Saturday, August 06, 2005

A professional hit?

The rumors were out there a week ago, but the news was made official yesterday: the 2007 NBA All-Star Game will take place here in Las Vegas. This is no minor victory for this town. That the NBA decided to hold its midseason showcase in a non-franchise city speaks to the strong push by mayor Oscar Goodman, the Maloof brothers (who own the Palms casino and the Sacramento Kings), and other city promoters. More importantly, it's a significant step -- both in public relations and logistics -- toward bringing a major league team here, either by the expansion or relocation.

With a resident population of about 2 million, Las Vegas is on the small side of sports cities. But note that 30 to 35 million people visit here every year, and tickets to popular shows are always sold out. While an NFL or MLB team could theoretically work here, the advantage of bringing an NBA franchise boils down to two words: indoor play. A nice climate controlled arena would be steadily packed, and the built-in class structure of the seats (courtside, luxury boxes, general seating) lends itself nicely to corporations, casinos, high rollers, visitors, and locals. This is the city that mastered the status of the VIP.

I'm not sure what fact worked more in this city's favor: that there's a casino close to everywhere else, or that sports bookies are everywhere else. Either diminishes the stigma, and all of the local casinos have agreed to disallow betting on any home team.

Perhaps an unintended boon of a Las Vegas pro franchise will come to attorneys who practice family law. All those local ladies impregnated by the players of visiting teams. There'll be a lot of child support cases to be made.

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