It’s an exciting time to be a sports fan and a Las Vegan. After over a year of speculation, June 22nd, 2016, marked the day Las Vegas ended its run as one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the United States without a major-league sports franchise when the NHL rewarded the city with an expansion franchise. If that wasn’t enough, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee will meet this week to discuss sending a stadium plan to the Nevada legislature that could lead to the Oakland Raiders of the NFL also calling Las Vegas their new home.
With the NHL being the first league to crack the Las Vegas market, and the NFL exploring, it was only a matter of time before other leagues started showing interest, and it looks like MLB in Las Vegas could be next.
MLB in Las Vegas Isn’t Far-Fetched
This past Tuesday MLB commissioner Robert Manfred, was quoted in an interview on The Michael Kay Show that Las Vegas could be a “viable alternative” to someday host an MLB franchise. Many will get lost in the debate of what Manfred means by “viable alternative”, but the idea can be afforded that the MLB has Vegas on its radar for either expansion or relocation.
Manfred even threw out the gambling stigma that prior to the NHL interest, seemed to be the sole reason why Vegas was never an option.
“I think the whole ‘You can’t go to Vegas because there are casinos there’ … we passed that by a long time ago,” Manfred said. “There’s casinos all over the place. I see Las Vegas as a viable alternative. I would not disqualify it just because of the gambling issue,” said Manfred.
With the timing of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics looking for new homes, Las Vegas could be the next landing spot for either of the two teams.
Las Vegas, which resides in Clark County, Nevada, is home to over two million people and to more parks with baseball and softball diamonds than the county should be able afford to take care of. These diamonds have produced current baseball phenoms Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant, and most famously Greg Maddux. In 2014, Las Vegas sent a team from Mountain Ridge Little League, one of the many Little Leagues that the city holds, to the final round of the Little League World Series. With so much baseball in the community, support for a major league team can be expected if a team were to move to Las Vegas.
If Las Vegas were to land a team like the Oakland A’s via relocation, it would be assumed that de facto support would follow. The Oakland A’s once opened their season in Las Vegas in 1996, while the Oakland Coliseum was under renovation. Las Vegas is also full of California transplants, making it easier for locals to adopt a team from California. Being a little more of an hour away from Oakland via plane, fans that can forgive the team for leaving Oakland can easily travel to see to their beloved A’s.
Another pro for MLB, is the possibility that with so many home games, MLB would be the most affordable game for families to attend. In 2015 the average MLB ticket was $28.94, while the NFL average was $84.43, and the NHL being $62.18. With the Clark County average household size being 2.7 according to census.gov, baseball would be the most affordable ticket between the three sports.
The real challenge with baseball, will be the stadium. T-Mobile Arena, which will be home to the new NHL Expansion Franchise in 2017-18, was privately funded by AEG and MGM Resorts International. The stadium didn’t even have a guarantee of a professional sports franchise playing in it prior to being built. If the NFL lands in Las Vegas, it has already made it clear that the stadium will require some version of public funding. With the Oakland Raiders and Las Vegas Sands Corp requesting over $700 million in public funding, that doesn’t leave much room for another team to request public money for a the another stadium. Since the stadium will require a retractable or permanent roof due to the hot desert climate of Las Vegas, it’s unlikely a team would want to move to Vegas bad enough to foot the bill on their own.
Regardless, if the league waits until the NHL 2017-18 season, MLB will get to see how the NHL does in their inaugural season and coming years, and if it is successful, don’t be surprised if MLB tries to get their fair share of the Las Vegas market sooner than later.