UFL's Locomotives to return for third season despite poor attendance

Would a chance to win $1 million be enough to entice anyone to Sam Boyd Stadium to watch the Locomotives tonight?

Maybe, but not enough to keep the Locos out of the cellar in United Football League home attendance.

On the field, Las Vegas is 5-1 and has secured a chance to defend its inaugural UFL title in the championship game Nov. 27 at Omaha. But at the turnstiles, the Locos are a flop, failing to draw 10,000 fans to any of their three home games. They are averaging 9,107 fans heading into today's 8 p.m. home finale against Sacramento (2-4).

The attendance figures come straight from the UFL office but the crowds appear to have been smaller than announced.

UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said the Locos will return for a third season in Las Vegas, but possibly not at Sam Boyd. He said the UFL pays UNLV $100,000 per game to rent the stadium, and the league will consider a lower-cost alternative venue.

"This league isn't built on attendance," Huyghue said. "It's built for television and trying to develop a national audience. That said, I was hoping for better (from Las Vegas).

"We know there are a lot of things to do in Las Vegas. For us to snap our fingers and expect 30,000 a game is unrealistic.

"We're paying a lot of money to use Sam Boyd. But we may have to look at another site if we can't work out a better deal."

Former stadium executive director Daren Libonati, who negotiated the deal for UNLV, said the per-game rental is $70,000 and covers ushers, security and parking personnel, stadium lighting, painting the field and usages of the locker rooms and scoreboard. Libonati said the UFL pays an additional amount for other costs, such as using the practice fields and special catering.

"That $70,000 is everything you need to put on a game," Libonati said. "The other $30,000 is for things they requested."

There are few venue options in Las Vegas, however, including high school stadiums and Cashman Field, home to the Triple-A baseball Las Vegas 51s.

The UFL is succeeding in a baseball park, with Omaha playing at 24,000-seat Rosenblatt Stadium, where it leads the league with an average of 23,372 fans for three home gates. The expansion Nighthawks are paying $10,000 per game in rent to the city of Omaha this season.

Locos owner Bill Hambrecht said he hoped for bigger crowds in Year 2, especially given the quality of the product.

"It has been a little disappointing," he said. "We have the best team and the best coach (Jim Fassel). I'd love to see more support. But I know the city has been going through a difficult time economically and that probably has something to do with it.

"But we believe Las Vegas fits our business model for the league, and we're going to keep working at it and try and build the base."

Huyghue said the UFL might need to rethink its marketing methods in Las Vegas.

"I think we have to work harder and look at the demographics of who we're marketing to," Huyghue said. "I think there's 8,000 to 10,000 fans that enjoy coming out every game (in Las Vegas). And in this market, the maximum may only be 12,000 to 15,000.

"Instead of focusing on the regular Joe, we've been marketing to people who would go see Celine Dion. I think our game caters to more of a blue-collar crowd, and we need to do a better job of reaching out to them."

Hambrecht said: "Those who come out seem to enjoy themselves. We just need to find more of them."

One of those fans tonight will get a chance at halftime to win $1 million by succeeding in a football-related competition. The league hasn't released specifics of the competition.

Fans can sign up from 5 to 7 p.m. at the FanFest in the Sam Boyd parking lot. One person's name will be drawn at random for the chance to win.

■ NOTES -- The Locos are also doing a "Redout" promotion, with fans encouraged to wear red. ... Neither team reported any significant injuries.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

Las Vegas327,3219,107
SOURCE: United Football League