weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Desert Dogs owners saw opportunity in Las Vegas

Getting involved in the booming Las Vegas professional sports market was too good of an opportunity for a group of notable sports figures to pass up.

NHL great Wayne Gretzky, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, billionaire Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai and PGA golfer Dustin Johnson co-own the Desert Dogs National Lacrosse League team.

The Dogs kicked off their inaugural season last week in San Diego and played in front of their home fans for the first time Friday night at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Gretzky points to the success of the Golden Knights and the fan support they received from the beginning as why he believes lacrosse can work in Las Vegas.

“On the inside, people in this market knew it (the Knights) would be great,” Gretzky said. “But on the outside, when you go around the hockey world people are always amazed with how tremendous the fan support is in Vegas for the Golden Knights. Then the Raiders came in and how successful they’ve been. It’s just a great city and they’re starving for their own teams and their own franchises, … For us we’re excited to be a small piece of that puzzle.”

With box lacrosse being similar to hockey, with six players on the field for each team in action that us fast-paced and physical, Gretzky said the energy that a Desert Dogs game will have will be similar to that of the Golden Knights.

Gretzky credits the sport of lacrosse for his legendary career in the NHL.

“I started playing (lacrosse) when I was 5 years old,” Gretzky said. “I learned how to see the ice, hand-eye coordination, how to roll off a body check, how to protect myself,” Gretzky said. “Hockey is a rough game, but lacrosse is a very physical sport. At the age of 17 I looked at my dad and said, ‘Maybe it’s time to pack it in, this is very physical.’”

Crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 are expected to fill the arena at the start, Tsai said, with the hope of that growing upwards of 10,000 fans.

Tsai and the other owners will make the trip to Las Vegas for games as much as they can, but they’ve put an administration in place to set the franchise up for success, Tsai said.

“I think we’ve got great professionals in place. I’m going to leave them to do their work,” Tsai said. “My role is to give them the resources to grow.”

Although Las Vegas is known for the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, Nash knows the city is more than that. Feedback from people he knows who live in the area cemented that sentiment for Nash.

“I think anytime you can be part of something in Las Vegas, it’s exciting,” Nash said. “Not just because of the entertainment, the Strip and everything, as you grow and get older I realized I have a lot of friends who have moved to Las Vegas and they love it. To have people come to me and tell me how great it is outside the Strip, what a great community it is, what a great town it is, what a great place to live it is.”

Nash also sees planting a pro lacrosse team in Las Vegas as an opportunity to grow the sport in the community. “A lot of kids in Vegas could fall in love with lacrosse and play the game,” Nash said.

The team will attempt to keep the fan interaction high throughout a game. “There’s a lot of scoring. There’s a 30-second shot clock. There’s constant movement on the floor,” Tsai said. “There’s music, which adds to the excitement.”

With Las Vegas adding several pro sports teams in the last several years, Nash said when a team is added people across the world will know about it. Having that sort of buzz is definitely a positive for any team that looks to call Southern Nevada home, Nash noted.

“Vegas has almost everything right now when it comes to sports, not to mention it’s still one of the premiere destinations in the world,” Nash said. “I think when you have a franchise in Las Vegas, people are going to hear about it. So you have this automatic global marketing machine behind you.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Sports on TV in Las Vegas

Here’s today’s local and national sports schedule, including television and radio listings.