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How professional sports in Las Vegas could impact UNLV

Las Vegas, the largest city in the United States without a professional sports franchise, may be awarded their first on Wednesday afternoon after the NHL holds their Board of Governors meeting.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few months, there have been an abundance of rumors flying around about both the NHL and NFL moving into the Las Vegas market.

Well, the wait on one of those rumors may finally be coming to an end.

During Wednesday's NHL Board of Governors meeting, it's widely believed that the NHL will confirm all the rumors that surfaced last week, and announce that the league will be giving Las Vegas an expansion team beginning with the 2017-2018 season.

Furthermore, one day after the announcement by the NHL, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee will be meeting to discuss the financing plan proposed by Mark Davis of the Oakland Raiders, for a new 1.4 billion dollar NFL caliber stadium.

While these potential expansion/moves are very exciting for the city and the citizens, they both will have positive and negative impacts on the cities only current major sports franchise.  The UNLV Rebels.

With the decisions being made on Wednesday and Thursday affecting both UNLV hockey and the UNLV football programs, we will be taking a look at the positives and negatives that may come into play if a professional sports franchise is to move into the Las Vegas market.

Since the NHL will be making their announcement Wednesday afternoon we will start with the UNLV men's hockey team, which is currently a club sport, but with aspirations of becoming a Division I program in the near the future.

Pro's of an NHL team in Las Vegas

  • Exposure - Outside of the die hard UNLV fans, most probably were not aware that there was a UNLV club hockey team.  Having an NHL team in the same city will go a long way in giving the team exposure to Las Vegas residents that may not have even known they existed.

  • Transitioning to Varsity -  As reported by the Review Journal, the team, and its management, are actively pursuing a jump to the Division I level.  If hockey is successful in Las Vegas, it will make getting the required donations to support the move that much easier.

  • New playing facility - No it won't be the new T-Mobile Arena.  That's where the new NHL team will be playing (assuming Las Vegas gets one).  But, the new NHL team will need a practice facility, and billionaire Bill Foley will be constructing a practice facility Summerlin if he is in fact given a team on Wednesday afternoon.  This facility will have locker rooms, multiple rinks and seating.  All of which would be upgrades to the current rink they are playing at, the Las Vegas Ice Center.

Con's of an NHL team in Las Vegas

  • Competition - Even if the team is able to transition to the varsity level, they will still struggle to draw fans who will likely prefer watching NHL level caliber play.  Especially, if the new NHL team isn't as terrible as other expansion teams have been in the past.

  • Transitioning to Varsity - While having a professional team in the city would go a long way to raise the required money to make the jump, they may not be able to, even if the funding is there.  The UNLV athletic department is already projected to run at a deficit of over a million dollars for the next fiscal year.  Unless ticket sales pick up for both basketball and football, it might be hard to convince the athletic department to add a new sport, let alone two, which would be required by Title IX regulations.

Pro's of an NFL team in Las Vegas - A new stadium

  • Ticket Revenue - The Rebels currently play at outdated Sam Boyd Stadium, which was built in 1971 and has a capacity of 35,000 - 40,000.  A new NFL caliber stadium, built closer to campus, would likely hold 65,000 and would go a long way in exciting a fan base and increasing ticket revenue for an athletic department that could desperately use it.

  • Recruiting - There's been quite bit to be excited about with how Tony Sanchez has been able to attract the type of 3 star recruits that UNLV fans haven't seen in, well ever.  He's doing that with outdated facilities and a stadium that is less than half full on most game days.  Imagine what he will be able to do with a state of the art NFL stadium as a recruiting tool.  That would definitely give him a leg up on the recruiting trail against other Mountain West coaches.

  • Move to a Power 5 Conference - A new stadium won't be the only factor the Power 5 Conferences will use when looking at potential Universities to bring in, but it will definitely help UNLV's case.  They would be the only school in the Mountain West with facilities that would rival, or top, those of the schools in the Power 5.

Con's of an NFL team in Las Vegas

  • Competition - While getting a stadium out of the deal would be great, the main question, or con, will be competition.  UNLV has struggled mightily at keeping the fans interest while being the only act in town.  If they struggle when there are no other teams to compete against, how are they suppose succeed when they are competing against the almighty NFL for control of the Las Vegas market.

Regardless of the pro's and con's of a professional franchise moving in, it's an exciting time for the city of Las Vegas.  If they are awarded an NHL team on Wednesday afternoon, it  will mark the end of the antiquated notion that the city shouldn't be allowed to have professional sports teams due to the wide availability of sports gambling.  And hopefully an end to the thought that all Las Vegas residents live in hotels on the Strip.