Las Vegas group working towards landing MLS franchise

Las Vegas Stadium

By FRANCO PANIZO

The race for the 24th MLS team is heating up, with Las Vegas being the latest city to thrust itself into the conversation for the expansion slot.

A Las Vegas group is working towards landing an MLS franchise in Sin City and recently told soccer fans in the area that landing a team is a realistic possibility. The group is led in part by Justin Findlay, who is the managing partner of Las Vegas-based Findlay Sports and Entertainment.

Findlay told locals that Las Vegas was on MLS’s short list for landing an expansion team late last week after MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott visited the city to speak to government officials, tour downtown and get a feel for how an expansion franchise could work in a city with no professional sports team.

“Hearing right from the horse’s mouth, this is really a possibility,” said Findlay. “We just have to convert on our plan. There are no reasons why these big, big dreams can’t happen.”

While the group is hopeful of acquiring a team in the near future, there is one major obstacle they must overcome.

The Las Vegas City council will need to green light a financing plan on Aug. 20 for the soccer-specific stadium that Findlay and the group are hoping to build at Symphony Park, which is located in downtown Las Vegas and only a few miles from the world-renowned Strip.

The stadium is expected to seat 24,000 and is proposed to have a retractable roof and air-conditioning ducts every three rows to help keep the temperature inside the facility 30 degrees cooler than outside. Every seat in the stadium would also be shaded.

The project to build the stadium will, however, require some public funding and the previous estimated cost was between $150-200 million. If the council doesn’t approve the plan, Las Vegas won’t get a stadium or an MLS franchise.

Even if approved, Las Vegas will still be competing with cities like Minneapolis, San Antonio, Austin and Sacramento for the league’s 24th franchise.

Despite the heavy competition, Findlay is confident that Las Vegas could ultimately secure a franchise.

“The one thing I can promise you is that we are moving faster than any other city,” Findlay told supporters.

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What do you make of Las Vegas entering the fray for the 24th team? Like the idea of road trips to Sin City? Think it is a foregone conclusion that MLS expands beyond 24 clubs?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- Expansion. Bookmark the permalink.

79 Responses to Las Vegas group working towards landing MLS franchise

  1. KGB says:

    What are the odds?

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      rimshot

    • Josh D says:

      No odds. The house always wins.

      Las Vegas Aces

    • JayAre says:

      Retractable roof!! Air Conditioning!! The seem to be really serious. If they wanted an open air stadium in Vegas I’d think they were out of their minds. Plus the owners of this stadium will make a lot of money from hosting other events at the stadium

  2. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    SINNERS FC??
    or
    SIN CITY FC!!

    • Mason says:

      Why not both? “Sin City FC” will do nicely for the club name and their nickname can be “The Sinners”.

    • Alex H says:

      I like the name, but outside of the casino district the dominant social institution in town is the Mormon church, so my guess is that it will be the LV Rattlers, Road Runners, Heat or some such name.

  3. john@yahoo.com says:

    why not….every other city that wants a franchise seems to be able to get one. Up next: Kodiak Alaska!

  4. Chris says:

    Too hot.

    • apw says:

      Good preparation for Qatar 2022!

    • Drewbles says:

      I heard about some plan to invent air conditioners that hover over the stadium like clouds and keep the whole stadium cool. Wonder how that’s going?

      • AcidBurn says:

        I heard too that the Las Vegas stadium is going to be packed up and shipped to Africa during the offseason, only then to come back once the season starts.

        Not sure if the giant floating ipads will go as well to cool the stadiums there too.

        • CSD says:

          I read the linked article…

          “In addition to a retractable roof and air-conditioning ducts every three rows in the stands, the stadium proposal calls for all seats to be shaded so the heat won’t interfere with fan experience. The temperature inside the stadium would be 30 degrees less than outside.”

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            It is unbearable to sit on the sunny side in Houston in 90ish can you imagine Vegas at 110?

          • FulhamDC says:

            The stadium that Sporting KC plays in cost $210 million in today’s dollars. There is just no way that they can build a stadium in Vegas, with a roof and AC, for $150 – 200 million.

  5. KenC says:

    Las Vegas has the same issues as Miami, but worse. No one is from there, so the fan base is not that strong. Why doesn’t Vegas have an NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL franchise?

