Vegas developers: Build it, and NBA team will come

In one of the weirdest arena campaign moves ever, the CEO of a development group hoping to build an NBA arena in Las Vegas said this week that “we have an NBA team under contract” to move to Vegas — but only if the city approves a tax-increment financing district to kick back property taxes in the surrounding area to help pay off arena construction costs.

The arena plan is scheduled to be discussed at an August 4 county commission hearing, but meanwhile, everyone wants to know: Really? An NBA team? Which one? The Las Vegas Sun briefly mentioned that the Detroit Pistons are for sale, leading to an immediate denunciation of any such thing by the team’s current owners. And Sacramento Kings owner Joe Maloof says it’s not him, either.

NBC Sports asked around among team execs at the Summer League currently underway in Las Vegas, and came to the conclusion that the development group “got a ‘we agree to have a serious conversation with you if you get your arena built’ rather than any kind of agreement to sell.” Which would explain NBA officials’ statement yesterday that they “categorically deny” that any such contract is in place.

In any case, though, expect Las Vegas to show up in lots of stories about NBA teams seeking subsidies for the next few months, whether it’s in Detroit, Sacramento, Indianapolis, or wherever. Maybe if they play their cards right, Las Vegas can even be the new Kansas City!


12 comments on “Vegas developers: Build it, and NBA team will come

  1. I am willing to bet my life savings that it is the Detroit Pistons set to move to Vegas with Steve Wynn as the owner. The Palace of Auburn Hills and Target Center are about the same age, but Target Center recently received a renovation while the city of Detroit is busy tearing down buildings, including Tiger Stadium, to renovate either the Palace or Joe Lewis Arena.

    Heck, I would be willing to bet the entire North Dakota Surplus on the fact that within two years that the Lions and Tigers are the only two pro teams left in Detroit though the Detroit Red Wings are still in existence, but playing all their home games in Windsor, Canada.

  2. Geez Neil you claim to be an expert. Mandalay Bay and the Golden State Warriors look it up.

  3. I did look it up, but apparently you didn’t: The Warriors were just sold to the owner of the movie studio Mandalay Entertainment, which is unrelated to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Vegas:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Guber

  4. Well, I’m sure some NBA owners would love to have a NBA quality facility built for them in Las Vegas – even if they have no plans to play in it.

    Having that nice new building in KC has helped owners extract ever more in concessions from their host (and I use the term in the parasitic host sense) cities. Why, a tailor made trojan horse in Vegas would be even better…

    There are some problems with a major sports franchise in Vegas, though. Primarily, the issue is competition. Practically everything in the city focuses visitors on the casinos. Any other entertainment would be competition for tourism dollars. It’s possible that one of the Casinos might make a play for a club to try and tie in basketball to casino revenues (like they have done with concerts and the like, which are really just a pastime for spouses who don’t gamble, let’s face it).

    But if that was on the horizon, why wouldn’t the Maloofs (owners of both the Kings and the Palms) have done it?

    The next problem would be the betting line… Not sure any sport that features so heavily in the sports books would be willing to put a franchise in Sin City. It seems to me you’d have to take the games off the board, and that could easily cost more in terms of overall revenue than any sports team could bring.

    Finally, you have a uniquely Vegas problem: It’s the definition of the 24 hour town. Wages by and large are fairly low, and at any given time 30% of the locals are either sleeping or at work. So really, the CMA of 2.2M is more like a 7-900k city based on modest waged jobs than the luxury resort it is portrayed as.

    Is anyone talking about bringing an NBA franchise to Tulsa, Stamford, Albuquerque or Fresno?

  5. Neil,

    Why do you continue to take shots at the Sprint Center for not having an anchor tenant? It may have been the best thing to happen to KC. KC is the 33rd biggest city in the US yet it now has the 3rd busiest arena in the US and 6th busiest in the world as tracked by trade publication Pollstar. The arena has even returned money back to the city (1.8M) which I bet hardly happens in any city. Remember that a team will take all the prime dates and arena revenues plus other dates would have to be held back for potential playoffs. Up to 60 dates or so would be lost to a sports franchise.

