Sports in the Las Vegas metropolitan area
There are many sports activities in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, most of which actually take place in unincorporated communities within the metropolitan area. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, located just off the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, fields Division I athletic teams. Sam Boyd Stadium, located in Whitney, hosts UNLV football; the Las Vegas Bowl, an annual NCAA bowl game; and the USA Sevens, the largest rugby tournament in North America. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) just north of the city hosts NASCAR and other automotive events. The National Finals Rodeo is held annually at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus. Visitors and residents also have many options for boating, golf, hiking, rock climbing. The city has many parks which offer a wide range of activities.
Las Vegas is one of the largest cities in the United States without a major league sports team. Las Vegas is home to two minor league sports teams: the Las Vegas 51s of the AAA Pacific Coast League (baseball), and the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL (hockey). The Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League played in the league's first three championship games, winning the first two in 2009 and 2010. The only team to actually play in the city of Las Vegas is the 51s. Due in part to perceived risks with legal sports betting, no major professional sports league has ever had a team in Las Vegas, with the exception of the Utah Jazz's half-season at the Thomas & Mack Center in 1983–84. The placement of a major-league team in Las Vegas is an ongoing topic of discussion between city leaders and the professional sports leagues.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels (the name Runnin' Rebels is used only by the men's basketball team) host Mountain West Conference events on the UNLV campus and eight miles (13 km) east, at Sam Boyd Stadium. Indoor sporting events are held at the Thomas & Mack Center complex, both at the main arena and at Cox Pavilion, a smaller arena attached to the complex.
Professional outdoor football has been attempted three times in Las Vegas. The first two attempts, the XFL's Las Vegas Outlaws and the Canadian Football League's Las Vegas Posse, were unsuccessful, with both teams folding after only one season of play. The XFL folded outright, while the Posse were a failure at the box office, part of the CFL's failed U.S. expansion attempt. A third attempt at professional football was begun in the fall of 2009 with the United Football League's Las Vegas Locomotives; however, the franchise and the league folded in 2012.
- 1 Issues with major league sports
- 2 Future major league prospects
- 3 Special sports events
- 4 Current teams
- 5 Minor league professional sports
- 6 College sports
- 7 Rugby league
- 8 Rugby union
- 9 Previous teams
- 10 Individual sports
- 11 Other events
- 12 Sports venues
- 13 See also
- 14 References
Issues with major league sports
The most prominent issue is the perceived problem of legal sports betting. All four major professional sports leagues have strong anti-gambling policies, prohibiting their personnel from having any involvement in gambling. The NFL has taken the toughest stance, even refusing to accept Las Vegas tourism advertising for Super Bowl telecasts and threatening to file suit against any local hotels holding Super Bowl parties. In recent years hotels have gotten around the legal threat by referring to the Super Bowl as "The Big Game" rather than its actual name in advertising.
Some potential owners believe a professional sports franchise would have difficulty gaining an audience, given Las Vegas' numerous entertainment options. Las Vegas also has a high percentage of residents working in 24-hour occupations, many of whom work nights and weekends when most games would be played. These issues are not seen as problems by everyone in professional sports, however. Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria described Las Vegas as "a potential gold mine" for a professional sports team owner. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has also been quoted as saying that Las Vegas would be a good professional sports town.
A huge obstacle is the lack of suitable facilities. Cashman Field, Sam Boyd Stadium, the Thomas & Mack Center, MGM Grand Garden Arena, and Mandalay Bay Events Center are all inadequate to host a professional sports franchise due to capacity, age or design. Harrah's Entertainment and the Anschutz Entertainment Group committed to building a new arena on a parcel of land behind Harrah's Paris and Bally's off the Strip, to be built to NHL and NBA standards. The arena was expected to open in the fall of 2010, but construction has not begun. Harrah's Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman said in a June, 2009 article in Las Vegas Business Press that his company is still committed to building the arena, but it has been delayed by a lack of financing. He said that the arena will probably be completed in 2012 or 2013. There have been no announced plans to replace Sam Boyd Stadium or Cashman Field. On April 6, 2010 the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that three proposals have been made to build an arena of approximately 20,000 seats on or near the Strip to host professional basketball and hockey, rodeo, concerts and other events. All three proposals called for public money to be used for a portion of the construction cost. On November 5, 2013, Las Vegas news media reported plans for a joint-venture arena to be built on the Strip. The backing parties are AEG and MGM Resorts. Ground will be broken for the 20,000 seat, $350 million facility in April or May 2014, with opening projected for spring 2016.
