Las Vegas close to getting franchise in fledgling UFL


The United Football League, a venture that includes Mark Cuban as its signature owner, is close to formally announcing Las Vegas as one of its eight start-up franchises.

The UFL plans to begin its season in August and play its championship game in Las Vegas.

The franchise cities are scheduled to be announced in early January, and commissioner Michael Huyghue said Monday it would be an upset if Las Vegas isn't among the eight.

"I think it's going to happen," Huyghue said. "We're getting close."

Billionaire entrepreneur and Wall Street investor Bill Hambrecht and Google executive Tim Armstrong are the league's major backers. According to a New York Times article, both men have pledged $2 million toward the league.

Sam Boyd Stadium director Daren Libonati said an agreement is close on a two-year deal with options. The team would play on Friday nights.

Libonati said he had two face-to-face meetings with Huyghue in the past two months, most recently about two weeks ago.

"They have been very, very positive conversations, probably the best conversations with all the leagues we've had from Day 1, starting back with the Canadian Football League and all the basketball leagues and the XFL," Libonati said.

"I've had a lot of places I've worked with, and I really like the direction of the UFL and its goals. The commissioner himself is first class to work with, and he has a great vision."

Huyghue and Libonati said the league is talking to three potential ownership groups to run the Las Vegas franchise, though neither would identify the groups. The commissioner said one group is based locally.

"I'd love to work with any of the three," Libonati said.

Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks who was the first to agree to own a UFL franchise, doesn't appear to be part of any of the three groups. Libonati said he believed Cuban would be the owner of the Los Angeles club.

Besides Las Vegas and Los Angeles, a team probably will be located in Orlando, Fla. The league also is considering Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Ala.; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Oklahoma City; Raleigh, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; and San Antonio.

If the UFL places a team in Las Vegas, it will not be the first professional football league to come here. The Arena Football League has had two teams here, most recently the Gladiators, who spent five seasons in Las Vegas before leaving for Cleveland in October. The XFL and the CFL had short runs.

The UFL potentially could be the highest-profile league to give it a go. It will play in cities that don't have NFL teams.

Each team owner would pay $30 million, the Times reported, for 50 percent interest in a club, with the league owning the other half. The goal is to take the teams public, and fans would own a third of each franchise, equal to the owner and the UFL.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2914.

 

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