    • froboy says:

      some of it is the gambling fears

      • bbstl says:

        ALL of it is the gambling fears.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          Every year there is some match fixing scandal in soccer, and that’s leaving aside athletes betting on themselves or others, the potential moral issues of having a team whose athletes have to live and cope in a casino town, etc.

          • Antonio Fargas says:

            Seems like the ideal place for Freddy to get his career back on track… what could possibly go wrong?

      • James says:

        I really have no idea about this, but I’m surprised this would be much of an issue these days? 20 years ago, when you had to physically be in Vegas to be betting there I see the logic, but with internet, it seems like proximity to Vegas shouldn’t really matter when it comes to gambling/match fixing fears?

        • Alex H says:

          +1. The last place a max fixer would set foot in is a Vegas casino. Gaming is the golden goose for NV and the casinos and the state are very good at policing it despite what you see in the movies.

    • quozzel says:

      They would have NO COMPETITION FROM OTHER SPORTS.

      That’s huge.

      Vegas has a population of 600,000. They also get over 40 million visitors a year, who stay an average of four-and-a-half days apiece…which means, at any given moment, there’s typically 500,000+ visitors in town from all across the globe…with money in their pockets.

      If they can make a gameday experience comparable to SKC, lots of glitz, big-screens, etc…I think they’ll have very little issue drawing a crowd.

      England has soccer teams from towns of 80,000…that draw 20,000+ every game.

      People haven’t figured out yet, soccer is a game that can support a heck of a lot more than 24 or even 32 franchises in the US because we’re nowhere near – NOWHERE near – our ceiling.

      Vegas wants a franchise, let ‘em have a go. Soccer’s a huge tent.

      • Josh D says:

        Get Britney Spears to do the anthem, a magician for half-time.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        Vegas 51s (AAA). FWIW they are usually near the bottom of the PCL in attendance with Tuscon, sub 5000 per game. Their peak was like 9th best attended in a 16 team league before the depression cutbacks hit. As management said there, “There is a lot else to do.” Visitors may want more of an entertainment show, be disinterested in soccer, or have their own team at home. Locals I think you’re over-stating latent interest vs. something like San Diego, Phoenix, or San Antonio, where people are more motivated to pay to watch sports.

        About the only thing I could see in Vegas’ favor is you could see MLS teams selling a modest amount of package trips every road game there.

      • Jonfromvegas says:

        Uh… Vegas has a population of 2 million.

      • JayAre says:

        Even if Vegas doesn’t pack out the stadium they will surely be instantly profitably just because of the other revenue streams from the stadium. Calculating naming rights deal, Jersey sponsor deal in Vegas is a completely different in Vegas. If someone buys a jersey with a sponsors name on it in Vegas in 4 days they could be in the middle of Oklahoma, Scotland or New Zealand some where giving free advertising.

    • THomas says:

      Vegas is different because people go there for pure entertainment. Plus you have HUGE corporations (casinos) who will want about 500 season tickets each. It’s much different than Miami.

      The reason those other leagues aren’t there is because of gambling concerns.

  6. wiger toods says:

    I question where the fan base will come from. Just my opinion here. There’s a huge immigrant population, but many of them have low paying jobs with little disposable income. What little extra they have, gets sent home to support extended families. The upper income population make for poor fans (i.e. empty seats) and the middle income population tends to be very transient.

    • Ali Dia says:

      This was my instinct, as well. Perhaps this group has some information or market study that suggests things may be changing, but there is a reason the other major sports leagues have all passed on Vegas.

    • JayAre says:

      Soccer in Vegas can be marketed as the thing to do while you’re in town just like Cirque de Soliel is

    • THomas says:

      CASINOS…think about how much they comp. Think about how many shows there are and how many people go to see those night after night. They have over a million residents. They will have no problem selling this.

  7. AcidBurn says:

    I read “requires public funding”. So throw this one out.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Vegas is a cash and carry town where things get built because they can make someone money.

    • SilverRey says:

      Vegas is probably one of the only cities that could handle public funding with no problem.

  8. Cabrito says:

    Shouldn’t they wait for a NFL team to build a stadium, then play in that? There’s no SSS requirement any longer in MLS.

    • Old School says:

      My comment was towards yours.

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US says:

      Awwww.

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US says:

      I can’t just stop at making fun of your whining no matter how rediculous.

      Tottenham, who draws 35k because that is all their stadium holds, was here on Saturday.

