Is Las Vegas a legitimate contender for MLS expansion? According to the man trying to bring professional soccer to the Nevada desert, the answer is yes – an answer that came straight from the horse’s mouth.
According to Justin Findlay, the person behind Findlay Sports and Entertainment Group, Las Vegas is not on MLS’s “short list,” something he learned after MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott visited the city last week.
Abbott toured downtown Las Vegas and met with city officials about potential expansion into the world’s gambling capital, but for the move to work, the city will have to approve a financing plan for a new $150 to $200 million facility, one that would have air conditioning ducts every three rows of its stands to offset the Mojave Desert heat.
Though the proposal will require a sales tax district around the 24,000-seat stadium for financing, Findlay remains hopeful, almost evangelical:
“The best sport in the world is available. We can get a team right here,” Findlay told a group of potential supporters at a local bar. “Guys, this is possible. It is really, really possible.”
“Hearing right from the horse’s mouth, this is really a possibility,” Findlay would later tell the Las Vegas Sun, who adopted its own evangelical view on Saturday. “We just have to convert on our plan. There are no reasons why these big, big dreams can’t happen.”
There are actually a couple of reasons, starting with the stadium. But even if that happens, Minneapolis might have something to say about it. San Antonio and Sacramento are in this game, too. Las Vegas is an attractive option, but it’s one of many that may be at Major League Soccer’s disposal.
There’s also MLS’s comment on the matter, published to the league’s website:
“We are in preliminary discussions with a potential ownership group for an expansion team in Las Vegas,” the spokesman said. “Also, there is no short list of potential expansion cities. There are many cities interested in bringing a future MLS expansion team to their market.”
No short list? Mr. Lindsay may be getting a little ahead of himself.
Still, for a league that asked $100 million for it’s 20th franchise (back in the days before 24 was the new number), it’s a perfect situation. It’s also why Abbott’s unlikely to discourage any suitor. You’re wealthy and like us? Great! We like you, too! But we there are others we like, too, and boy do they have some great things going on! Just keep driving that price.
Before worrying about where Las Vegas sits compared to, say, Minneapolis let’s consider the positives:
• There’s a clear, passionate ownership group;
• a route to an acceptable facility; and,
• Las Vegas is an attractive market.
Add in a long history of consuming soccer (on television or otherwise) and you have Miami, though tells you how far Vegas has to go. If they build it, will people come? Without a lower-level team (above the PDL) or any significant history in the sport, Vegas is a gamble.
Still, Findlay’s project looks better than places like San Diego or St. Louis, which can’t check all of those boxes (most importantly, number one). Because of the market, it may be more attractive to MLS than Sacramento or San Antonio.
But compared to Minneapolis? Without an established fan base, a track record of lower-level success, or being closer to a stadium, Vegas seems far behind. And whereas we’ve heard commissioner Don Garber speak positively about Minnesota, Las Vegas is just now entering the discussion.
There may be a long way to go MLS announces its next team. That gives Lindsay a chance to catch up. Until we hear something from somebody outside of Las Vegas, though, this looks like a long shot, albeit an attractive one.