Hi everyone. It’s been a while since we last met and talked.
When Gaming Today was sold in early 2021 and the print edition was folded by the new owners, I was unable to have a voice on the local sports scene. I had a couple of limited opportunities later in the year that didn’t pan out. But I’ve been watching the local sports scene very closely.
Is Major League Baseball coming to Southern Nevada? Is the NBA finally ready to call Las Vegas home? The wait continues on Major League Soccer, but I distinctly remember when MLS was announced prior to the 1994 World Cup, and I recall asking Alan Rothenberg whether Las Vegas was in the fledgling league’s plans. His reply was, “Not yet, but you never know.” The fact that they held the draw for the World Cup that year at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the growing international population of the city was a sure sign that at some point there would eventually be a team in Las Vegas.
Many of you know me, be it from my time at the Las Vegas Sun, the Las Vegas Review-Journal or at Gaming Today. College basketball fans outside of Nevada may recall when I wrote for Basketball Times. Soccer fans may remember my work for Soccer America from back in the 1980s and ‘90s. Golden Knights fans remember me from my time at SinBin.vVegas after I left the R-J following covering the Knights’ magical inaugural season, which saw them play for the Stanley Cup in 2018.
Suffice to say, I’ve been here a while. A real long while. I’m into my 35th year as a Las Vegas resident, and boy have I seen a lot over my time here.
So when Arash Markazi recently reached out to me about his new sports journalism venture, I was interested. The Sporting Tribune will cover all things Vegas sports, and I have agreed to be the steward of that coverage.
I take this opportunity on with great pride and excitement. I have seen so much in my time in Southern Nevada — from UNLV winning the national championship in men’s basketball and the turbulent aftermath, to numerous pro sports having tried and failed to make it here. So many, in fact, that I’m writing a book about it.
I’ve seen the city’s population grow from 240,000 when I got here in 1988 to more than 2.3 million currently in Clark County today. We’ve seen casinos come and go. We’ve seen arenas and stadiums built. We’ve seen combat sports and motor sports take off. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a multi-billion dollar entity, is headquartered here. We have two NASCAR events a year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a jewel of a facility located at the north end of town. The PGA Tour comes through every year, as does the National Finals Rodeo, the Professional Bull Riders, the NBA Summer League, USA Basketball holds its training camp here and the Professional Bowlers Association tour always visits the city.
And when it comes to team sports, we’ve seen Las Vegas become a major league city. The NHL and the Golden Knights were the first to plant their big league team sports flag in the city, and that inaugural season of 2017-18 remains one of the most amazing stories I’ve witnessed in my time here.
The biggest thing, of course, is having an NFL team to watch. I’m not surprised it was the Raiders. They were leaving Oakland at some point, and once the state was willing to help them build a stadium and the league gave its blessing, thanks to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was in favor of the Raiders coming here, it was fait accompli.
I remember when the NFL didn’t even want to do business with Las Vegas. The Convention and Visitors Authority couldn’t even advertise on Super Bowl telecasts. Sports books risked being sued by the NFL if they used the phrase “Super Bowl” to promote betting on the game.
Now, Las Vegas is hosting the Super Bowl in 2024. It is truly a remarkable turnaround. It still feels a bit surreal, to be honest.
We have so much going on now. The WNBA’s best team has been the Las Vegas Aces, who have been selling out their playoff run at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay and are currently for the championship. The Henderson Silver Knights, the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate, play in a beautiful 6,000-seat arena — the Dollar Loan Center — just off the 215 freeway in Green Valley. The Raiders have an amazing practice facility in Henderson. The Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, the A’s top farm team, play in the country’s best minor league stadium — Las Vegas Ballpark —situated in Summerlin next to City National Arena, the Golden Knights’ practice facility and team headquarters.
It seems like this has all happened in the blink of an eye. But the truth is, many years of planning and hard work have been put in to make today’s Las Vegas sports scene a reality. We’re not just UNLV, a major boxing card and the rodeo anymore.
Yes, there has been a few hits and a lot of misses along the way during my time here. And I’m curious to see what’s next. We’ll have a Formula 1 auto race in 14 months. Construction is expected to start soon on an arena at the southwest part of town, which will hopefully have an NBA team as its prime tenant. The NCAA is bringing some of its championship events to the city, and who would have thought that was ever going to happen?
Maybe we’ll get an MLB team. Maybe MLS will make Las Vegas the 30th franchise. Maybe the NBA will want to spend more time here than a couple of weeks in July.
We’ll find out. And I look forward to talking with all of you about it every week.
The best part? The Sporting Tribune is free. You don’t have to subscribe. Just go to our home page, look for the Las Vegas tab, click on it and read.
So give us a try. I’m sure you’ll enjoy what you see. And if you don’t, follow me on Twitter (@stevecarp56) and we can chat about it.