By ALAN SNEL
Brett Lashbrook invested $10 million to bring professional soccer to downtown Las Vegas and the truth is that it will be years until the effervescent, pied piper of soccer learns whether the investment to spawn the expansion Las Vegas Lights FC bears financial fruit.
But for one night — tonight — Lashbrook had to feel stoked to see the emotional energy and thirst for pro soccer at a jersey reveal event at Zappos — the giant downtown shoe and apparel call center retailer that is the Lights’ primary downtown business partner.
More than 600 spirited Lights fans piled into the Zappos theatre where they warmly embraced the colorful jersey with a black background and team blue, yellow and pink colors highlighted on the uni top. The Zappos name is displayed prominently on the front, along with the Lights logo, while Findlay Toyota has the corporate sponsor presence on the back. On Tuesday, the team showed the uniform shorts with the Plaza casino-hotel paying for that corporate logo.
And on the inside of the jersey, is a special touch that can be deployed when a player scores a goal — a big smiley face. That’s a Zappos touch, for sure.
But in some ways, the significance of the jersey unveiling transcended the mere uniform top, which was designed by Zappos and distributed to season ticket holders who received the jersey for free as part of their season ticket deals. The tops retail for $80 and are available through Zappos website.
There was an outpouring of soccer emotion by the fans, and there was a palpable aura on the Zappos campus that a real team with committed players and passionate fans was being born. The Lights play their first of three preseason games 8 p.m. Saturday at Cashman Field. The regular season begins in March.
“I’m blown away by tonight. This was totally unexpected,” said Lights season ticket holder Michael French, a 42-year-old Las Vegas native and Summerlin resident who owns a pool service business. “It’s phenomenal to see this town embrace sports.”
LVSportsBiz.com chatted with Lights staffers after the jersey reveal as fans waited on a long line to claim their jersey and every team employee said he did not expect the outpouring of fan emotion during and after the event.
“We will work so hard to make the fans happy,” player Anuar Kanan told LVSportsBiz.com, “because they made us happy tonight.”
There was a connection between player and fan that reminded me of the Golden Knights player connections with fans at the hockey team’s training center in Summerlin.
The Lights fans gobbled up the team scarves at $20 a pop and all the Lights adjustable caps were sold, too, said Letha Myles, who manages the Zappos retail store.
She expected fans to buy 75-100 of the $80 jerseys in the Zappos store. Lashbrook didn’t like the standard soccer jersey templates offered by the name brand companies, so he picked a manufacturer called Beyond Limits Known (BLK) for the job.
“We’re thirsty for sports in Las Vegas,” Myles said.
Lashbrook, who outlined rules for supporter section fan behavior Monday night, said the team’s corporate partnership with Amazon property Zappos was a natural because the soccer team and Zappos think outside the box and the soccer club wanted to create a soccer jersey that does not comply with standard templates and conventional colors.
Lashbrook was so emotional during his talk to fans leading up to the video showing the jersey that he joined in song with fans singing ole, ole, ole.
Lashbrook has positioned the first-year United Soccer League team as downtown Las Vegas’ team. Indeed, the Golden Knights play on the Strip along with the new Las Vegas Aces, while the Raiders’ new $1.8 billion domed stadium will be on the west side of I-15 across the interstate from Mandalay Bay.
So, the Lights have claimed downtown as their turf, sharing Cashman Field with the Las Vegas 51s for only one year before the 51s move to a new $150 million ballpark in the Summerlin ‘burbs in Downtown Summerlin in 2019.
And that’s how the new soccer club made close friends with Zappos, which also reveres downtown Las Vegas and now has its name on a soccer jersey in its union with the inaugural soccer team.
Follow LVSportsBiz.com on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com