    In the end this actually could be the wave of the future where cities don’t get held hostage by sports franchises. I admit it happened by accident because AEG is suppose to find an anchor tenant but maybe the city and AEG will agree to drop that idea and keep things the way they are. Our bigger problem here is the Power and Light District which is bleeding money. We need to keep any money coming in that we can. The KC area is more geared towards college basketball during the winter anyway and having a third major franchise just isn’t necessary. Not enough entertainment dollars to go around. Thanks for your time and all your hard work, just disagree with you on this.

  6. Actually, I agree with you that Kansas City is better off without a major pro sports team. Though not that “better off” means “well off”: That $1.8M in revenue doesn’t come close to paying off the city’s arena debt:

    http://www.fieldofschemes.com/news/archives/2009/10/3854_aegs_sweetheart.html

    By “the new Kansas City” I just meant that Las Vegas could be the next city that every team owner flirts with to get arena money out of their home town, but never actually gets a team.

  7. How is Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario doing without a major pro sports team?

  8. Pay a little more attention to the Kings’ situation, too: The Maloofs are hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole in Vegas right now. Harrah’s is buying up their debt with the idea of gaining control of the Palms for pennies on the dollar.

    Plus, the arena effort in Sac isn’t going all that well.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/21/2905505/city-extends-negotiating-time.html

    It could get to a point where the Maloofs sell the Kings because they have to, just like they did with their beer distributorship.

    http://nvprogressive.blogspot.com/2010/02/late-breaking-harrahs-owners-start.html

  9. Neil,

    Thanks for the reply. If I came off as harsh sounding, my apologies. I just think it could be funny if KC fell into the “perfect” situation as far a having an arena. Maybe if other cities followed suit(sp?) the hammer that pro sports entities have on cities could be turned around on them. It would be about time. I agree about KC being better off than well off but at least its something.

    Thanks again for the great site and if you ever want to put Kevin Keitzman of 810 WHB in his place I’d love to hear you on his show. He’s been bagging on KC’s renovation of Kauffman Stadium instead of building downtown (spending extra money in the process.) It would be great to have you set him straight on some things.

  10. If the Kings move it will not be out of Nor Cal. The NBA knows the Nor Cal region is too large for just 1 team (the lowly Warriors who get fans in the Bay Area because of lack of options).

    San Jose makes the most sense because of the highly affluent area, key downtown location, and hundreds of corporations down the street with massive $$. Don’t forget the weather is great in San Jose.

    KC and Vegas pale in comparison in ever civic category of prosperity.

    When this whole 3 way land swap falls through the Kings are going to high tail it San Jose and give the Warriors a run for their money in the Bay Area. Which they seriously need to do even with new ownership coming in.

    Granted the new W’s ownership bought the team with for 450 million thinking it would still own the Bay Area.

    But the fact Sacramento would open and become the Warriors new territory and San Jose would go to the Kings there would be some trade off and compensation but worth it to keep Nor Cal a two team market.

  11. If the Kings move it will not be out of Nor Cal. The NBA knows the Nor Cal region is too large for just 1 team (the lowly Warriors who get fans in the Bay Area because of lack of options).

    San Jose makes the most sense because of the highly affluent area, key downtown location, and hundreds of corporations down the street with massive $$. Don’t forget the weather is great in San Jose.

    KC and Vegas pale in comparison in every civic category of prosperity.

    When this whole 3 way land swap falls through the Kings are going to high tail it San Jose and give the Warriors a run for their money in the Bay Area. Which they seriously need to do even with new ownership coming in.

    Granted the new W’s ownership bought the team with for 450 million thinking it would still own the Bay Area.

    But the fact Sacramento would open and become the Warriors new territory and San Jose would go to the Kings there would be some trade off and compensation but worth it to keep Nor Cal a two team market.