How Las Vegas Became a Sports Town


Not that long ago, the closest Las Vegas residents came to major league sports was watching games on TV or checking out sites profiled at None of the big four—or even Major League Soccer—had a team in Sin City, and locals had to make do with boxing when it came to their sports fix.

But all that has changed in the last ten years. After decades of interested parties attempting to bring major league sports to Las Vegas, there are now plenty of options – and more in the pipeline.

How did the entertainment capital of the world turn into a sports town? And what is next for Las Vegas when it comes to attracting professional major league sports and their legions of fans?

Hockey Leads the Way

After years of trying to get a pro team in Las Vegas, it was hockey that finally got there first. This, after all, is a city in the middle of a desert. However, the NHL has a long tradition of looking beyond its frozen north and Canada for new fan bases. So why not in Vegas?

Exhibition and pre-season games had been held in Las Vegas since the early 1990s, but it was in the early 2010s that the move to bring an NHL team to the city really ramped up. After thousands committed to buying season tickets, it seemed only a matter of time, and in 2016, the league unanimously voted to award an expansion franchise to Las Vegas.

In October 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights started their inaugural season in front of their passionate and dedicated fans. Incredibly, the Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in that first year, eventually losing only to Washington. In seven years of operation, Vegas has only missed out on the postseason once and won its first championship last season.

More Sports Follow

The success of the Vegas Golden Knights showed that the city would embrace pro sports teams, and other leagues would soon bang on the door to be given a chance. The next team to arrive is sometimes forgotten when it comes to the story of Las Vegas and sports, though.

The reason for that is probably prejudice against women’s sports. But the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team has been the most successful of all. Starting life off as the Utah Starzz, the franchise moved to San Antonio before relocating once again to Vegas in 2018. The lack of a men’s NBA team in the local market has undoubtedly helped the Aces draw fans.

Bettering the Golden Knights record, the Aces have failed to make the playoffs just once in six years and also made a finals appearance very early on. But this team is now one of the best in women’s basketball, winning back-to-back championships in 2022 and 2023.

Football is America’s favorite sport, though, so attracting an NFL team was surely always on the cards for Vegas. The Raiders are one of the most well-known and supported franchises in the league’s history, and they have moved between Oakland and Los Angeles since their beginning in 1960.

After years of trying to get funds to renovate or move away from the Oakland Coliseum, Raiders owner Mark Davis finally got the NFL to approve the move to Las Vegas in 2017. The newly monikered Las Vegas Raiders played their first NFL game in the city in October 2020.

Next up for Las Vegas will be the A’s Major League Baseball team. Oakland, again, is losing out with a second major league relocation from the Bay Area. Although this has not gone down well with Oakland A’s fans, the team will temporarily play in Sacramento until a new ballpark opens in Las Vegas in 2028.

Success Doesn’t Hurt

Las Vegas sports fans were more than ready to accept new teams to call their own. Hockey, football, and basketball have all been welcomed, and America’s pastime will be next. Never having a central league team before meant that the teams were given some incredible ovations. However, some early success has definitely made the transitions more accessible, too.

The Golden Knights surprised everyone in that debut season, making it all the way to the championship finals, and lifting the famous Stanley Cup in 2023 was a considerable achievement. The Aces continued success has also helped. The Raiders may not have done anything of note since moving to Las Vegas, but NFL football is always going to be popular.


Perfect Location

Las Vegas is such a perfect location for professional sports that it is no surprise that the expansion teams and relocations have been so popular. There are few big city markets that the major leagues have not exploited, and Vegas is an attraction in its own right.

With no established pro teams to compete with, any new franchise in the city has a promising start, becoming an instant favorite among the locals. The growing buzz about a potential future NBA team is a testament to this.

The Biggest of Events

Las Vegas, with its array of massive arenas and venues, is a natural host for the world’s biggest events. Its history of drawing large crowds for diverse events is a testament to its grandeur. While most pro leagues play their championship series in the cities of the teams involved, the NFL has already recognized Vegas’s unique appeal, with the Super Bowl making an appearance here.

With future Vegas Super Bowls almost guaranteed, sports is now big business in the city. There may also be an NBA team to complete the whole set, and a positive reception is also sure to be the case. If the local teams continue to win championships at the current rate, we might soon be looking at Las Vegas as the sports capital of the world as well.

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