LAS VEGAS – Brett Lashbrook is a tough guy to read. Boasting a parma-smile, seemingly inexhaustible supplies of energy, and the ability to speak in hyperbolic but still somehow feasible sentences, he’s the perfect person to make a home in Las Vegas. He won’t just make you believe the dream is real; he’ll make you believe you can — and should — be along for the ride.
Lashbrook, the CEO and owner of the Lights, the city’s United Soccer League team, came to Vegas like many others, with a home elsewhere (the midwest), a background in law and business (working for Major League Soccer in the commissioner’s office, and as COO of the Orlando City Soccer Club – which finished its first MLS season in 2018), and a goal in mind. His was simple: Bring soccer to Las Vegas and capitalize on an untapped population that was previously pushed to the margins in favor of tourism, most notably on the five miles of the Strip.
“There are 2.2 million of us who live here: none of us live in that five miles,” Lashbrook says on the field at Cashman Stadium in early March. “But due to the stigma of sports gambling, major league teams were hesitant to be here. We are just catching up from 20 years ago.”
That stigma is changing, and Lashbrook wants to be part of it. Vegas was the second-largest city in the world without a soccer team, and completed its first season in 2018. The first year they shared Cashman with the 51s (now the Aviators), previously the AAA affiliate of the Mets, but now the Athletics. The Aviators moved to Summerlin, a community west of Las Vegas proper, and Lashbrook stepped in to make Cashman more soccer friendly.
In June, the team and city took the next step towards potentially getting an MLS team when the city council unanimously approved plans to build a new stadium at the Cashman Field site. The team would continue playing while negotiations with the league and construction occur. That’d make for a fourth pro sports team in Las Vegas, which had none just a few years ago. And that’s only the beginning.
“Teams should reflect their community,” Lashbrook says. “The Packers and the Steelers reflect that Midwest, hard-working attitude. The Lakers reflect that Showtime mentality. We live in the entertainment capital of the world. In a city that allows us to color outside the lines. To be unabashedly Las Vegas.”