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These pro sports teams struck gold in Las Vegas. It wasn’t an easy journey

The Las Vegas Valley continues to make its mark on the professional sports landscape with a mix of relocated franchises and expansion teams that have proven successful with more likely on the horizon.

The Golden Knights expansion NHL team with its “Vegas Born” slogan immediately drew strong local support when it arrived in 2017.

Relocated franchises also have found success with the Raiders selling out season tickets and personal seat licenses at Allegiant Stadium even before the facility was completed. Raiders games have since become the hottest ticket in the entire NFL on the secondary market.

The WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces team has performed well — with two championships under its belt — after relocating from San Antonio, Texas.

No easy task

But it takes a team’s full commitment to ensure a smooth entry into a market, according to Marc Badain, president of Oak View Group Las Vegas.

“Relocating a team is hard. It’s very, very challenging,” he said last week during a panel discussion at a NAIOP Southern Nevada Commercial Real Estate Development Association event. “What happened with the Raiders was a unicorn. In terms of timing, in terms of how it worked out, in terms of the departure in Oakland and the reception we got here.”

Badain played an important role in bringing the Oakland team to Las Vegas, leading to construction of the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium. He now heads Oak View Group’s efforts to construct a $10 billion arena/hotel project on Las Vegas Boulevard that may one day land a future NBA expansion team.

The Raiders received $750 million in public funding for the construction of Allegiant Stadium via Senate Bill 1 in 2016 — the funds paid for through a 0.88 percent tax on hotel rooms in Clark County. Although the financing has its critics, Badain said the results speak for themselves.

“So it’s $1.25 per room,” he said, estimating the average nightly stadium room tax.

“So you’re telling me that people that are coming to town are like, ‘Oh man, I just paid an extra $1.25, I’m not going to go to Peter Luger’s for steak, because of an extra $1.25,’ he said. “Nobody cares. That’s going to pay for the stadium and all the economic benefit that has derived from that.”

The Raiders released a report at the end of last year noting that Allegiant Stadium has generated a $2.29 billion economic impact for Las Vegas, including $128 million in tax revenue.

The Athletics are primed to be the next major league franchise to move to Southern Nevada, with the team moving to get construction underway on a $1.5 billion Strip ballpark, with plans to begin play in Sin City in 2028. The team has previously noted they plan to keep their “Athletics” and “A’s” names after their arrival in Las Vegas.

The Athletics are following in the footsteps of the Raiders, with plans to relocate to Las Vegas from Oakland. Senate Bill 1 signed into law last year by Gov. Joe Lombardo earmarks up to $380 million in public funding for the team’s planned $1.5 billion Strip ballpark.

“They have a lot of work to do and they know it,” Badain said.

He said he believes baseball will thrive in Las Vegas.

“I think Vegas should be very proud of the deal they put together,” Badain said.

“Because there is an entire industry of experts and consultants that dump all over it and say you should never do a sports project and I think in this town we can affirmably say that’s garbage. You can’t find anybody that will say the investment in Allegiant Stadium wasn’t worth it and that the return on investment hasn’t been positive.”

Still, a team can’t expect to roll into town thinking they hit the jackpot amid Southern Nevada’s pro sports boom, Badain said.

“You can’t just show up and think they’re going to throw money at you and throw adulation at you. You’ve got to work at it,” he said. “So whether it’s expansion or relocation they’d better spend some money … and not focus purely on thinking that they are getting instant profits because they showed up magically in the desert. It’s not how it works.”

NBA up next?

The NBA will look toward expansion once the league hammers out its new media rights deal. The league’s current deal expires at the end of the 2024-25 NBA season, but the league can begin negotiating a new deal after this season concludes.

Las Vegas is among the markets the league is eyeing as expansion nears, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said. While Oak View Group’s plans to build an NBA-ready arena and hotel-casino don’t guarantee a NBA team, it could land high on the list if Las Vegas is awarded an expansion franchise.

Badain gave no update on when OVG could break ground on the project, but offered a broad timeline for how long it will take to get the arena built.

“When we break ground the arena will probably take between 27 and 31 months,” Badain said.

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

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