By ALAN SNEL
They’re not image, message and PR experts for nothing. Our local public tourism agency, also known as the LVCVA, pulled a fast one on all of us Tuesday when it quietly dropped an $80 million ballpark naming rights expenditure on to Tuesday’s meeting agenda just hours before the Las Vegas market’s first-ever major league team inaugurated its first home game.
No public discussion. No explanation to the community. Totally eclipsed by the Vegas Golden Knights’ home debut.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which is budgeted to spend nearly $450 million in public dollars in fiscal 2018, thought it would be a good idea to give Summerlin developer Howard Hughes Corp. $80 million for a naming rights deal so that the new minor league ballpark in Summerlin would be called “Las Vegas Ballpark.” Howard Hughes owns the Triple A ball club that will play in the new ballpark that is slated to open in 2019. The LVCVA’s job is to attract tourists and fill hotel rooms, so do you actually think all those Sacramento River Cats and Round Rock Express fans will be filling the ballpark’s nearby Red Rock Resort and other Las Vegas hotels?
If you’re going to spend $80 million of our public dollars, at least let the public in on your plans, LVCVA.
Which brings us to the aforementioned Golden Knights, which opened Tuesday’s maiden game with a tribute from the heart to honor the victims and first responders from the Oct. 1 mass shooting at a music festival on the Strip. It was this nation’s worst mass shooting tragedy with 58 murders and more than 500 injured.
LVSportsBiz.com believes sports bring together communities in ways many other institutions do not. So many times we have seen the economic impact of big league sports overestimated, while the civic role of big time sports is underestimated.
The focus of healing was bigger than the final won/loss outcome of the Golden Knights’ season home-opener. And LVSportsBiz.com’s biggest thrill when we see the faces of the Golden Knights goal scorer and assist men on the jumbotron during home games is that I recognize those faces from the visit those same Knights players made to a blood donation center on Oct. 3.
And speaking of our Golden Knights, can we just relax about the team’s new mascot — a desert character named Chance that is a gila monster. The team actually has both this cartoonish gila monster-headed character and also a guy dressed in a typical knight armor get-up for you folks you need a literal knight character to relate to.
Mascots come in all forms — some are literal reflections of the team’s nickname, like the Michigan State Sparty. The Golden Knights has the knight fella walking the concourse and there’s also nothing wrong with a cartoonish gila monster character, especially since the team’s off-ice entertainment is dominated by the medieval knight theme stuff and has no Las Vegas desert symbols.
And here’s the bottom line for this Chance character — it all comes down to the guy in the mascot outfit, veteran mascot performer Clint McComb, and his ability to goof around when necessary and bring a smile to kids’ faces. Give Clint some time to grow the mascot character.
Too much too fast?
Yes, Las Vegas is a hot market. We were already a major league market with UFC, big-time boxing matches, a NASCAR event at a top-notch venue at the Speedway, and an annual PGA stop at TPC Summerlin (which is coming up quickly.)
This market is a great example where new palatial sports venues are the reason why the major leagues of team sports are buying into Las Vegas. Privately-financed T-Mobile Arena was a driver in making the NHL salivate about the prospect of having its 31st team in Las Vegas. And the massive $750 million public subsidy for a new domed football stadium will bring the Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020.
But now we hear a WNBA team from San Antonio is re-locating to Las Vegas, even though the buyer of the franchise has not been identified. LVSportsBiz.com checked in with Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, Gavin and Joe Maloof and Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak and they don’t know the buyer.
Can a WNBA team survive in a Las Vegas sports market that is quickly becoming more Balkanized? Don’t forget, the Las Vegas market is adding a second NASCAR race event at the Speedway in 2018 and a new Triple A soccer team starts in the United Soccer League next year, too. The WNBA looks like a challenging sell in Las Vegas, but let’s find out who the new owner is first.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com