Future major league prospects
In April 2004, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig publicly revealed that baseball was considering Las Vegas as a potential home for the Montreal Expos. The lack of a baseball park that could be quickly reconfigured for Major League Baseball cost the city any chance of landing the team. Baseball eventually chose Washington, D.C., primarily because the city agreed to provide a new stadium built entirely with public funding. There have also been contacts between city officials and several Major League Baseball owners regarding relocation; the ownership of the then-Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins) held a widely publicized meeting with Mayor Oscar Goodman in the winter of 2004. In 2012 the Marlins moved into the newly constructed Marlins Park on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl in Miami.
The Oakland Athletics, who played six home games in Las Vegas in 1996 because the Oakland Coliseum wasn't ready for the beginning of the season, have reemerged as a possible relocation candidate. The team submitted a formal proposal for a new stadium in nearby Fremont, but their plans fell through in February 2009 due to local opposition. It now appears that the A's may be heading for a new ballpark to be constructed in San Jose.
A news item on a local television station dated August 26, 2010 reported that Mayor Oscar Goodman is still actively pursuing an Major League Baseball franchise for the city. He was reportedly rebuffed by the owner of an unnamed team due to the small size of the market and the weak local economy.
Rumors surfaced in 2005 about the possible relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Las Vegas. In November 2006, California voters rejected a proposal to fund a new arena in Sacramento, considered to be a condition of the team remaining there. Another possible factor was that the owners of the Kings, the Maloof family, also owned the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Changes in the Kings owners' financial situation led to a decision to sell the club to a group planning to keep the team in Sacramento, which finalized the purchase of the Kings in May 2013.
Las Vegas hosted the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, the only time the event has been held in a non-NBA city. As part of the conditions the NBA set for holding the game in Las Vegas, sports books agreed not to take bets on the game. The NBA Summer League is currently held in Paradise, Nevada. The 2008 and 2012 United States men's Olympic basketball teams trained in Las Vegas, and played a game at the Thomas & Mack Center against the Dominican Republic.
The NFL has expressed strong opposition to sports betting and they have expressed the least interest among the four major sports leagues in putting a team in Las Vegas. However, with football's national popularity and only eight home regular season games (and few playoff games compared to the other leagues), an NFL team may be a good fit for the city.
In the summer of 2008 there was mention in the Las Vegas media that the San Diego Chargers may be considering Las Vegas as a relocation destination.
Mayor Oscar Goodman mentioned in 2004 that he was contacted by the owner of an NHL team about moving to the city, but he did not identify the team. An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on January 16, 2009 quoted a league source as saying that Las Vegas is under consideration for a game in the NHL's series of outdoor games. The same source said that the league has had inquiries about placing a team in Las Vegas, but that nothing will move forward until an arena is built.
The local media reported in the summer of 2008 that Las Vegas was on the short list of Major League Soccer for an expansion franchise in the near future.
Special sports events
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has drawn up to 165,000 fans. Las Vegas also hosts a significant number of professional fights. Many of these fights (such as those in MMA's UFC) take place near downtown or on the Strip in one of the major resort/hotel/casino event centers. Mandalay Bay is frequently a top contender as a venue for the UFC.
Las Vegas submitted a bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, but did so without United States Olympic Committee (USOC) consent. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires that a national Olympic committee nominates a city within their country followed by the submission of the bid to the IOC. The USOC stated that they would not submit a 2020 bid. Las Vegas proceeded without USOC support. The IOC reportedly rejected the bid. The day after the September 1, 2011 deadline for bidding, the IOC revealed the six applicant cities and Las Vegas was not one of them.
|Las Vegas 51s||Baseball||Pacific Coast League (AAA)||Cashman Field (9,334)||1983||2|
|Las Vegas Wranglers||Hockey||ECHL (Tier 3)||Orleans Arena (7,773)||2003||0|
|Las Vegas Sin||Indoor football||Legends Football League||Orleans Arena (7,773)||2011||0|
|Las Vegas Legends||Indoor Soccer||Professional Arena Soccer League||Orleans Arena (7,773)||2012||0|
|Las Vegas Knights||Indoor Soccer||Premier Arena Soccer League||Las Vegas Sports Park||2006||3|
|University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)||UNLV Rebels||NCAA||I (FBS)||Mountain West|
Minor league professional sports
Since Cashman Field (the only sports facility the city owns) opened in 1988, all but three other cities in AAA baseball (Pawtucket, Tacoma and Portland) have opened new ballparks. Little has been done to improve Cashman since it opened. Because it lags so far behind most other facilities in AAA baseball there is also a danger that Las Vegas will lose its place in minor league baseball's top tier (which happened to Portland after the 2010 season, after plans for a new park fell through). Dissatisfaction with the facilities, along with the total lack of a plan to improve the situation, was cited as a major reason the Los Angeles Dodgers did not renew their working agreement with the Las Vegas 51s after it expired in 2008. The Dodgers resumed what had been a long-term affiliation with Albuquerque, where a new ballpark opened in 2003.
