I attended the Las Vegas Locomotives’ first game, at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2009. They beat the California Redwoods, 30-17, and went on to win the United Football League title that season, then repeated as champs in 2010.
The plan was always for the UFL to expand to other cities, where more fans could see pro-caliber players for bargain-basement prices ($10 for my ticket). But that didn’t happen. The Redwoods, along with teams in Florida and New York—three of the league’s original four—aren’t around anymore. They’ve been replaced by Omaha, Sacramento and Virginia.
And now, with the UFL still a money-losing proposition—league co-founder Bill Hambrecht has sunk at least $70 million of his own money into it so far—there’s talk of moving the Locos to another city or disbanding the UFL altogether. A decision is expected by the end of January.
So, what should the UFL do with the Locos? Let’s break down some Xs (pros) and Os (cons) for staying in Las Vegas:
X: The UFL’s coach is ex-New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, a terrific ambassador and a staunch supporter of keeping the Locos in Las Vegas. He’s given this town some quality football the past three years.
O: Too few have showed up to watch the games. Attendance has been continually low, with the stadium typically less than half-full. Also, for budgetary reasons, the first two games of this season were canceled.
X: Some within the UFL continue to express enthusiasm not only for expanding to six teams, but for partnering with the NFL in some way.
O: Even if those things were to happen, the Locos would face an uphill road. Whether it’s having so many other entertainment options (the Locos are considering Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Des Moines, Iowa) or that folks simply don’t take the UFL seriously here, the numbers are too sorry to overlook.
Verdict: Even as I hope for the continued existence of the family-friendly and affordable UFL, it’s time for the league to pull up stakes. If the Locos can’t fill seats even when they’re winning championships, what hope do they really have here?