By FRANCO PANIZO
The race for the 24th MLS team is heating up, with Las Vegas being the latest city to thrust itself into the conversation for the expansion slot.
A Las Vegas group is working towards landing an MLS franchise in Sin City and recently told soccer fans in the area that landing a team is a realistic possibility. The group is led in part by Justin Findlay, who is the managing partner of Las Vegas-based Findlay Sports and Entertainment.
Findlay told locals that Las Vegas was on MLS’s short list for landing an expansion team late last week after MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott visited the city to speak to government officials, tour downtown and get a feel for how an expansion franchise could work in a city with no professional sports team.
“Hearing right from the horse’s mouth, this is really a possibility,” said Findlay. “We just have to convert on our plan. There are no reasons why these big, big dreams can’t happen.”
While the group is hopeful of acquiring a team in the near future, there is one major obstacle they must overcome.
The Las Vegas City council will need to green light a financing plan on Aug. 20 for the soccer-specific stadium that Findlay and the group are hoping to build at Symphony Park, which is located in downtown Las Vegas and only a few miles from the world-renowned Strip.
The stadium is expected to seat 24,000 and is proposed to have a retractable roof and air-conditioning ducts every three rows to help keep the temperature inside the facility 30 degrees cooler than outside. Every seat in the stadium would also be shaded.
The project to build the stadium will, however, require some public funding and the previous estimated cost was between $150-200 million. If the council doesn’t approve the plan, Las Vegas won’t get a stadium or an MLS franchise.
Even if approved, Las Vegas will still be competing with cities like Minneapolis, San Antonio, Austin and Sacramento for the league’s 24th franchise.
Despite the heavy competition, Findlay is confident that Las Vegas could ultimately secure a franchise.
“The one thing I can promise you is that we are moving faster than any other city,” Findlay told supporters.
What do you make of Las Vegas entering the fray for the 24th team? Like the idea of road trips to Sin City? Think it is a foregone conclusion that MLS expands beyond 24 clubs?
Share your thoughts below.