The Aces Are Coming!

It wasn’t supposed to be this way!  Really.  It’s the middle of May and according to all the sports prognosticators, the Vegas Golden Knights were supposed to be sitting in the field house, licking their wounds after an absolute dismal inaugural season.  Not out chasing after the Stanley Cup.

This was supposed to be the quiet moments where MGM was going to be busy rounding up all their media people and letting the world know it was just a few short weeks before they open up another chapter in the history of professional sports in Las Vegas.

This was supposed to be when all eyes were on the inaugural game and the inaugural season for the WNBA Las Vegas Aces.  The Las Vegas Aces will play their first home game on Sunday, May 27 at the Mandalay Events Center. Taking on the Seatle Storm.

On that date, the Las Vegas Golden Knights will have just wrapped up their series with the Winnipeg Jets and will either be back at their field office, gearing up for a history-making appearance in the Stanley Cup final or taking a much-deserved rest while contemplating the future of season two.

News Flash:  For those who follow The Vegas Tourist for any length of time, you know my feelings on most things Vegas pro sports related. What you didn’t know is that I have a hidden love for the WNBA.  It’s more of a love/hate relationship, but more love than hate.  I was there at almost the beginning of the launch of the NBA’s ugly stepdaughter (not my words).  I was one of those consulted with by the Minnesota Timberwolves as they reached out to the local business community for help in launching their WNBA franchise, the Minnesota Lynx.

Then watching them take everything we told them that would help create a successful team much like the Vegas Golden Knights are now and toss it into the proverbial trash can.  Telling us in an off the cuff moment that the WNBA “is and always will be” the ugly stepdaughter and will never be more than a second-tier league to their more popular, powerful and profitable NBA league. Basically dooming the league to where it is now.  A commodity instead of an asset.

And that’s a shame because the talent that is now available for a true women’s basketball league has never been greater.

When you watch a WNBA game, you are watching professionals with talent play for the love of the game, not for the love of the money (because there isn’t any).

Vegas Has The Talent

WNBA Las Vegas Aces Talent

If there is one thing I can say about sports in Las Vegas, is that when you have a team here, the eyes of the world will be on you.  That is why so many teams failed before. They did not have the resources off the field to fund the talent on the field.  The Las Vegas Aces came out of the gates showing they have the talent on and off the field.

Their first pick was A’Ja Wilson. A perfect way to start building a winning team.  According to Wikipedia: Wilson was the number 1 ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100 prospect in 2014. Wilson played for the South Carolina Gamecocks in college, and helped lead the Gamecocks to their first NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in 2017, and won the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player award. In 2018, she won a record 3rd straight SEC Player of the Year award, led South Carolina to a record 4th straight SEC Tournament Championship, became the all-time leading scorer in South Carolina women’s basketball history, and was a consensus first-team All-American for the third consecutive season. Wilson swept all National Player of the Year awards (Wade, AP, Honda, USBWA, Wooden, and Naismith) as the best player in Women’s College basketball for 2018.

Although this team came from somewhere else, the MGM team behind them has rebuilt the team into a brand new Vegas team designed to win fans and to win games!

Yes, I voluntarily said all that!!  I think this is going to be a fun team to watch.  (shocker, I know)

Vegas Marketing, Vegas Exposure

So maybe now having the, dare I say it, powerful and mighty MGM owning a WNBA team may make the NBA reexamine their desires for the WNBA.  Afterall, the marketing power behind the MGM brand as well as the brand itself extends all over the world. Although the MGM sportsbooks in Nevada will not be able to take bets on the Aces, you can bet that MGM will want to let the world know that they at least own a WNBA team.  Plus the team itself may not be on Las Vegas tote boards, the other WNBA teams should see the spotlight on them a little brighter int he sportsbooks.    As with the NHL and the Las Vegas Golden Knights, being in Las Vegas, the international market is getting exposed more to the American sports as the MGM brand is worldwide and those newly minted tourists are flocking here to see what it’s all about.

The Golden Knights are not owned in any way by MGM but they do play their home games in MGM’s T-Mobile arena and it is surrounded by MGM properties.  So they do get to ride on the power of the MGM international marketing bandwagon!  This type of exposure can only help the team and the league.

The WNBA Las Vegas Aces:
1997 – Started as one of the original 8 WNBA teams. Utah Stars
2003 – The Starzz relocated to San Antonio. San Antonio Silver Stars
2018: Relocated to Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas Stars

 

 

The Knights Fall to the Wild

The team that nobody said could do it, and they said it couldn’t do a lot!  Did and still does.  And on occasion, this fairytale team in the desert city not known for winning franchises falters.  Afterall, it is the inaugural year and they have been busy breaking records in the NHL at home as well as away, so we do need to give them a little bit of slack!

This past week, my beloved adopted hometown National Hockey League team, the Vegas Golden Knights, took a pause in their winning streaks heading into the land of playoff potential and decided to lose a couple of games at home.  One of those games happened to be with my real hometown team, the Minnesota Wild.  Getting sacked by the Wild 4-2.

photo:Tom Donoghue

When they announced that Las Vegas was getting a hockey team, I knew this was the type of a professional sports team this town needed. Afterall, in the winter, the population almost doubles with snowbirds(retires from the upper northeast and the cold tundra region of Minnesota and the Canadians, living here for the winter months). So here you have one of those nights with an arena filled with ex-Minnesota patriots, people from Minnesota needing an excuse to escape the frozen winter for a weekend and a few people who are part-time residents of both communities.

I even saw a Facebook update from my ex-partner in crime, Sazzy at the game with her hubby Bob!  Me? I was home nursing a serious flu mixed with an allergy infection.  Not a pretty sight!

