It’s an age old question that tends to come up in any discussion about the validity of Las Vegas as a professional sports market. If Vegas is really a great place for a franchise, why has no league ever gone there before?
The answer is quite simple, but there are a few moving parts to examine to truly uncover it.
Let’s start with the city itself. Las Vegas was founded in 1905 and incorporated (I have no clue what this actually means) in 1911. In 1931 the state of Nevada legalized gambling and the Hoover Dam began construction. Construction workers from the Dam moved into Las Vegas and eventually, after the Dam’s completion, massive casinos went up in the city.
By the mid 60’s casinos became the cornerstones of the city and Las Vegas began it’s reign as the gambling mecca of the world. However, the local population still remained incredibly small. In 1970 the population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which includes Henderson, Boulder City, Mesquite, North Las Vegas, and unincorporated Clark County was just 273,000. By 1980 it had risen to 461,000 and in 2000 the total population was 1.4 million.
That brings us to the second party to the question of why a team has never come to Vegas. The professional sports leagues themselves.
Since 2000, when Las Vegas’ population was 1.4 million (700,000 short of where it is now), a total of six franchises have moved and four were introduced via expansion. The NHL saw one team move (ATL to WPG) and two were added via expansion (CBJ, MIN).
Since 2009, the year Las Vegas crossed the 2 million population threshold a total of one team has moved, so the opportunities for Las Vegas to earn its first ever franchise have been slim.
That brings us to today, March 2nd, 2016. Las Vegas is now a booming metropolis that has seen it’s population rise nearly 500% in the past 30 years. A city with a brand new state of the art stadium located on one of the most visited streets on the planet. Has an owner willing to shell out $500 million dollars for entry into the league. And maybe most importantly, 14,000 season tickets already sold to a team that does not yet exist.
The answer to the question, why has Las Vegas never had a team before, is an easy one. Las Vegas was not ready.
The city was too small. There was not a home for a team. There was no one willing to buy the team. And there was this stigma of “match fixing” attached to the legalization of sports gambling.
Well, Las Vegas’ population is now greater than NINE current NHL cities (Buffalo, Calgary, Columbus, Edmonton, Nashville, Ottawa, Raleigh, San Jose, and Winnipeg).
20,000 seat T-Mobile Arena is set to open April 6th with or without a hockey team coming to town.
The Creator’s signature is on the check.
And the gambling issue has been forced to fade due to the growing popularity of fantasy sports in this country.
Las Vegas is in a place it’s never been in before. Facts prove it unequivocally. And now, when people use “how come no league has ever gone to Vegas before” they may as well be saying, “how come Jack Eichel has never been in the NHL before now.”
We’re all grown up, it’s time. Put us in
coach Bettman, we’re ready to play.