So Las Vegas finally got its major league sports team, twice over. The NHL’s expansion Golden Knights begin playing this year at T-Mobile Arena, and the NFL’s Raiders are on the way. Mission accomplished, right?
For Mayors Carolyn and Oscar Goodman and the City of Las Vegas, not so much. The Knights and Raiders will compete in Clark County, so the desire to keep professional sports within city limits still burns. With minor league baseball’s Las Vegas 51s expected to move to a yet-to-be-started ballpark in Downtown Summerlin—also in the county—officials are exploring the possibility of turning Cashman Field into a home for a pro soccer squad.
Last month, the city received an unsolicited proposal from a United Soccer League (USL) expansion project to lease Cashman, where the 51s could continue playing until 2022 under their current contract. The city will assume ownership (from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) of the Downtown stadium and convention center space on June 1. The USL is a men’s minor league that serves as a feeder for Major League Soccer (MLS), the way the 51s are the Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets.
How would it work? On KNPR’s State of Nevada, outgoing city manager Betsy Fretwell recently referenced the Portland Timbers, a popular MLS team that started playing home games in 2011 at Providence Park, a renovated outdoor venue that once hosted the minor-league baseball Portland Beavers. It’s working so well in Oregon that Providence Park is upgrading with a planned $50 million renovation to add 4,000 more seats.
The mayors believe pro soccer would be a natural fit for Downtown Las Vegas, and while it’s still very early, the pieces appear to be in place. The city would be able to opt out of an agreement with the USL team if the Raiders want to use Cashman as a practice facility or if Vegas upgrades to an MLS team. There’s still a lot of work to do and finances to figure out, but the momentum of this pro sports wave in Southern Nevada is feeling pretty powerful.