Sin City wel­comes Raiders with open arms, big hopes

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Regina Gar­cia Cano

las ve­gas» A city fa­mous for its over-the-top per­sona is ea­gerly wel­com­ing an NFL fran­chise that boasts an equally out­sized rep­u­ta­tion and the promise of pro­fes­sional le­git­i­macy for the desert gam­bling oa­sis, which up to now has seen major sport­ing events just pass­ing through.

Las Ve­gas is no stranger to big time events cater­ing to all tastes. Cham­pion box­ers lace up their gloves at glitzy ho­tel-casi­nos on the Strip. Thou­sands turn out for NASCAR races. The Na­tional Fi­nals Rodeo rides into town ev­ery year.

With the ad­di­tion of an NHL ex­pan­sion fran­chise, the Ve­gas Golden Knights, and as of this week the Raiders, Las Ve­gas be­lieves it has ar­rived as some­thing sub­stan­tially more than a one-off venue.

Ju­bi­lant state and local of­fi­cials were quick to wel­come the team af­ter the league’s re­lo­ca­tion ap­proval Mon­day. Sports fans who had been con­fined to mi­nor-league base­ball and an as­sort­ment of lower-divi­sion hockey teams gath­ered down­town to cel­e­brate.

On Tuesday, the state’s largest news­pa­per pro­claimed “Touch­down, Ve­gas!” on its front page.

“We’ve needed a sports team in this city for a long time,” Las Ve­gas res­i­dent Sean Man­chanda said. “If foot­ball works well in Green Bay and other tier II cities like Jack­sonville, even Phoenix, it will work in Ve­gas. Lo­cals are much in sup­port.”

But with a pop­u­la­tion base of 2.2 mil­lion and noth­ing but desert on the out­skirts, local in­ter­ests and the Raiders are bank­ing the city’s lifeblood tourism in­dus­try will help fill the 65,000 seats of the domed $1.9 bil­lion sta­dium.

Ne­vada of­fi­cials ex­pect 450,000 peo­ple a year to travel to Las Ve­gas with the main pur­pose of at­tend­ing an event at the sta­dium, whether it’s a Raiders or UNLV foot­ball game, a con­cert or mo­tor­sports event. For the project to meet rev­enue pro­jec­tions, of­fi­cials said the fa­cil­ity will need to see an at­ten­dance of nearly 2 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery year.

At least one econ­o­mist said the math doesn’t hold and his­tory proves tourists aren’t reli­able sup­port­ers of sports teams.

“It is com­pletely over the top,” said Roger Noll, economics pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Stan­ford Univer­sity and an ex­pert on the economics of sports. “They are pro­ject­ing roughly 10 times the num­ber of tourists in at­ten­dance per game than any other team in the league.”

Noll of­fered the Los An­ge­les An­gels as a cau­tion­ary tale of the pit­falls of re­ly­ing on tourists to help fill sta­dium seats. The An­gels were ac­quired by The Walt Dis­ney Co. in 1996 and sold in the early 2000s. Noll said Dis­ney be­lieved tourists vis­it­ing its theme parks would also at­tend a game at the An­gels’ nearby sta­dium, but that idea proved to be “a com­plete fail­ure.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.