      I wonder if they would want to switch stadiums…probably not because the Sounders and us fans voted to having to share it. ( and I don’t want to hear any turf whining, you already know no one in Seattle voted for turf, we were just screwed by rich guys and no one has done anything about it yet ).

      • Old School says:

        Out of curiosity: Why did you immediately take offence to his comment (assuming you’re a Seattle supporter)? Quite frankly, Seattle is the exception and not the rule.

        Although, he’s not far off in his commentary about “no longer requiring a SSS”. Garber and the league appear to have moved away from this philosophy.

        • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US says:

          Seattle is not the exception… I was just down in Portland, watching the Timbers….not even close to the same situation, except it is shared by gridiron and it is awesome. Completely awesome stadium.

          Haven’t been to Vancouver yet since the latest remodel, but I would guess the same.

          The reason I take offense. Because all the great things that this article brings up…MLS growing, soccer in huge demand, Las Vegas getting at team…..what does he do….WHINE.
          Actually make up something to whine about…then WHINE.

    • beto says:

      Surprised they are not… I mean superbowls and ncaa bowl game in Vegas?

      Seriously tho a SSS in downtown Vegas would be really cool

      • FulhamDC says:

        They play a bowl game in Vegas, at UNLV’s football stadium. Got over 42,000 for it last year, with 2 California teams, Fresno State and USC, playing.

  9. Old School says:

    Sad, but true.

  10. MLSsnob says:

    Maybe they could throw some of the sand they have in abundance to miami so they can make their own island off the coast of fl so they don’t have to worry about getting a land deal approved.

  11. NASL TO EL PASO TX says:

    Alright, I have been saying this for almost 4 years. MLS will stop at 26 or 28, and if garber and MLS can handle 30, they will get 30 teams.
    Basically chivas USA will stay in LA , unless something crazy happens. Miami will happen because Becks will get his way, unless another fancy city comes calling.
    So who will be number 24th expansion team? Las Vegas, Minneapolis, San Antonio or Sacramento.
    Even my hometown of El Paso tx wants MLS, and MLS wants El Paso due to the Mexico U.S. Border. MLS officials were in town two weeks ago.
    Now back to the expansion game, I easily see MLS hitting 28 teams. Even conferences, 14 in each, 26 inner conference games and 14 inter conference making it a 40 game season plus playoffs.
    As for future MLS expansion cities, is all about the location stadium, money and money :)
    So once, the 24 spot is taken, the 25,26,27,28 are going to be crazy due to fancier stadiums and crazier fans. If Las Vegas takes the 24th spot, I would like to see Minneapolis with a SSS, Sacramento, Indy, cosmos.
    Then I would love an MLS 2 for gods soul :)
    An MLS 2 , with 15 to 20 teams with the same conference style and playoff system and uslpro can be MLS 3, and everybody knows my promotion and relegation idea, no MLS 1 team goes down.

    • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

      Keep on dreamin.

      • NASL TO EL PASO TX says:

        Dreamin about what. I want MLS to become a 26 to 28 team league, and have a proper MLS 2. If there’s an MLS 2, their will be an MLS 3 and USA is too big just to have one MLS.
        I also want relegation and promotion, it will make soccer the most unique sport in USA , but like I said, no MLS 1 team goes down.
        But when it comes to expansion, Vegas, Sacramento, Indy, cosmos , Minneapolis are no brainers buy it all depends on the stadium location, money, and philosophy the owner has.
        For example, in California, would you rather expand to San Diego, San Francisco or Sacramento. In texas, would you rather expand to San Antonio, Austin or El Paso. In the Midwest, st.louis, Minneapolis or Detroit or Milwaukee. We just need an MLS 2, and garber is letting it scape with NASL.

        • Reid says:

          dude, we all know you have been saying it for the past few years…. can you please stop now, or maybe just put “my usual comment” from now on and be done with it.

          • NASL TO EL PASO TX says:

            Wow, I must be famous :) jk
            So if garber hires you In order to expand the league and create an MLS 2 or 3 and make the league better, what would you do.

      • LA G says:

        Dreams are what keep us going. Keep it up, thats how MLS was founded. By one big dream.

  12. Alex H says:

    As a resident of Las Vegas, soccer fan and member of the gaming industry I have a few points.

    First. Gambling fears are not an issue because match fixers aren’t going to place bets in a Vegas casino where the games and betting patterns can be monitored and where big wins are immediately reported to the IRS. With cell phones, the internet and the like they don’t need to be present at the casino any more anyway. Sin City FC will be no more vulnerable to match fixers than any other team in the MLS.

