The National Lacrosse League’s Las Vegas franchise may not even have a name yet, but it already has one of the most-recognizable ownership groups in all of professional sports. The rumored star-studded ownership group was officially revealed on Monday as the league introduced Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai along with NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, PGA pro (and Gretzky’s future son-in-law) Dustin Johnson and Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.
“I was so excited, so thrilled and so honored to come on board and be a part of this,” Wayne Gretzky said. “Great organizations start with great ownership.”
It was just a month ago that lacrosse fans learned that Las Vegas, Nevada would be the home to the NLL’s 15th franchise, with the team set to take the floor for the 2022-23 season. While the team is still without a name, they generated quite the buzz in both the lacrosse community and mainstream sports media alike.
The new franchise’s CEO, Mark Fine, spoke to his excitement for his new role and what enticed him about bringing an NLL team to the Sin City.
“There were two things (about the market) that really stuck out to me…” Fine said. “Number one, Las Vegas is a sports town. As someone who has been in sports and entertainment for 20 years, I couldn’t think of a better place to start a franchise. This is an incredible opportunity because Las Vegas is such a great sports town.”
Fine went on to discuss the second factor that excited him so much about joining the Vegas franchise: innovation.
“We want to be innovative in regards to how we conduct our business. Looking at analytics to see how we drive ticket sales and how we drive corporate partnerships. That’s something that Las Vegas very much is.”
Tsai and Gretzky, the two owners on hand, spoke about why being a part of the new franchise made so much sense and shared their connection to the game. They even got a few tosses in before the during the announcement.
No, your eye’s aren’t deceiving you. That’s Gretzky and Tsai throwing BTBers.
Tsai is not stranger to professional lacrosse. This will be the second NLL franchise owned by Alibaba founder and chairman of BSE Global. Tsai purchased another previous expansion franchise, the San Diego Seals, in 2017. Tsai spoke about wanting to grow the game in the Nevada region after he visited for a tournament with his children.
“I still remember that trip when I took my sons to a tournament in Henderson at Heritage Park. Las Vegas has lacrosse. They actually have a lacrosse community,” Tsai said. “Even though this city is really heavy on entertainment, we don’t want to make entertainment for tourists. We want to make sure that we’re deep rooted, we have grass roots support… We want to have a team that is by and for the local community.”
Johnson and Nash were unable to attend the in-person event, but sent in videos discussing their excitement for the launch of the NLL’s newest franchise
“I’m really excited about the new lacrosse team coming to Las Vegas and I couldn’t be more excited about being apart of this great ownership team…,” said Johnson. “Las Vegas is a great city with high energy and a lot of fun and I can’t wait to come out and celebrate with everyone.”
Nash, who just concluded his first season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, was approached by Tsai about joining the ownership group.
“I thought to myself, you know, we now have one of the greatest Canadians as part of the ownership group and it just so happen that I’m in close proximity to another great Canadian because he coaches the Brooklyn Nets,” Tsai said smiling. “We feel just so lucky to have this incredible group of owners, including Steve.”
Nash echoed Johnson’s excitement about his part in the NLL’s newest franchise.
“I am honored and excited to be able to play a role in bringing box lacrosse to the great sports fans of the city… As a Canadian, lacrosse has always been a passion of mine,” Nash said. “Ever since I started playing in grade school, I had a connection to the box game in particular.”
Nash went on to give a shout out to the team he followed as a kid, the Victoria Shamrocks of the WLA, as well as his favorite player Kevin Alexander.
“I’m going to bring the same passion I have as a sports fan, a professional athlete and now as a coach to my role as an owner of the NLL Las Vegas expansion franchise.”
The franchise will play at MGM Resorts International’s Michelob ULTRA Arena, located inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The arena is currently home to the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA.
Mandalay Bay president and CEO, Chuck Bowling, didn’t mince words when discussing his passion for the city and the success the franchise could have from the jump.
“I know you have 14 other cities around North America (in the NLL), but they’re no Las Vegas. We do it better than anyone else,” Bowling said. “And so not only are we going to build a championship team here, the experience that the fans are going to be able to see will rival anything their going to see across the county.”
Bowling went on to reiterate the importance of what bringing another franchise to the area can do for the community outside of just entertainment value.
“It has been a tough year. What this does to bring economic value back to our community and continue to hire people back in the community after the last year,” Bowling said. “I think that sends a great message of hope for Las Vegas and that is something that I know everyone is ready to see and hear.”
The new Las Vegas franchise will announce more details on team name and logo at a later date. The organization will utilize fan suggestions to determine the team’s new identity. If the franchise wants to use their ownership group as inspiration, we think “Las Vegas Legends” has a nice ring to it.
What are your thoughts on the new NLL Las Vegas franchise? Let us know in the comments or on social media.