Las Vegas Just Had Its Biggest Year in Sports Ever
Las Vegas is hotter than ever, and we’re definitely not talking about the weather.
If you happened to catch a sports highlight recently, you’ve seen the improbable run of the city’s first major-league franchise defy all expectations to reach the finals its inaugural season.
No one saw it coming. Not the oddsmakers, who had the Golden Knights at 500-to-1 before the first puck dropped in October. And not the NHL experts, with most preseason projections slating these self-proclaimed “Golden Misfits” to finish dead last this year.
But none of this deterred the Vegas locals. They snatched up every season ticket, purchased massive amounts of black-and-gold and packed into T-Mobile Arena night after night, with an average attendance of 18,042 per game. According to ESPN, that’s an incredible 104% of capacity. Season tickets for next year sold out before the Knights even made the playoffs.
This city has been voraciously waiting for a sports franchise for eons. Luckily for its residents, there’s more to come. The NFL is in, with the Raiders relocating in 2020 to a $1.8 billion stadium now under construction just off the Las Vegas Strip. And the WNBA also made the move to Vegas after MGM Resorts International purchased the San Antonio Stars and rebranded the team the Las Vegas Aces with a convenient home court right in Mandalay Bay.
Could an NBA team be next? Hey, it’s no secret that the players are into this town. Soon after the last of the confetti fell at the Oakland parade last year, the champ Warriors were wheels up to hit ARIA’s JEWEL nightclub. The previous year, the Cavs didn’t even wait that long, making a pit stop at Wynn’s XS to celebrate before heading back to Ohio.
While there are whispers of an expansion team to Seattle or Kansas City, at least one exec is betting on a Vegas relocation for a current club. Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts, which owns the Aces, is confident it will happen, saying this month that he expects an NBA team to relocate within the next five years and likely play at T-Mobile Arena.
In the meantime, MGM Resorts NBA Summer League is shattering attendance records. Last summer, more than 127,000 fans turned up to catch the new talent. It was enough for the NBA to commit all 30 teams to Vegas for this year’s season for the first time ever. The 82-game run kicks off July 6 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center and the adjacent Cox Pavilion, with tickets a manageable $35 for a full-day of play.
Get ‘em while you can because Las Vegas is now undeniably a sports town, and business is booming.
3 Hoppin’ Spots to Stop if You’re in Vegas For MGM Resorts NBA Summer League
Just a mile from the Thomas & Mack Center, this Northern Thai food spot is frequented by players, coaches, agents, WAGS… anyone with tastebuds, really. It’s that good. The prices are also incredibly reasonable for a James Beard Award winning chef who was also exalted in an “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” The menu is massive, but the signature garlic prawn dish is a must.
As Irish pubs go, you can’t get more authentic. This establishment was actually built in Ireland and shipped to the heart of The Strip. Happy hour features $5 pints and cocktails and $6 appetizers. The beer n’ cheese dip made from Smithwick’s and Irish cheddar is a must before making your way to T-Mobile.
Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek name fool you. This gastropub doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the grub is excellent. It’s in the nearby Hard Rock Hotel, and known for its great atmosphere, friendly staff, live music and comfort food. The warm pretzel bites with provolone fondue are positively addictive.