Some Vegas teams may not play

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See? There’s finally some good news for sports and fans here in Las Vegas.

As our Ched Whitney points out in his Page 1 story in this week’s digital edition of GT, some sports are returning to town for live performances. The UFC will hold a couple of cards, there will be boxing at the MGM Grand, and the Professional Bull Riders are coming to the South Point. You won’t be able to attend any of the events in person, but you’ll be able to watch on television and probably wager on them, so it’s a start.

In case you’ve forgotten, we’re a big events town. A major fight, an event like the PBR or the National Finals Rodeo attracts tens of thousands of visitors and they spend money in the casinos, hotels, restaurants, bars, shows, shops and other things. It’s what helps make Las Vegas vibrant and keeps it economically energized.

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If you recall when everything ground to a halt in mid-March, Las Vegas was humming. The college basketball tournaments were in town, March Madness was ready to kick in. The Golden Knights were atop the Pacific Division of the NHL. Major League Baseball had already visited the city and we were looking forward to Year Two of the Aviators at Las Vegas Ballpark.

Construction was continuing unabated on Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ new home. The Aces, Vegas’ WNBA team, and the Lights FC, the city’s pro soccer team, were ramping up their promotional plans for their upcoming seasons.

Then the coronavirus changed everything. Suddenly, the lights went out. There was no March Madness. The NHL hit the pause button. The NFL Draft, which was scheduled to take over the Strip, went virtual from Roger Goodell’s basement.

It has been a rough couple of months for everyone. We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of Nevadans lose their jobs. Many more saw their hours and pay decreased. At almost 29 percent, the Silver State’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation.

But we’re seeing signs that we may reclaim our sports lives. Casinos will be opening next week. Some restaurants inside the casinos have already reopened. Hotels are taking reservations. Many of the employees who were laid off or furloughed are looking at reclaiming their jobs.

But it’s far from normal. You know that. There may not be minor league baseball to watch in Summerlin. The United Soccer League season could be canceled, which means no Lights games at Cashman Field. The WNBA may or may not play, so the Aces could find themselves in limbo.

Unlike the NFL and the NHL, minor league sports don’t have the TV packages to generate revenue. The Aviators need people entering Las Vegas Ballpark, drinking beer and eating hot dogs and popcorn. Same for the Lights. Playing soccer without fans is financially unsustainable. This isn’t the Bundesliga or the English Premiership. Without fans buying tickets, those llamas at Cashman don’t get to perform.

We may have become a major league city, but our roots run deep in minor league and college sports. UNLV plans to play football this fall and expects to play basketball this winter. Let’s hope so. Especially given the cause for optimism that comes with a new football coach in Marcus Arroyo and a basketball coach in T.J. Otzelberger who did a very good job in his first year at the Thomas & Mack Center.

But universities all over the country are struggling with how to operate while in the midst of a pandemic. Most athletic departments are operating at a deficit, including UNLV. If fans can’t attend, it’s going to be very difficult to make a go of it.

The big boys need not worry. The Raiders are sold out. The Golden Knights will also be at capacity for the 2020-21 season, even though they asked their loyal fan base to cough up payments on season tickets for next season despite the fact this season isn’t complete and four home games were already paid for that will likely not get played.

To be honest, it’s hard to get excited about sports when so many Las Vegans are hurting and trying to pay their rent, put food on the table, take care of their kids who cannot attend school and are facing an uncertain future with their employment status up in the air. But sports always provides a chance to escape our problems for a couple hours. We’ve seen the ratings from the few sports that have been televised live to know that’s true.

Hopefully these next couple of weeks is our pathway back to regaining control of our lives and we can debate whether going to a baseball or soccer game is something doable. It would be a nice problem to have.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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