By ALAN SNEL
This will be interesting.
The Nervous Nellies at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) who manage Cashman Field have a stereotype that hard-core fans of the new Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team are a bunch of drunken hooligans bent on torching the old downtown sports venue that is also used by the Las Vegas 51s baseball team.
So Monday night, Lights owner Brett Lashbrook held a meeting for the soccer club’s most ardent supporters to lay out the rules for what is acceptable in the “supporter section” at the Lights’ soccer matches and what is off-limits at Cashman Field. LVSportsBiz.com interviewed Lashbrook after Monday night’s 90-minute session.
The Lights start their inaugural season as the 33rd club in the United Soccer League in March and play three preseason games against Major League Soccer (MLS) teams this month starting Saturday at 8 p.m. at Cashman.
Lashbrook explained the rules he described Monday night apply to those passionate fans in the “supporter sections.” There will also be a separate reserved section where fans are more calm and not as rowdy.
The Lights’ colorful coach, Chelis, said he wants the Lights game experience to be a “show.” And this is Las Vegas, after all.
The fan cultures of the two teams sharing Cashman Field — the baseball 51s and the soccer Lights — couldn’t be more different.
The 51s of minor league baseball’s Pacific Coast League play in a laid-back atmosphere at Cashman, with the fan highlights including Dollar Beer Night and a clever dog that retrieves the bats of players after their at bat.
In contrast, the most passionate soccer fans are known for marching into the stadium, waving big flags, installing giant banners, setting off smoke bombs, beating drums and playing other musical instruments. There will no high-powered videos and music advising fans to clap and yell like you see at NHL Vegas Golden Knights games at T-Mobile Arena. The soccer fans create their own game experience.
Lashbrook, who has worked to move the former USL Orlando franchise to the MLS tier, explained to the 200 fans who showed up at Cashman’s enclosed club level that the people running Cashman are “nervous. They’ve seen the pictures of soccer hooligans. But it’s fine here. We’re not hooligans.”
That said, Lashbrook told the his new team’s fans that “we’re on a leash with stadium officials.”
So, the three preseason games this month will also serve as chance for Lashbrook and the stadium to fine-tune any rules that apply to the supporter section — the section where the most intense, passionate fans reside.
One of the goofiest rules set by the stadium is that flags that are four feet or bigger will be allowed, but flags that are smaller than four feet are banned because the smaller flags can be used as a weapon, Lashbrook said he was told by the stadium officials.
“That’s what we’re dealing with here,” Lashbrook told the Lights fans.
Drums and other musical instruments are allowed at Lights games at Cashman. So are streamers and confetti. Giant “tifos,” which are a series of big banners telling a message, are cool, too. But the team needs to see the message ahead of time to give the OK, Lashbrook said.
Fans have to follow a process to use smoke devices, including signing a waiver and bringing the device ahead of time for the team to check out before the approved device is given back to the fan by the team.
Lashbrook advised the fans to not use curse words around kids and no open flames will be allowed.
So in review, big flags, banners and streamers are OK; smoke devices have to be brought in ahead of time to be checked out and then given back to the fan if the device is approved; don’t curse around kids; and no flames or outside foods.
Lashbrook said Zappos, the downtown shoe and clothing retail call center, will run a tailgate area because, as Lashbrook explained, Zappos likes parties. Zappos will work with beer event powerhouse Motley Brews to have a fun beer garden atmosphere at the soccer games.
And the stadium food will not be typical baseball food like hot dogs and cotton candy, Lashbrook said. Lashbrook told the crowd he spoke with a guy named Paco who is pumped to help with the food offerings at Lights games.
By the way, Lights games will be broadcast in English on the city of Las Vegas’ TV station, while the matches will be broadcast in Spanish on radio.
Chelis told LVSportsBiz.com after Monday’s meeting that he thought 5,000 fans would show up for Saturday’s preseason game. But Lashbrook said he thinks a crowd of 8,000-10,000 will gather.
We shall see. No matter the size of the crowd, parking will cost you $5 and the cheapest ticket is $15.
The USL is kind of a Triple A of soccer leagues. But Lashbrook said the Lights are an independent team and have no connections to any MLS clubs.
“I don’t want to answer to a MLS team,” Lashbrook said shortly before the meeting ended.
Follow LVSportsBiz.com on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com