It will, but not in the ways you might think. As the cliché says, Las Vegas is a weird sports market in some obvious, oft-discussed ways: We offer legal sports betting. We are a city largely comprised of outsiders, many with pre-existing team allegiances. We hate losers.
Sure, Vegas has changed, our ever-expanding suburbs shifting us closer to the social patterns associated with more “traditional” cities. But professional sports has changed as well. Thanks to a host of issues, from free agency to team relocations, teams are no longer so closely and emotionally aligned with their host cities. Instead, they are more national brands made up of a shifting rotation of hired guns. Of course, this makes it easier for an organization to relocate to Las Vegas, but it hardly means that hordes of local fans will suddenly abandon their favorite squad and join Raider Nation.
Because pro sports teams have become national attractions rather than extensions of their home cities, the Raiders aren’t “our team” any more than they belonged to Los Angeles, where they played for 13 years (1982–1994) before running back to Oakland. So the Raiders might do well in Las Vegas, but as to how having them here will change us as a city? I see that more a matter of practical benefits rather than some kind of renewed metropolitan pride. Especially if they lose.
It can be said that Las Vegas is getting the NFL more than it is getting the Raiders. Combined with the arrival of the NHL, this could mean a shift in the public perception of Las Vegas as a city, rather than an overgrown town. So we’ll gain respect. We’re also building a massive new stadium, which means Las Vegas can bid on events that we otherwise could not have, from the Super Bowl to the World Cup. That plays right into our business plan. And solving stadium parking issues may eventually point in one obvious direction: If we are lucky, we’ll get a fast-track development of rapid transit infrastructure out of the deal, too. Touchdown!
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