How to clean the ice at a hockey game

photo: Tom Donoghue

People watching in Las Vegas is always a fun sport. Even at hockey games, it can be the best thing to be watching while your team loses…

Minnesota Wild Fan in Vegas Golden Knights Territory

photo:Tom Donoghue

For a first-year team, the chances of being anywhere near a playoff position would be laughable. And for some, they really did laugh when the idea of being int he playoffs was first mentioned.  They aren’t laughing anymore.  We do have a good chance of bringing that tall, shiny cup home to Las Vegas. This little team of misfits is about to show everyone they were meant to do this. Yes, the season is long and the final shot to a playoff berth is filled with a few other more experienced teams who have never been there, wanting to make sure the new kids on the rink don’t make it this year.  But that’s when the misfits and the under-judged usually wake up and get busy.

Now, the interesting thing about having the Vegas Golden Knights in the National Hockey League playoffs would be that they would probably have to play another not really, but yes, they were, a Minnesota team, the Dalla Stars.  A team that began life as legendary The Minnesota North Stars almost ended up being the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim but found their place as the Dallas Stars instead.

The Vegas Golden Knights Season so far: 45 wins / 21 loses / 5 over time loses (1st in Pacific Division)

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The Domed Stadium Update

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMamse4wHQg” title=”The Las Vegas Domed stadium Update” /]

The proposed 60,000 seat Las Vegas domed stadium keeps inching closer to reality.  Today, the Oakland Raiders submitted a proposed stadium lease agreement to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority ( the new governing board for the stadium) that calls for the team to pay rent of only $1 per year.

The Raiders President Marc Badain said the team is now focused on building the domed stadium on 62 acres between Russell Road and Hacienda Avenue between Polaris Avenue and Dean Martin Drive.  That is just west of Interstate 15 and the Mandalay Bay resort.

To give you a better idea of where exactly this is, I included a short video showing the land.  The land sits empty but the surrounding area is mostly warehouses and low-rise office buildings.  Many of them will probably be cleared to make more room for parking and other amenities.

The other location originally proposed was right across from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and the end of one of the major runways at McCarren International Airport.  That location is currently a golf course and came with a lot of political strings attached.  Not to mention part of the land sits in the safety zone for the runways, meaning no building or very low structures.

The location now being looked at is not ideal but fits the needs and desires of the stadium.  It’s close to the Las Vegas Strip.  Close to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) campus for the college football team and fans and is close to the Interstate highway.

213 Escaping Las Vegas

In This Podcast Mark and Debbie get out of town for the weekend and escape the Las Vegas heat!!  This is our story as we head off to the beautiful Grand Canyon North Rim.  The high there was 75 degrees with a low of 55 degrees.  A wonderful escape from the unrelenting summer time Vegas heat.

But first, Vegas News Updates

  • The Caesars Venus pool (topless pool) is currently free entrance Monday and Tuesday
  • Vegas needs a domed stadium, but the current players are screwing it up and it will fail
  • UFC gets sold for $4 Billion
  • The Eldorado Mine Tour (save 10%)

Off to Grand Canyon North Rim

The north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park is almost 2,000 feet higher than the South Rim.  It’s only open from May to October with very little development. If you plan to go there and stay for the night, book as early as possible.  The lodges at the rim are wooden cabins built in the 1930’s that are great for couples as well as families.  The cabins have natural air conditioning –  meaning open the windows and turn on the ceiling fans.  No internet and no in room television.

Links Mentioned

 

Music by Carl “Safe Sax” Ferris

211 Talking Muhammad Ali and Las Vegas Sports

It’s as if Las Vegas was made to order for boxing legend, Muhammad Ali .  Or maybe it was the other way around.  Either way, he changed how people look at sports, how sports is marketed and he, more importantly, Muhammad Ali  changed the way people looked at Las Vegas.

Legendary sports announcer and photographer Rick Rosen, also a good friend of The Vegas Tourist, joins Mark Anthony as we look at Muhammad Ali  and his connections and his impact to Las Vegas.  (Note: There are some Bad Audio Spots in the Podcast)

Muhammad Ali’s first fight in Las Vegas was on June 26, 1961.  Fighting under his real name, Cassius Clay. It was in a radio promotion for that fight, that Ali got the inspiration from wrestler “Gorgeous George” to start building the persona that we know today as Muhammad Ali’s “I am the greatest of all time”

The thing with Muhammad Ali, is that he never just boxed.  He took his opportunities to be in the media to push for whatever it was he was passionate about.  He spoke out when people of color in the sporting world were not suppose to.  He talked loud and proud about what he thought was right or what was wrong.  As his fame and his wealth grew, he talked about how he was not going to waste the gifts that he was given for the greater good, inside and outside the boxing ring.

The Birth of Modern Sports Marketing

Ali usually was able to back up whatever loud and obnoxious claims he was spouting off.  His antics helped make Howard Cosell a sports commentator legend.  They both knew they needed each other and the act they created to make more money and get more people excited about sports.

Muhammad Ali learned early that people were paying money to see a show.  Not just watch two people box.  He came of age as America was coming of age with television, entertainment and the ability for the common person to travel to see events.  The middle class had money to spend and time to spend that money.  A match made for las vegas.  Las Vegas is about entertainment and spending money foolishly.  Dance like butterfly and sting like a bee would put people in the seats than just a quick boxing match between two people.  The more seats you help fill, the larger his winning (or losing) purse bigger.

The Bigger Picture

Muhammad Ali  helped bring attention to the problem of concussions from playing combat sports.  Our friend, Dr. Dean Sicking developed the Safier barrier for auto racing and this technology has saved countless lives (he also helped develop safer guardrails now used on most highways).  He is currently finding new ways to take that technology and use it in helmets for sports like boxing, MMA and soccer.  Making them safer for the players and the fans