It may not be the year in professional sports that we all hoped for, but Las Vegans aren’t letting that dampen their team spirit. For now, we will don our Golden Knights and Raiders gear to watch televised or streaming games to cheer on our hometown teams. The Vegas Golden Knights are among the 24 teams that have qualified for the playoffs under the NHL’s 2020 return-to-play plan. The Las Vegas Aces are in Florida playing an abbreviated season in the WNBA “bubble.” And as we await a decision from the NFL on the upcoming season, we can look to the nearly-completed Allegiant Stadium as a beacon of hope for what’s to come post-COVID.
Three recent small but important victories in the Las Vegas sports scene include the Vegas Golden Knights’ return to the ice in training for the NHL’s upcoming tournament play in pursuit of the Stanley Cup! The NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders’ logo took centerfield for the first time as Allegiant Stadium’s natural grass turf tray was officially rolled into the stadium as the venue approaches a July 31 completion. And while Las Vegans must wait until next season to hear the crack-of-the-bat, the award-winning Las Vegas Ballpark swung open its gates for socially-distanced, behind-the-scenes public tours.
While the community’s current focus is on minimizing the impact of the coronavirus, city leaders remain confident that in the not too distant future, the airport will be bustling 24/7; crowds will gather at Allegiant Stadium to cheer on the Las Vegas Raiders, fans will hammer for a spot to watch our NHL Golden Knights practice, and families will spend an afternoon taking selfies with baseball’s Triple A Aviators’ mascot Spruce.
Las Vegans know from experience the healing power of sports and the role the Vegas Golden Knights played in helping the city recover following the devastating emotional toll of the One October mass shooting in 2017. An April 2020 Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times by author Larry Olmsted entitled, “When sports return, they will once again play the role of national healer”, recounts, “Survivors of the 2017 Las Vegas concert turned massacre — the worst mass shooting in American history — told me again and again that sports helped mend and bring the city together. Specifically, the Cinderella debut season of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, which played its first game just nine days after and a few blocks from the site of the attack. Every game that season was a sellout.”
Purely from an economic impact perspective, business experts, speaking to the Las Vegas Review Journal, predict “Coronavirus shouldn’t impact Las Vegas’ pro sports future” having “little or no bearing on whether Las Vegas eventually adds to its professional sports portfolio” perhaps adding both an NBA franchise and major league baseball team.
Mark Rosentraub, sport management chairman at the University of Michigan who also consulted with UNLV in stadium talks, said the city’s efforts to diversify its economy should help Las Vegas in its recovery from the financial fallout of the coronavirus. “The situation of COVID on tourism is not going to have any effect at all on (a league’s) decision,” Rosentraub said. “Las Vegas is doing all the right things. Anybody who’s betting against Las Vegas because of COVID, I just laugh.”
With brighter days ahead, it’s worth a reminder of the anticipated economic affects that professional sports will continue to have on Las Vegas.
“In addition to creating added revenue for the Las Vegas market, sports will continue to be a major driver that generates an increase in tourism. But beyond being an economic driver, sports have the ability to build a sense of community, uniting Las Vegans as we cheer for our teams,” said Uri Vaknin, a partner with KRE Capital, whose company purchased a collection of condominium towers in Las Vegas in 2013. “The ultimate convener, sports will play an important role in the economic and emotional recovery of our city.”