After the National Hockey League made it official and agreed to bring the city of Las Vegas its first major sports franchise, it didn’t take long for the NFL debate to begin.
Last week, the NHL unanimously voted among its board of governors to put a team in Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season. They’re going to play at the new T-Mobile Arena, which can seat 17,500 for hockey games and a lot of people are interested to see how the attendance plays out. Is the city ready for a major league sports franchise? Will it be a draw for tourists to go? Will it have a tough time competing with other evening events on The Strip?
All of this is important to know because the fans in the city just got their first professional team, yet they are already clamoring for an NFL team. Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, has helped get the ball rolling as he has spoken about his interest to draw the NFL to Las Vegas. He’s partnered his Las Vegas Sands with Majestic Realty Co., along with others, in a group trying to build a 65,000-seat stadium for an NFL team. The stadium would be in a dome and it would cost $1 billion.
It’s an interesting strategy and it’s possible he is just trying to follow a blueprint. MGM Resorts International has had T-Mobile Arena in the works for years, along with the newly-renovated area leading up to it called The Park. The idea was to have a stadium that could host all sorts of events, but also host a major sports franchise should that option come about. But there are some people that are saying that MGM had a behind-the-scenes agreement in place to let them know that their stadium would eventually get a hockey team. After all, why build this stadium when they have multiple concert venues already? It’s also quite convenient that the NHL provided them with a team just months after the stadium first opened its doors.
So are Adelson and company trying to follow the same plan? Fans clearly want an NFL team and so do the casinos. Extra foot traffic creates extra business for them, so of course they’d like to have a professional football team in town. And by building a stadium, that would likely cross one of the biggest hurdles off the list in terms of the NFL’s requirements. As we’ve seen with St. Louis, Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego, the stadium was the priority. If there’s a state-of-the-art facility ready to go in Vegas, why wouldn’t the NFL seriously consider them?
With the city of Oakland struggling to figure out its stadium situation and Las Vegas potentially opening up as a sexy option, don’t be surprised if the NFL makes its way to The Strip. They’ll see how the NHL does in terms of sales and attendance, and that will help them make a decision down the road.