Did Having An NFL Team Around Effect Vegas Golden Knights Attendance?

Fans cheer during the Vegas Golden Knights' event (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Fans cheer during the Vegas Golden Knights' event (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

It’s the holiday season and the NFL regular season is starting to wind down. My New York Giants look to be the victims of another lost season, but thankfully I prefer sports played on ice. I’ll have the New Jersey Devils to fall back on, if they can ever figure out their power play.

This is also the first year that the Vegas Golden Knights shared their market with an NFL team. Okay, technically the Oakland Raiders relocated to become the Las Vegas Raiders last season, but this is the first year they had fans in the stands. Sports leagues once avoided Vegas and now it’s their hottest market for expansion.

The Vegas Golden Knights are no longer the only major sports ticket in town. That hasn’t kept fans from filling up T-Mobile Arena.

Although the Raiders move to the strip was much anticipated, there was some concern it might affect the Golden Knights. Hockey had been a massive success in the city and anyone who said “hockey can’t survive in Vegas” was left with their foot in the mouth and proven wrong. The Golden Knights were the only professional major sports team in town, so they had no competition as a “hometown” team. Even people who never experienced NHL hockey before became Golden Knights fans because Vegas was so happy to have a team.

Golden Knight’s owner Bill Foley welcomed the Raiders, but did voice concerns over competition as well how the Raiders stadium would be paid for compared to how T-Mobile Arena was built, however. Foley took a bit of credit for legitimizing Las Vegas as a city where professional sports could thrive and relented that an NFL presence in the city might help the golden knights attract attention and sponsors.

The Raiders have had a strong following in Las Vegas for decades. Las Vegas is currently also the only American NHL city where their hockey team has been there longer than their NFL team. That doesn’t include Los Angeles and St. Louis, who have had NFL teams come and go through relocation, or Tennessee where the Tennessee Titans moved to the state a year before the Nashville Predators, yet played in a different city before moving to Nashville permanently.

Now a quarter of the NHL season is done, as well as a majority of the NFL. Attendance figures for the Golden Knights haven’t suffered at all. They still rank top ten in NHL attendance in fans per game and have the highest percentage capacity in the league at 104%. That’s a slight decrease from 2019-2020 when Vegas average more fans per game and 105.4% attendance, but they were 13th in the league that year. Even if Vegas went down slightly (we’re talking around 250 fans per game) they’re still outpacing the overall decline throughout the league.

Not that it would really affect the Golden Knights, but interestingly the Raiders aren’t selling as many seats as I thought. They are selling 94% of tickets and currently at 27th in the league for average attendance. Those are still pretty big crowds of 61,090 fans per game, but considering the enthusiasm when the news was announced Vegas was getting their own NFL team I’d be surprised to hear even 65 of tickets went unsold.

The Raiders are in the playoff mix, but leads assume they don’t make it. With the Golden Knights as the only major sports ticket in town maybe that “minor” decrease in fan attendance will disappear. Point is whether there’s a new NFL team competing for sports fans dollar or not, Vegas residents still love their Golden Knights.