The National Lacrosse League and the San Diego Seals have big plans for Las Vegas.
The two entities will host a game in the city between the Seals and the Colorado Mammoth on February 1, 2020, at the Orleans Arena.
That weekend will also be the same weekend as the Super Bowl, one of the busiest sports weekends in Las Vegas. To take advantage of that, the NLL and Seals have set multiple objectives for the game.
For the Seals, the main objective is to establish the team as the league’s southwestern staple, as well as build fan loyalty. The team will provide its season ticket members with free hotel rooms in what Vice President of Business Operations Josh Gross said will be a six-figure expense.
“We made a commitment before announcing the expansion that we would dream bigger and provide fans with an experience that’s unparalleled,” Gross said. “So an opportunity to host a game in the entertainment capital of the world over Super Bowl weekend seems too good to be true.”
The hope is that the Las Vegas game will drive brand relevance for the team, particularly for fans back in San Diego. The Seals were the first professional team to expand to San Diego following the departure of the Chargers, and they want to do their part in filling that void.
“We’re not replacing them,” he said. “But our job as we dream bigger is to stand out.”
Along with helping expand the league and sport to a new city with a one-off game, NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said Las Vegas is an attractive market for potential expansion. Currently, five of the league’s 13 teams are west of the Mississippi River: San Diego, Denver, Vancouver, Saskatchewan, Calgary.
“The league has high-interest expansion-wise in Las Vegas,” Sakiewicz said. “The Golden Knights have proven to sports that Vegas will support major league sports.”
“This is a collaboration between the league and Seals to do something special and at the same time showcase the NLL product to the number of investors who have an interest.”
Sakiewicz is bullish on expansion, with two teams set to debut this season in New York and Halifax, and a team each of the next three seasons as well. The league currently has “half a dozen investors” interested in expansion teams, Sakiewicz said. He noted that at least one of the next three will be out west, and the league “really likes” Las Vegas.
Part of what energizes him in regards to expansion is selling nearly one million tickets last season – a 28% increase from the season prior – and a 27% increase of average unique viewers in digital viewership through Turner and B/R Live. League sponsorship revenues are also projected to increase by 29% from 2018 to 2019.
Sakiewicz also said 60% of ticket sales were from fans who’d never played lacrosse, which helps drive the expansion outside lacrosse’s typical U.S. Northeast footprint.
“We love what the Golden Knights have done and their season ticket base shows it’s local, not just people visiting,” he said.
While San Diego has been spurned many times in the past by pro teams leaving the city, most recently by the Chargers, Gross said that the Las Vegas game is not an indicator the Seals are making a move. The game and the hotel rooms are meant to be a play for San Diego fan loyalty.
“We knew there would be potential naysayers,” Gross said. “Why would we give the season ticket owners what will be a six-figure expense if we were departing? There would be no reason to do so, we amplified the value of season ticket membership.”
“We’re extending the brand to reach fans beyond Southern California and ideally become the chosen team of NLL fans in the southwest.”