Las Vegas Raiders, Not the First Pro Football Team in Sin City
by Randy Snow
Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Sunday, April 2, 2017
With the recent news that the NFL has approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020, it reminded me that there have already been several pro football teams in Vegas. A total of six teams, in four different leagues, have called Las Vegas home with various degrees of success. Here is a brief look at those other teams.
1994 Las Vegas Posse (CFL)
The first pro football team to try its hand at making a foothold in Vegas was the Las Vegas Posse of the Canadian Football League. The team played its home games at the University of Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium. It was not big enough to hold a regulation size CFL field. Instead of 20-yard end zones, they were only 15 yards in length.
They had a rookie quarterback by the name of Anthony Calvillo, who went on to have a great, 20-year CFL career, mainly with the Montreal Alouettes. He has been selected for induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this fall.
The Posse posted a 5-13 record in its only season. Attendance was so bad by the end of the season that their final home game was moved to an away game and played at Edmonton.
2001 Las Vegas Outlaws (XFL)
The Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL also played its home games in Sam Boyd Stadium. They hosted the first ever XFL game on February 3, 2001 against the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. The most famous player on the team was running back Rod Smart, who used the nickname “He Hate Me” on the back of his jersey.
The Outlaws posted a 4-6 record during the 10-game regular season. The entire league folded at the end of the season.
2009-2012 Las Vegas Locomotives (UFL)
The Las Vegas Locomotives played in all three title games of the United Football League. They defeated the Florida Tuskers in overtime 20-17 on November 27, 2009 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The two teams met again on November 27, 2010 with the Locos winning again 23-20. This time, the league championship game was played at a neutral site in Omaha, Nebraska. On October 21, 2011, the Locomotives lost in the UFL title game to the Virginia Destroyers 17-3 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The UFL started its fourth season in September 2012. They played just four of the schedules eight regular season games when the league announced on October 20 that the four remaining games, as well as the league championship game, would be postponed until the spring of 2013. A lack of sufficient funds was cited as the cause of the postponement. The league never played again. On March 7, 2013, seventy-eight players filed a lawsuit against the United Football League for $1.5 million in back wages and punitive damages.
Even though the UFL folded after three and a half seasons, the Locomotives did bring two pro football championships to the city.
1994-1995 Las Vegas Sting (Arena)
The first of three Arena Football League teams that played in Las Vegas was the Las Vegas Sting. They posted a 5-7 record the first season and made the playoffs, losing on the road to the Albany Firebirds 49-30. The 1994 Sting played its home games at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
In 1995, the Sting posted a 6-6 record but missed the playoffs. The second season they played in the Thomas and Mack Center.
The Sting moved to California after the 1995 season and became the Anaheim Piranhas from 1996-1997 before folding for good.
2003-2007 Las Vegas Gladiators (Arena)
The Gladiators came from the east coast where they were originally known as the New Jersey Red Dogs from 1997-2000. They then became the New Jersey Gladiators in 2001 and 2002, moving to Las Vegas in 2003. While in Vegas, the team posted 8-8 records in each of its first three seasons. In 2006, their record dropped to 5-12 and in 2007 they had a dismal 2-14 record.
The Gladiators only made one playoff appearance while in Las Vegas. That was in 2003 where they lost on the road to the Arizona Rattlers 69-26. The Gladiators played in the Thomas and Mack Center from 2003-2006 and then moved to the Orleans Arena in 2007. In 2008, the team moved to Ohio and became the Cleveland Gladiators, where they remain to this day.
2015 Las Vegas Outlaws (Arena)
The Thomas and Mack Center was also the home to this one-year team. It was owned by singer Vince Neil of the rock band Motley Crew. Lackluster attendance and a 5-12-1 record led to the team only lasting one season. The league took over running the team in mid-July along with another team, the New Orleans Voodoo. The league cancelled a game that was scheduled between Las Vegas and New Orleans resulting in a 1-1- tie. At the end of the season, both teams folded.
So, in all, six pro football teams have come and gone in Las Vegas since 1994. Does the NFL have what it takes to make a team in Sin City work? Only time will tell, but if anyone can, it’s the NFL.