By ALAN SNEL
It may not be the Big Leagues of professional soccer, but Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was still happy Wednesday to have a minor league soccer team in downtown’s Cashman Field starting in 2018.
“We’ve been looking at this for three, four years,” Goodman said of the city trying to get a soccer team. “We know the appetite is there.”
The Las Vegas City Council today approved a lease that will allow a new United Soccer League (USL) team to start playing at Cashman Field in 2018. The Las Vegas USL team will be the 33rd team in the league and can be a feeder team to Major League Soccer.
“This town will embrace professional soccer,” USL team owner Brett Lashbrook told the Las Vegas City Council. Technically, Lashbrook is owner of Las Vegas Pro Soccer, LLC.
Only two years ago, Major League Soccer rejected the city’s attempt at winning a MLS franchise after the city floated a controversial funding plan to partner with the private Cordish Companies and the local Findlay family to build a $200 million soccer stadium in Symphony Park.
The new minor league soccer team was a nice consolation prize for the city council members Wednesday. Las Vegas will host 16 regular-season home games in 2018. The stadium will host about 10,000 fans for soccer.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Councilman Ricky Barlow, a former soccer player who hopes to coach youth soccer. “We were almost there at one point.”
Barlow hopes the new USL team can be called the “Neons.” The team’s name is to be determined.
Lashbrook, former chief operating officer for a professional soccer team in Orlando, made his case before city council for the United Soccer League team at Cashman Field. Lashbrook will own and operate the USL team.
He said the average soccer game ticket in Vegas will be $15-$20.
Lashbrook helped Orlando City go from a USL minor league team to a MLS big-league team — and Goodman hopes he can do the same in Sin City.
The proposed lease calls for a 15-year deal, with Lashbrook’s soccer team paying $6,000 to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) for each game. The LVCVA manages the Cashman facility.
The city will pay $50,000 to the convention authority a year to help cover the costs of having the soccer team at Cashman.
Lashbrook noted the Orlando City team has 20,000 season ticket holders. He also worked for Major League Soccer on legal issues.
The USL team will share the venue with the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple A affiliate for the New York Mets.
51s President Don Logan said a USL team and a Triple A baseball team share a stadium in Reno and he did not expect a new soccer team to be a problem at Cashman because the new USL club will not practice at the 51s ballpark.
Las Vegas officials believe the USL team — equivalent to a Triple A baseball team — could be a step toward eventually winning a Major League Soccer franchise.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com