It has been 46 years since my one and only visit to Las Vegas. In January 1971, Howard Hughes was still holed up at the Desert Inn, and Ol’ Blue Eyes had just finished a New Year’s engagement at Caesar’s Palace. You could get dinner for two in the big room at Caesar’s for less than $40, including a bottle of wine.
These days, the city is home to more than a million people, and it’s about to join the big leagues of sport. First up will be hockey with the Golden Knights joining the NHL in September. They could be competitive rather quickly thanks to a very generous expansion draft. Then, two or three years from now, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be re-born in the desert, playing in a $1.7 billion stadium.
The boys in black have quite a history, dating back to 1960 when the late Al Davis was one of the founders of the old AFL. In the 1980’s they wandered south to Los Angeles for a few years, but when that failed, Oakland was happy to welcome them back. Now the Davis family is abandoning the Bay area once more.
The last time pro football was tried in Vegas was a CFL team called The Posse in 1994. They had a green young quarterback named Anthony Calvillo, and a few thousand people showed up to watch their games in sweltering heat. We have Senator Larry Smith to thank for that sorry chapter in the history of 3-down football.
On the face of it, Las Vegas should be a sure fire winner for both hockey and football, and probably major league baseball at some point. Years ago I think there was some reluctance to put teams there because gambling is such a dominant business, and the folks who run it are not always Boy Scouts. But I’m sure there are prairie folks who follow the Jets and the Oilers who just can’t wait to follow their team down south in January, drawn by something other than gambling which is widely available at home these days.
I’m Roger Currie