Las Vegas’ sports scene owes much to this trio of owners

Numerous power brokers have contributed to turning Las Vegas into the nation’s fastest-growing major professional sports city, but three stand out above the rest in terms of visibility.

Here are the heads of the three largest professional sports organizations in town, and how they helped bring about the current golden age.

Dana White

Station Casinos CEO Frank Fertitta Jr. and Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta were the majority owners who brought the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion to Southern Nevada, but it was Dana White who convinced them to buy it in the first place. White saw colossal potential in the UFC when few others did and believed his adopted hometown (the Boston native initially met the Fertittas while a student at Bishop Gorman High) was the perfect place for its biggest fights.

The Fertittas sold the promotion to Hollywood-based Endeavor in 2016, but White stayed on as president and insisted the UFC’s headquarters remain local. Under White’s watch in Las Vegas, the UFC has turned into the global phenomenon he always promised. Forbes values the UFC at $12.1 billion, quite the jump from the $2 million for which the Fertittas and White bought it for in 2001.

Bill Foley

Many other billionaire or near-billionaire businessmen looked into bringing a major professional sports team to Las Vegas through the years, but it was this financial-services tycoon who took the leap of faith with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. Bill Foley was adamant that hockey wasn’t as odd a fit in the desert as outsiders claimed and backed it with his money—a then-record $500 million expansion fee once he was approved to own the team in 2016.

Two years later, during the team’s first season, Foley was already reaping the benefits, with a Stanley Cup Final appearance following a regular season in which the team posted some of the best attendance figures in the league. Six seasons later, the Golden Knights remain Southern Nevada’s most beloved franchise, especially after capturing a championship in July to make Foley’s initial “Cup in Six” pledge come true.

Mark Davis

The Raiders’ owner might have only officially brought the team to Las Vegas three years ago, but his interest in the area dates back much further. An ESPN story in 2017, shortly after plans for the Raiders’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas was finalized, revealed that Mark Davis had bought domain site in 1998 and renewed it every year thereafter. And in 2000, he opted for a cellphone number with a 702 area code.

Davis and his late father, Al, thought Las Vegas would be a perfect place for the Raiders, who bask in their status as the NFL’s renegade franchise. The league blackballed the city for decades due to its reputation as a gambling mecca, but Mark Davis was ready to pounce as soon as attitudes began to soften. He briefly explored other cities, including San Antonio, after discussions for a new stadium in Oakland or a move to LA fell through, but he quickly homed in on Las Vegas as the team’s ultimate landing spot.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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