beginning to eye Las Vegas–most notably the NFL–and the Oakland Raiders, whom are in talks to move from the East Bay as well. Thanks to a combination of a borderline third-world stadium in O.co Coliseum and an even worse stadium lease set to run out soon, don’t bet against Mark Davis moving the Silver and Black to Sin City.
And considering the number of seemingly-giddy residents I spoke to regarding the Raiders coming to Vegas and the seemingly booming downtown, set to break ground on four new casinos AND a new 70,000-seat stadium set to share house both the Raiders and UNLV, and the prospect of the most powerful league in American sports playing in Vegas is all but immenient.
While some may choose to live in denial right now, but thanks to the NHL granting Las Vegas an expansion team and the Raiders likely to follow right behind them, the mere thought of Sin City as a major sports town is no longer just a seedy desert oasis, but now on the cusp of stark reality.