- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On July 22, 2014
- 0 Comments
- Las Vegas Expansion, MLS Expansion
Once again the rumor, talk, discussion, whatever you’d like to call it is here. Is Major League Soccer going to Sin City with an expansion bid? That appears to be all the rage again after yesterday’s post from the Las Vegas Sun.
The difference between this talk and those previous however with Vegas is the phrase “preliminary discussions”. A league spokesperson said that the league is indeed in preliminary discussions with the gambling capital.
“We are in preliminary discussions with a potential ownership group for an expansion team in Las Vegas,” the spokesman told MLSSoccer.com. “Also, there is no short list of potential expansion cities. There are many cities interested in bringing a future MLS expansion team to their market.”
The plan is to bring a team to the desert by 2017. Yes, 2017, the same year as Atlanta.
The stadium details
Justin Findlay is the managing partner of Las Vegas-based Findlay Sports and Entertainment, a company founded earlier this year with the vision of bringing an MLS franchise to Las Vegas.
Findlay’s group and Baltimore-based real estate developer Cordish Companies went public recently with their plans to develop a 24-000 seat open-ended stadium in downtown Las Vegas that will feature artificial turf, a retractable roof and air-conditioning ducts every three rows in the stands to combat sweltering summertime temps in Las Vegas.
The stadium site is located on the 61-acre Symphony Park, roughly six miles north of the heart of the Strip, the city’s famed row of iconic hotels and casinos on Las Vegas Blvd.
The project is estimated to cost between $150-200 million – substantially more than the reported $110 million price tag for Orlando’s new downtown stadium, set to open in 2016 – and is expected to require partial public funding.
The group has until Sept. 1 to come up with its stadium financing plan and will seek approval from the Las Vegas City Council in order to move forward. If the plan is approved, the group expects to hear from MLS by the end of the year.
The race continues
I keep saying it, the race for number 24 will be all about who presents MLS with the best package deal. Minnesota, Sacramento, San Antonio all continue to be in the discussion as well for this spot. The MLS article linked above had a good quote from Findlay about the race. He stated that the league shouldn’t just look at who has been working the longest on getting an expansion team but who has the best bid for the league. I can’t agree more with that statement myself.
Here is the thing about Vegas. Like I mentioned at the start, this one feels a little different from past Vegas discussions. There are some bad knocks on this one that could hurt down the road. First of all, there is no minor league team in Vegas at the moment like there is in the other three markets. This one would be from scratch, possibly very similar to a Real Salt Lake situation – which to be fair has worked out very nicely for MLS (oh and that is a good rivalry spot in the making for this potential club as well). But the thought of another venue in this league with turf instead of real grass is a bummer. We already have three Northwest teams on turf, plus New England and soon to be Atlanta.
That 24th spot has to be just as much about location as it is about potential rivalries, the right ownership and fans that are going to support these clubs. The other three already have the right balance of each of those things at the moment (though a couple could probably use a little more in the owners having the right amount of $$ department), Vegas is a mystery…or for lack of a better phrase a true gamble.
MLS is entering in a new era here as they head towards their 20th season. How they handle these final expansion spots is key for their history moving forward. They gotten a lot of things right in the expansion markets over the years, so hopefully if Vegas is the right call, they get this one right as well.