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Sports Come to Sin City (Eventually)

May 9, 2018

Las Vegas is one of the biggest cities in America, but it only recently got its first major pro sports team—the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL. (They won their division and are cruising through the playoffs in their first season—unprecedented for an expansion team.) Sports in Vegas were a long time coming—here are some near misses.

Las Vegas Kings

The Sacramento Kings are one of the most relocated teams in sports history. The team has played in Rochester, New York; Cincinnati; Kansas City, Missouri; and Omaha, Nebraska. In 1998, the wealthy Maloof family bought the team, adding to its portfolio of businesses, which also multiple Las Vegas hotel-casinos. For almost as long as the Maloofs owned the team, there was speculation they’ve move it, which reached a fever pitch after the Maloofs convinced the NBA to host its 2007 all-star game in Las Vegas. Just before the move could be made, the Maloofs sold the team, and the new owners kept the Kings in California.

Las Vegas Expos

By 2004, it was clear that the Montreal Expos of Major League Baseball needed a change. The team was losing lots of money, and moving was the best option. Eventually the league itself took over ownership and move the Expos to Washington, D.C., where they became the Washington Nationals. The national capital just barely edged out Las Vegas, which lobbied MLB officials hard. Baseball executives were wined and dined with fancy steakhouse dinners, a Celine Dion concert, and hotel rooms at the Bellagio. Local investors also showed off the site of a planned stadium. What happened? The investment group lost their funding…and that stadium was never built.

Las Vegas Marlins

That same year, the Florida Marlins threatened to move out of Miami unless they got a brand-new, taxpayer-funded stadium. The team called the city’s bluff and met with Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman about relocation. Eventually, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami agreed to split the cost of a new Marlins field.

A different Las Vegas hockey team

The NHL began play in Las Vegas last fall, but it’s not the first attempt to have a hockey team in the desert metropolis. In 2007, an ownership group (which included Transformers director Jerry Bruckheimer) tried and failed to put a team in the city.

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