Sin City’s Swift Expansion


Graphic by Andrew Hale

Since 2017, Las Vegas have accumulated both an NFL and NHL team and look to expand to the remaining pro sports leagues.

Sin City. What happens here, stays here. This is a statement that has been used for generations but holds even more weight in 2022.

We all know about the “New Yorks” and the “Californias”, but over these past few years, Sin City has created a prominent name for itself with the accumulation of a WNBA team as well as an NHL and NFL team. 

But how did these teams decide that Vegas was the best destination for them to succeed as an organization? 

First and foremost, Las Vegas houses around 2.3 million people which allows for any team, that decides to expand to the desert, to have an immediately large fan base, no matter the popularity of the respective sport. 

Vegas’ first professional sports team, the Golden Knights in the NHL, found this out in their inaugural season advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup during the 2017-18 season. 

Since Vegas is known for its entertainment, the Golden Knights put on unique displays, such as medieval-like sword duels, cannons and drumlines before most of their playoff games. Because of this, hockey fans were glued to their TV in anticipation of what Vegas would do next.

Ultimately the Golden Knights had the most successful inaugural season in professional sports history and paved the way for other expansion franchises to potentially do the same in Las Vegas. 

Before the 2018 season, the WNBA put a second professional sports team in Vegas. While the Aces were not an expansion team, they relocated from San Antonio where they were known as the Stars.

Unlike the Golden Knights, the Aces did not see the same immediate success. After their underwhelming first season in 2018, the Aces struggles were short-lived as they advanced to the WNBA Finals in 2020 where they were defeated by the Seattle Storm. They have since been on an upward trajectory, tying their franchise record of wins during the regular season with 24 in 2021. 

For Vegas, professional hockey and basketball weren’t enough. After years of declining political stances on professional sports, and the refusal to build new stadiums in the Oakland area, the Raiders decided it was time to relocate. 

In 2017, NFL owners voted and unanimously agreed to allow for the Raiders to move to Las Vegas. The Raiders didn’t play in Las Vegas until 2020, due to the construction of Allegiant Stadium, but the clash of fan bases between Oakland and Vegas has created an interesting dynamic.

Raiders fans have a long and rich franchise history and with the help of their passionate fans – deemed the black hole – they have brought that tough environment to a city that had never had a professional sports team before 2017.

In less than two years after moving to Las Vegas, the Raiders have brought a lot of publicity to themselves with a number of scandals and legal problems throughout the staff and players. 

Because of the constant controversy, this raises the question of whether or not Las Vegas offers too many distractions for members of a receptive franchise. If you are a fan of the 90’s Chicago Bulls, then you know Vegas is the very place where Dennis Rodman took a 48 hour vacation in the middle of the 1998 NBA season. 

But after all, sports is a business and how do businesses thrive? Money. Vegas is the capital of entertainment, profit and tourism and why wouldn’t a business want to be a part of all those things?

For many years, Vegas was the only state to have legalized sports gambling and it was mostly used to promote the sport of boxing. 

In March of 2020, Illinois became one of the few states to legalize sports gambling. This was a domino effect for many other states as sports betting has become somewhat of a common thing nowadays.

Will this affect whether teams contemplate moving to Vegas or will this be yet another distraction for fans and the owners of teams? Only time will tell as sports in Vegas is still in its infancy stage as a “Sports City.”

But in order to be up with the likes of major sports cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles, Vegas still needs an MLB, NBA and potentially an MLS team. 

Like the Raiders, the Oakland Athletics, have also been contemplating a move out of the city and Las Vegas is a frontrunner for the new home of the A’s. In this past year, there have already been talks and statements from the commissioners of the NBA and MLS that Vegas is atop the potential destinations for expansion.

In just five years, Vegas has already established itself as the future of sports and continues to break the stigmas and boundaries of expansion franchises across professional sports.