    Second. Vegas has a HUGE youth soccer base and lots of adults play in leagues as well BUT the city has a very transient population which makes a traditional fan base problematic. If the team can be marketed to the former without relying too much on the latter the team will succeed. If not then all bets are off (couldn’t resist that…sorry).

    Third, the weather is not that big of an issue. From March to early June the weather is playable at any time as is from Mid Sept on. In “high summer” the games need to be played at night where it is still hot but it is dry and playable. I personally don’t find playing sports after the sun goes down that big of an issue.

    Hope this local color helps.

    • Dave says:

      Very helpful, actually.

      Could you tell us more about the weather issue.?
      1.) What time of day yields what kind of temperature? Especially July and August
      2.) Is there some kind of precedent for this? Do you have other non-baseball sports played outdoors in this weather?
      3.) Does anybody know if the Middle East has figured this out?

      • Alex H says:

        To answer Dave’s questions.

        1) July and August it is about 100 at noon, 105 at 4:30, 100 at dusk and it cools of a degree or 2 an hour after that. Temperatures are taken in the shade so add another 10-20 degrees if you are in the sun. The heat is dry so the second the son goes down sports can be played. Rec league soccer is played all year round, people jog after dark all year round etc. The biggest issue would probably be the non-supporter group fans that may prefer to watch their soccer on TV for free rather than pay to sit in the heat.

        2) I would guess that playing in Houston during the day would have a comparable misery index.

        3) The Mid East is a completely different ball of wax. The Mojave is a very dry desert whereas Qatar is a tropical desert so it is worse there than in LV. Also it does take time to get used to. LV locals, once acclimated, can enjoy the outdoors but I doubt some guy just off the plane from Sweden will enjoy his soccer experience for the one week that he may be in country.

        HOpe that answered your questions.

    • NICK says:

      +1 gazzilion

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Great comment, Alex H.

  13. Slevacheck says:

    I go to Vegas for its world class entertainment. MLS is not world class entertainment….some would argue it’s not even entertainment. Why put a team there?

  14. FSegaud says:

    Is that a wedding chapel next to the stadium? I see how this is going.

  15. MLSfan says:

    Anyone remember the Las Vegas Posse?
    Didn’t think so.

  16. soccerhorn says:

    If Sacramento doesn’t pan out, Las Vegas seems like an excellent second option for “Soon To Be Formerly Known As CD Chivas USA.”

  17. Bill says:

    There was a team that played in Las Vegas; the NASL Quicksilvers played in the league for one year in 1977. Wikipedia link: link to en.wikipedia.org

  18. lvrplfn says:

    So, there’s a lot of nonsense being spouted here in regards to Las Vegas MLS.

    I can tell everybody that I’m in Las Vegas and fairly close to the players in this saga. so here are some facts for everyone to ruminate on:

    1. The gaming issues of Las Vegas are really not much of an issue any more. The reason that Vegas has no Major league teams at this point is as follows: NBA – no suitable stadium (until now with the MGM/AEG arena) NFL looked seriously at the market but decided that the low average income across the valley of $55,000 for a family of 4 would not sustain the gate needed to fill an NFL sized stadium.

    2. Contrary to some of the comments made, the City of Las Vegas is in fact on shaky financial footing and is still borrowing from its reserve funds to balance its budget each year.

    3. Yes, youth soccer is huge with multiple city run soccer-plexes (not just Las Vegas but also North Las Vegas, Henderson and the County).

    4. Attendance at games in Las Vegas has been disappointing. UNLV (d1) Mens Soccer only draws a few hundred per game as do the new PDL team, the unfortunately name “Mobsters”. The recent Pro Soccer Challenge Chivas USA vs. Colorado Rapids back in February only drew about 5,000 and previous exhibition matches have generally failed to sell out.

    5. There is a AAA baseball team that plays downtown (the “51′s”) and up until last year there was a minor league hockey team, the “Wranglers” that plays at Orleans Arena. The Wranglers lost their lease and couldn’t find a new home for this season so are currently on a hiatus expecting to restart next season. Both these teams average a little under 5,000 per game.

