Vegas is making its case as the best sports hub in North America

Mar 29 2023, 2:42 pm

In less than a decade, Las Vegas may have already established itself as a better sports town than, well, any of its North American counterparts.

No, seriously.

For years, whenever the prospect of professional sports teams heading to Nevada, the typical response from many people went along the lines of “Vegas? Why Vegas?”

Over the past century, the town has, of course, been known as one of the world’s premier entertainment hubs, but it was often viewed as just that: a place to go for a few days, see a few shows, and then head back home to wherever you actually live.

There seemed to be an unwritten rule that an entertainment and nightlife haven in the middle of the Nevada desert never made much sense as a sports destination.

It’s safe to say that stigma is shifting rapidly.

The better question when thinking of where to host a major sporting event or new franchise might be… why NOT Vegas?

Speed thrills

If there’s a sports construction project planned for many municipalities, it’s usually a drawn-out process over several years, with many levels of red tape and rubber stamps that frustrate the locals.

For Vegas, there’s usually a stunning speed to how quickly things get completed.

One of the biggest examples of this mindset is the Formula 1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, a rare Saturday night race taking place this upcoming November, as well as the next nine years after that.

One of three active United States Formula 1 tracks on the 2023 calendar, along with races in Austin and Miami, the Las Vegas Grand Prix will quite literally be a sporting event unlike anything the racing world has ever seen.

With plans to remove the Strip’s iconic median and repave it to accommodate the sport’s requirements, it’ll only have been 597 days since the race’s announcement in March 2022 to the actual race date.

A rendering of the F1 Paddock.

And just a few months later, Vegas will be the host of the 2024 Super Bowl — stylized as Super Bowl LVIII — at Allegiant Stadium, the home stadium of the Raiders.

“[Vegas has] always been the most popular destination for Super Bowl weekend if you’re not going to the game… it’s already close to 300,000 people here for the Super Bowl any given year,” Sam Joffray, executive director of the Las Vegas Super Bowl Host Committee, told Daily Hive in an interview.

With a capacity of 65,000, Allegiant Stadium is the largest sporting facility in the city, having opened in 2020 after breaking ground in 2017.

While it’s either eight or nine home games for the Raiders, one of the NFL’s two newest stadiums has quickly become the go-to spot for some of the biggest sports and entertainment events in the world. The annual Las Vegas Bowl, WWE’s SummerSlam in 2021, the host of the 2028 NCAA men’s Final Four, or even the recent string of Taylor Swift concerts, Allegiant Stadium has staked its claim as one of the places to see and be seen in the city.

The view at Allegiant Stadium.

“Once you get the building, you’ve got the venue to host all these major events,” Joffray added.

While many NFL stadiums are far from the city centre, Allegiant Stadium is just a 10-minute drive from the furthest end of the famed Strip, traffic pending.

And don’t forget the 2019-built Las Vegas Ballpark that hosts the Triple-A level Aviators is the most distant of the sporting facilities, but that doesn’t make it any less worth the journey. It’s not quite the size of an MLB ballpark at just 10,000 seats, but it’s a neat replacement venue for Cashman Field, which now primarily serves as a soccer and football facility.

Amazingly, there’s still incredible room for growth in the city, with the chance of an MLB, NBA, MLS, NWSL, or any other major league one day making Vegas their regular home base.

If Vegas had a sports motto, might we suggest “if you build it, they will come,” the infamous misquote from Kevin Costner’s 1989 classic baseball movie, Field of Dreams.

A quick history of success

The NHL’s 31st franchise in the expansion Vegas Golden Knights made the jump in 2017, with the NFL’s Raiders following three years later with a move from Oakland.

It’s hard to imagine that it was a little over five years ago when the Golden Knights first took to the NHL ice, but for 41 regular season games a year, both the local and visiting fans have been making T-Mobile Arena seem like it’s a postseason atmosphere on any given night.

A look at the exterior of T-Mobile Arena.

And it doesn’t hurt that the team on the ice has been one of the NHL’s best since day one; the Golden Knights are currently leading the Pacific Division, and well on their way to their fifth playoff berth in just six seasons.

Will there one day be a regular second tenant in T-Mobile Arena? If the NBA’s wildly popular annual Summer League or the WNBA’s 2022 champions in the Las Vegas Aces, who moved to the city in 2018, are any indication, there’s little reason to presume that the city couldn’t support a men’s pro basketball team as well.

Vegas has the fighting spirit

First home to iconic boxing matches including clashes involving Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and George Foreman, Vegas has now found itself as the most frequent location for UFC bouts.

With 25 events having been held at T-Mobile Arena, 31 held at Michelob Ultra Arena (formerly known as Mandalay Bay Events Center), as well as an additional 77 at the UFC Apex, a total of 207 of the UFC’s 449 American fights have been held at 13 different Vegas venues since UFC 33 was first held there in 2001.

Most recently having held UFC 285, the double-main event of Jon Jones topping Ciryl Gane in a men’s heavyweight and Alexa Grasso being named the new women’s flyweight champion with a win over Valentina Shevchenko, there’s no place quite to see a fight like a weekend out in Vegas.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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