By ALAN SNEL
Downtown Las Vegas’ permanent sports team is headquartered in an old church on 3rd Street, where there is neither an executive assistant to greet you nor a security member to keep a watchful eye.
It’s the same franchise that enlisted fans to name the team and rolled out a colorful new coach from Mexico City who bought beers for fans at Gold Spike in downtown after he was announced as coach.
“We don’t have shareholders or stock investors. We’re not above people. We’re not going to go into a conference room and decide what everyone wants,” said Brett Lashbrook, owner of the new Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team of the United Soccer League. “If we just talk to ourselves, we’re not going to get the word out.”
Lashbrook’s office is a mere eight feet wide, sits just off the former church entrance and offers bare walls. There’s not much razzle-dazzle to the office, but then again you are talking about a team that just hired a colorful coach, Jose Luis Sanchez Sola “Chelis,” who met fans Tuesday night and bought them beers and sodas at Gold Spike.
Check out Lashbrook’s office — not much fanfare on the walls.
About 17 team workers toil in cubes, with most of them clustered in the main sanctuary. The Lights’ unpretentious business style mirrors the sport itself — communal and accessible.
“Soccer belongs to the people,” said Steve Pastorino, Lights vice president of corporate partnerships who also held sales job for Major League Soccer teams in Chicago and Salt Lake City before coming to the Las Vegas Lights after working three years for MLB’s Oakland Athletics.
“Soccer is a simple game of a ball and setting up two trash cans for goals. We have a product that is priced to be affordable to every member of the community,” Pastorino said. “It’s not overlooking the obvious and not overcomplicating things.”
The rookie franchise hopes the business approach of transparency and involving fans in decisions such as the design of the new logo translates into ticket sales and sponsorship deals. The goal is attracting 10,000 fans per game by appealing to Hispanic fans, families and millennials. The average ticket is $20 — less than four times the average ticket for a NHL Golden Knights game. (Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has said the average VGK ticket is $88.)
“We’re going into a crowded market and we can’t compete against teams that have fireworks, scoreboard animation and cheerleaders,” Lashbrook said. “Our fans will bring flags, airhorns, drums and will sing and dance and chant . . . The crowd is the entertainment. We want the crowd to be the energy.”
The Lights are approaching 2,000 season ticket deposits, while the team is discussing sponsorship deals with Zappos, the D hotel-casino and other downtown hotels. The Lights are signing up one sponsor to have its brand name on the front of the jersey and another company to have its name on the back of the jersey below the number.
The Lights will play at Cashman Field in 2018, working their USL schedule around the home dates of the Triple A Las Vegas 51s of baseball’s Pacific Coast League. The 51s are scheduled to play in a new ballpark in Summerlin in 2019, so the Lights will be the sole downtown sports team starting in two years.
The team’s new coach, Chelis, kind of a cross between Jon Gruden, John Madden and Jerry Tarkanian, said the team will have to build its fan base fan by fan. After Chelis was named coach and shared beers with fans, the Lights gained 2,000 more followers on Twitter, Pastorino noted.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com