    So, thats the market background. Here’s the Findlay-Specific issues:

    1. The Symphony Park development downtown is in fact an option that has been held by the COrdish Companies from Baltimore for the last 3 1/2 years during which time they’ve been trying to build a “as Vegas Live” sort of development complete with an 18,000 arena. There was always enormous debate about the publid funding of the arena with no major league tenant to occupy. The City pays large interest costs for each month they hold on to the land, so after about 3 years of extensions and waffling, the council had enough and gave Cordish until this April to come up with a viable plan. Problem was that MGM/AEG broke ground on a privately funded stadium up the road so an arena downtown with public funding was even more of a non-starter. In a bid to keep the option and not lose this valuable land, Cordish teamed with Justin FIndlay to switch the arena plan to soccer. Findlay has zero experience in soccer other than as a very casual fan and works with his father in a very successful network of car dealerships (Findlay Automotive).

    The Mayor and her husband, the former mayor have made a top level sports team in las vegas their priority to leave as a legacy so the mayor is on findlays side. The City Council though has stated publicly that they will veto the plan if there’s any public funding. Cordish/FIndlay are planning on funding much of the stadium with public bonds paid for by a Tourist Tax on the Symphony park area. This tax isn’t a “new” tax but a diversion of existing tax from the County into the project. The City is still on the hook for the bonds that it must guarantee. They also have to prove that the Tourist Tax will be coming from at least 75% of non-vegas residents. That analysis and necessary county approvals won’t be ready until April, 2015.

    So what’s the problem here? Well, As part of the City Councils frustration with Cordish’s inability to get the project off the ground over the last 3+ years gave an extension in April based on the 2 following requirements. 1). Acceptable plan for stadium funding by Sept 1 and 2) an MLS franchise IN HAND by december 1st of this year .. so… No franchise, no stadium, no funding, no stadium.

    There is very little City Council support for public funding of the stadium. The key is going to be if Findlay can convince the council that somehow municipal bonds and tax revenue redirection is not, in fact public funding. I think its unlikely but we may not get to that level of vote until later in the year.

    Does anyone really think that MLS will grant LV the last stated expansion franchise before December 1? I don’t and quite frankly don’t know many people who do.

    Then of couese, there’s the issue of Las Vegas over the other candidates. Of all of the candidates, Las Vegas is the SMALLEST Nielsen DMA at #42. With a new MLS TV deal, ratings are very important.To put in perspective Minneapolis is #15, Sacramento is #20, San Antonio #36 etc etc. Las Vegas would I believe, be the smallest TV market in MLS.

    The final point is that Las Vegas hasn’t had a top flight professional sports team since 1977 and the unsuccessful one year tenure of the Las Vegas Quicksilver. I believe the Utah Jazz played a season is LV as well int he early 80′s but that’s it. MLS seem to be gravitating towards owners with a strong sports background and/or markets with a proven history of supporting a pro soccer team etiher NASL or USL Pro. Vegas has neither.

    I’m not saying that Vegas will never get and MLS frnachise but I don’t see any way they get #24 and if they don’t have the franchise in hand by December 1, the Cordish/findlay bid (which is not even an “official” bid yet for MLS) dies.

    No comment yet on the second supposed bid from Jason Ader. He seems to take a somewhat longer term view so we’ll have to wait and see about that one.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Wow, that is either one of the best comments ever on this site or a carefully fabricated fairy tale from a delusional soccer fan (this being the internet, you never know).

      Interesting point about the DMA rankings. Can anyone remind me what the list of “rumored possible next MLS city” looks like? I know Miami, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Sacramento, and St. Louis. Am I forgetting any? Looking down the DMA list, MLS seems to have covered the top markets pretty well so far.

  19. lvrplfn says:

    KingGoogleyEye I am indeed a soccer fan but also involved in this process. I am not “against” Justin Findlay (who I might add is an extremely nice guy) I personally think the odds here at maybe 3-5%. People in Vegas will always say “Well… anything can happen in Vegas” which is certainly true but generally things don’t work that way at MLS in New York were things tend to be low risk and conservative these days.

    Here’s a great example of how the Las Vegas City Council (or most of them at least) feel… this is Councilman Bob Beer’s facebook page link to facebook.com where he says how excited he is for MLS but not with any public funding and then links to an article analyzing public funding for stadiums and how risky it is.

    And yes, MLS DOES have the top markets penetrated. I would ask many of these folks who suggest just “moving” Chivas to Vegas, why would you move a team from the #2 DMA in the country to the #42? That’s why the clippers sold (or are trying to be sold) for so much money…..the size of the market. The last few years aside, they were the NBA’s version of Chivas USA.