A recent report in Vancouver, BC-based The Province said that the USA Sevens tournament will be moving after this year's event in Las Vegas, and there's every reason to think that this could be the case.
First, a caveat. If the USA Sevens stays in Las Vegas, then fans will come and enjoy themselves. How the tournament now is not a bad thing. The USA Sevens has been in Vegas since 2010, and the move then was a catalyst for the tournament to drastically increase its attendance. Last year, United World Sports, which owns the rights to the USA stop on the Sevens World Series circuit, reported total attendance of over 80,000 for the three days.
So why move? Here are five reasons:
Attendance is good but ...
In fact attendance hasn't risen appreciably in the last three years. Even when a Women's World Series stop was added, attendance didn't really change. At some point, when the product on the field is world-class, and there's much more to recommend going to the USA Sevens, you have to wonder if a change makes sense.
Sam Boyd Stadium has its drawbacks. It's limited in size—no it doesn't completely sell out every day of the USA Sevens, but there's not a lot of room to expand into good seats. The stadium isn't up to date. There's not a lot of places to watch and keep out of the sun, for example, and the concourse isn't open the way modern concourses are—open so fans can see the action while they wander around or get a drink.
Las Vegas is fun, exciting and varied in the attractions it provides, and the event organizers leveraged that about as well as you could. But ... the stadium is about a 30-minute drive from all of that action. That isn't changing until the new NFL stadium is completed in 2020. So why doesn't the tournament wait for that stadium to be completed? Here's a bit of a guess: it will be very, very expensive to rent.
Las Vegas is fun for visitors, but with smoking allowed in many of the hotels, it's actually a tough place for the athletes. The distance from the fields and the fact that the playing surface at Sam Boyd is narrower than other fields on the World Series circuit are also issues that have been bearable while the tournament was growing. But now, all other things being equal, those factors aren't exactly going to keep the event in Vegas.
Jon Prusmack, who started United World Sports and was the financial and emotional backing behind the USA Sevens when he bought it in 2006, died at the end of 2018. His death means UWS has to think more deeply about the future. The bottom line, and growth potential, are what an investor wants to see.
Add to that all of the other factors, and to grow the attendance you need a more modern venue, maybe a new location to shake things up and a place where perhaps you can leverage an 80,000-attendance event to get favorable terms.
So where could they go?
The USA Sevens in 2020 would still need to be in a dependably warm-weather city, a city people want to visit and with the right kind of venue. Some thoughts:
San Jose / Santa Clara - Not exactly a destination city, but the corporate partnership opportunities would be huge, and the area has two excellent stadiums to use.
Florida - The weather would be good, you'd get the South American fans and the overseas fans (especially from Europe) would welcome a trip to the beaches. Maybe Tropicana Field in Tampa or Marlins Park in Miami?
San Diego - Wait, didn't we already do this? Yes, and one of the reasons the USA Sevens left San Diego was that PETCO Park was asking too much money. Maybe this time around things will be different. PETCO is still a pretty great venue, the location is good and the city is fun to visit.
Texas - The Lone Star State has about 20 stadiums that would work for the USA Sevens, but it's the city and venue combination you need.
Atlanta - Suntrust Park, anyone?
You'll notice that a lot of these suggestions are baseball fields. Baseball stadiums are really, really good for international sevens.
We haven't mentioned the associated invitational tournaments, but you'd need a place that can accommodate a major participational tournament, as well.
We'll see who is in the mood to roll out the welcome mat for a unique event that deserves a good home.