In 1999, UNLV officials refused to discuss a new agreement with the owners of the Las Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League to play at the Thomas & Mack Center. Hotels with facilities suitable for the Thunder would not commit to an entire hockey season, as this would have seriously restricted the dates available for concerts and other events. This left the Thunder without a place to play. The team was disbanded, and the city lost hockey for four years. Only the opening of a new arena (considerably smaller than the Thomas & Mack) at the off-Strip Orleans Hotel allowed for the return of hockey with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. The ECHL is considered two steps below the NHL, or the equivalent of the 'AA' level in minor league baseball. The Thunder was one step above that.
The Las Vegas Locomotives began play in October 2009 in the inaugural season of the United Football League. The Locos have played in the first three UFL championship games, winning the first two against the Florida Tuskers, while losing the 2011 edition to the relocated Tuskers, then the Virginia Destroyers. The head coach is Jim Fassel, former head coach of the NFL's New York Giants. The team played home games at UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium. However, the league suspended operations in the middle of the 2012 season. The league's future is uncertain.
Af2, a second-tier arena football league, announced on June 24 that the ArenaCup, the league championship game, would be played in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena on August 22, 2009. Af2 President Jerry Kurs stated that the league had serious plans to put a team in Las Vegas to play at the Orleans Arena. He said that he had "no qualms" about this even given the problems that the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena Football League had in the city. This turned out to be the last season of af2 due to the demise of its parent league, the original Arena Football League.
The city has become a regional hub for college basketball conference tournaments. The Mountain West Conference holds their annual tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. Las Vegas hosted the tournament for the first seven years of the conference's existence, then the tournament returned to Las Vegas in 2009 after three years in Denver. In 2009 the West Coast Conference, which does not have a team in Nevada, moved their tournament to the Orleans Arena. The Western Athletic Conference moved their tournament to Las Vegas in 2011. The WAC also plays at the Orleans Arena. On March 14, 2012 the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the Pacific-12 Conference is moving their conference tournament to Las Vegas in 2013, to be played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The Las Vegas Warriors formed in January 2012, are a rugby league football club that are part of the Las Vegas Rugby Academy and compete in the American National Rugby League's Western Conference. Australian actor Russell Crowe announced plans in November 2010 to hold a Champion's League tournament (featuring the top 4 Super League and NRL teams) in Las Vegas.
In July 2009, it was announced that the USA Sevens, one of the events in the annual IRB Sevens World Series rugby sevens circuit, would move in 2010 from San Diego to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The USA Sevens, the largest annual rugby tournament in North America, has been held in Sam Boyd Stadium in a weekend in late January or early February every year since 2010. The 2012 USA Sevens drew over 64,000 fans to the stadium and was broadcast live on NBC. The IRB Sevens World Series is an annual series of tournaments for national sevens teams, with most of the events featuring 16 teams competing for four distinct trophies.
Las Vegas is host to many professional boxing matches and has hosted many heavyweight boxing championship bouts, including the following notable bouts:
- The Battle of the Little Giants (1981)
- Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns (1981, 1989)
- Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney (1982)
- Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns (1985)
- Julio César Chávez vs. Meldrick Taylor aka Thunder Meets Lightning (1990)
- Michael Carbajal vs. Humberto Gonzalez I (1993)
- The Bite Fight (1997)
- Fight of the Millennium (1999)
- Barrera vs. Morales trilogy (2000, 2002, 2004)
- Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather (2007)
- Floyd Mayweather vs. Ricky Hatton (2007)
- Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe (2008)
- Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao (2009)
Las Vegas hosts two pro tour events:
- PGA Tour Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (historically known as the Las Vegas Invitational)
- Champions Tour Las Vegas Open
Mixed martial arts
Along with significant rises in popularity in mixed martial arts (MMA), a number of fight leagues such as the UFC have taken interest in Las Vegas as a primary event location due to the number of suitable host venues. The Mandalay Bay Events Center and MGM Grand Garden Arena are among some of the more popular venues for fighting events such as MMA and have hosted several UFC and other MMA title fights.
