Las Vegas Gets Another Pro Sports Team – MGM Resorts Buys Its Very Own WNBA Franchise – Forbes
Spectator sports has long been America’s favorite form of entertainment, and Las Vegas has long been one of America’s favorite vacation destinations. But for decades, the two existed in a relative vacuum – at least outside of the race and sports books, where billions have been legally bet on high profile sporting events. Team sports and Sin City were long anathema, but that has been changing fast, and MGM Resorts International has been the visionary responsible for a lot of the progress. For years they used championship boxing, and later Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), to fill seats and the demand for live sport, throwing in the odd special event – when I went to Vegas a few years ago to write a magazine feature on the Rugby Sevens World Cup tournament, MGM’s Monte Carlo was the host hotel (and did a stellar job). Rugby Sevens has since become an Olympic sport, and it remains one of the most fun and fast paced competitions you can attend, even if you have never seen rugby. The Las Vegas annual event is the sole U.S. stop on the World Cup circuit, and makes for a totally awesome weekend which I wrote about here at Forbes in the past.
But much more recently Vegas moved into the mainstream with the city’s first major professional sports team, the Golden Knights of the National Hockey League, who started their first season just two weeks ago and play in MGM’s new T Mobile Arena. The breaking of the no major team sport in Vegas barrier was huge, and pundits theorized that it would bring a sea change to one of the nation’s largest cities. That proved true just five games into the Knights’ first season when yesterday MGM announced that it had bought its own team, the former WNBA San Antonio Stars, and received league approval to relocate them to Nevada.
For better or worse, we are used to boisterous individual owners with sometimes oversized personalities owning our teams, but in this case it is a publicly traded (NYSE) S&P 500 global entertainment company that will own and operate the first major professional basketball team in this red hot market – which sees more than 43 million international visitors annually. MGM also announced that NBA All-Star and two-time WNBA Coach of the Year Bill Laimbeer – one of just 19 players in NBA history to eclipse 10,000 points and rebounds – will be President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach. The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the relocation, and the team will begin playing in the Mandalay Bay Events Center next year for the 2018 season.
With twelve teams, the WNBA is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world. “We are thrilled to bring the first major professional basketball team to Las Vegas,” said WNBA President Lisa Borders. “This city and MGM Resorts are synonymous with world-class entertainment. With its culture of diversity and inclusion, MGM Resorts is an ideal fit for the WNBA.”