Six years ago, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman walked me onto the balcony adjacent to her seventh-floor office at City Hall and began describing how a major league sports night would look in downtown.
Her office overlooks Symphony Park, which at the time was pegged by city leaders for the home of a National Basketball Association franchise. Goodman’s vision of hordes of passionate fans, crowded eateries before and after the game, and the team helping develop tremendous pride with residents was spot-on.
Well, of course, except for the location.
“It just went that way,” she said two weeks ago, pointing south from her office toward the Las Vegas Strip.
That way is T-Mobile Arena in Clark County’s jurisdiction, where the Vegas Golden Knights in their maiden season have become Las Vegas’ darlings. Our desert city loves its new hockey team, and their unexpected winning ways have made affordable tickets impossible to come by.
When Southern Nevada leaders started flirting with major league sports, a process that began in the late-1990s by Oscar Goodman, Carolyn’s husband who spent 12 years in office before she was elected in 2011, I wasn’t certain it would work.
My fear was game night would mirror when the Edmonton Oilers came to town last month and T-Mobile had a distinct Canadian feel. I argued we’d be the road team every night. But that hasn’t happened.
Hockey is working and our residents are overboard in their support. Some are even ditching previous allegiances to support the Golden Knights.
“Vegas loves winners,” Carolyn Goodman says. “That’s what we are about.”
But could it have worked in downtown?
Knowing that Las Vegans, in fact, can support major league sports, would Goodman have gone about her pursuit of a franchise differently? The city spent millions in an agreement with Cordish Cos. of Baltimore to design the arena and attract a team, but it was a failed relationship.
“There was nothing wrong (with the city’s approach), but two things that perhaps we could have done better,” Goodman said. “Cordish was not the right corporation to work with. They did nothing to help. They did nothing to market. Knowing how well it was orchestrated by (Golden Knights owner) Billy Foley and his team, that is the way it should have been done.”
Goodman also said she wasn’t a fan of putting the arena, or a stadium for soccer, at Symphony Park. Rather, the land where Cashman Field is located was better suited because there was more space to build, she said.
But she isn’t dwelling on the past. She’s thrilled about the Golden Knights and NFL’s Raiders signing on to call the area home, even if they are located within county lines. It’s still Las Vegas’ team. The players have "Vegas" on their uniforms when they take the ice.
Las Vegas becoming a landing spot for professional sports is one of her crowning achievements. If it weren’t for Carolyn and Oscar’s persistent pursuit of the NBA, there wouldn’t be two of the four major sports here. The Goodmans got the ball rolling.
“To have any team in Southern Nevada is an exciting time in an exciting place,” she said. “We are all one here.”