Las Vegas has become an internationally known motor racing locale having hosted the elite Formula One racers at Caesars Palace and the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) for Indy racers in the early 1980s. Las Vegas was also the home of the famed "Mint 400" Desert Race from 1968–1987 run in the unforgiving Nevada desert outside Las Vegas. Nearly 100,000 spectators lined the 100 mile (160 km) loop to view the 500 plus off road racing vehicles. Sponsored by Del Webb's Mint Hotel and Casino, the event was the largest and richest event in the sport. The technical and safety inspection was held on famed Fremont Street and became one of the major must attend sporting events in Las Vegas history. The race ended when Del Webb organization sold the Mint Hotel to the adjacent Horseshoe owned by the legendary Binion gaming family.
Over the years, Vegas was the host for the Caesars Palace Grand Prix.
Las Vegas hosts these motor sports at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Kobalt 400
- NASCAR Nationwide Series: Boyd Gaming 300
- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350
- NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals (April)
- NHRA ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals (November)
Over the years, Las Vegas has housed many wrestling events for WWE such as WrestleMania IX at Caesars Palace, No Way Out (2001) housed at the Thomas & Mack Center, Vengeance (2005), Monday Night Raw, and No Way Out (2008). Las Vegas also hosted World Championship Wrestling's Halloween Havoc from 1996-2000 and TNA Wrestling's TNA Impact!
The National Finals Rodeo has drawn thousands of fans to the city since 1985, and a contract extension was signed in 2005 keeping the event in Las Vegas through 2014. The Professional Bull Riders circuit also holds its world finals in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas has hosts three Professional Rodeo events:
- BigHorn Rodeo
- PBR World Finals (1994–) — Built Ford Tough World Finals
- National Finals Rodeo (1985–) — Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Running and Triathlon
- Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon — The marathon was originally organized by Al Boka in 1983, who eventually sold the marathon in 2005 to Devine Racing, a Chicago-based race organization company that is responsible for several other races, including the Los Angeles Marathon. Devine redubbed the race as "The New Las Vegas Marathon", and updated the course to include the Strip. Introduced on December 4, 2005, the new course marks one of the race occasions that the Strip is closed to traffic. Prior to that, the course had run on the old Los Angeles Highway, beginning in the community of Jean, Nevada, and ending inside Las Vegas proper (Sunset Park). Additionally in 2005, the date of the marathon was changed from January to December to help ensure better weather. In 2009, the Las Vegas Marathon was acquired by the Competitor Group, Inc. and renamed as the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon, as part of the company's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series.
- Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay – Vegas is the end point for the annual Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay'. This 120 mile long foot race is run in April of each year by law enforcement teams from around the world. The race starts in Baker, California and is run over two days. This is the largest law enforcement athletic event in the world.
- The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) has hosted the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in the Las Vegas metropolitan area since 2011. The swim portion of the competition is held at Lake Las Vegas, and the bike and run portions are held in the Henderson, Nevada area. The 2013 World Championship is scheduled for September 8, 2013. This will be the final year of this race venue serving as a world championship. In 2014, the race will be renamed Ironman 70.3 Silverman as the championship race will change to a new location each year going forward.
- The Lake Las Vegas/Henderson, NV area was host to the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships on November 5, 2011 and organized by the International Triathlon Union. The venue featured the same course as the previously held Nevada Silverman Triathlon.
- Las Vegas is home to the Tennis Channel Open hosted at Darling Tennis Center. An international series tournament with a $500,000 prize fund which attracts stars such as Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake and Las Vegas native Andre Agassi.
- In 2006, the city hosted the USAFL National Championships, the biggest event in the United States for the sport of Australian rules football, with over 2,000 players from the US and Canada including local team Las Vegas Gamblers.
- Las Vegas is home to the professional paintball team Las Vegas LTZ and amateur team Sin City Paintball.
- Las Vegas is home of the American Ninja Warrior national finals since season 4, which resembles the Mt. Midoriyama course from its Japanese TV series Sasuke. Here, 90 competitors from around the country compete in this city to earn the title of American Ninja Warrior champion and the cash prize of $500,000.
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