Updated June 4, 2021 - 7:25 am
When it was decreed that Las Vegas could reopen at 100 percent capacity this week, it was like the call to post at the Belmont Stakes.
Only Brett Lashbrook already was in the starting gate.
In the manner of the great Secretariat at the third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the promotional mind of the Lights FC owner has gone into overdrive as the local pro soccer franchise approaches a season of home games without spectator restrictions.
The first one is 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Tacoma Defiance at Cashman Field.
If you’re not familiar with the visitors — or for that matter, the home team that has opened the season with four road losses during which it has been outscored 15-3 — not to worry.
In minor league soccer, it’s not about the names of the teams or the players. It’s not about the 4-4-2 formation or deftly crossing the ball into the 18-yard box or anything else that sets apart “The Beautiful Game,” as the legendary Pele refers to soccer, from the other games.
In Las Vegas, it’s about cheap tickets, cheap pizza and cheap beer. And driving your car onto the pitch and parking it behind the bench, if you happen to drive a Toyota.
“Because John Barr will do anything to sell you a car, we came up with Toyota Row,” Lashbrook said of the ubiquitous Findlay Toyota general manager whose face adorns the inside of the Lights’ jersey this season as part of the automotive giant’s sponsorship of the team.
“We stole it from Gucci Row at UNLV basketball. This will be the place to be seen if you drive a Toyota.”
Initiatives that may appeal to soccer fans who don’t drive a Corolla or a Camry include Terrible’s Tickets (for every adult that pays $10 admission, a child gets in for $5), the Papa John’s Family 4-Pack (four tickets and two pizzas for $44) and, for larger groups or Brady Bunch-sized families, the Papa John’s Pizza Party Deal (20 tickets plus five pies for $100).
The climate-controlled restaurant behind home plate at 51s games when Cashman Field was a ballpark and the terrace that runs parallel to the old third-base line have been converted into an indoor-outdoor viewing area where you will be able to quaff mass quantities of Mexican beer (all-you-can-drink Estrella Jalisco) for $50. A game ticket is included in the price. The Uber/Lyft home is extra.
And don’t forget the wading pools along the touch line ($50, admission for four) that should provide relief on a sweltering evening. Cautionary advice: Splashing the opposing coach is (sort of) frowned upon and might be grounds for a yellow card.
But there’s a method to Lashbrook’s promotional madness. Instead of a sucker being born every minute, which is what P.T. Barnum believed, Lashbrook cottons to a notion that it is a potential soccer fan who is born every day in Southern Nevada.
His plan: Get each and every one through the turnstiles at a reasonable price.
Should they leap to their feet for a confetti shower — “We’ve got six industrial grade double barrel confetti shooters, and you’ll feel like somebody just won the Super Bowl every time we score a goal,” Lashbrook says — then providing the local sports fan with an affordable option to the Golden Knights and Raiders will have been worth it to the face of the franchise.
John Barr will be pleased.
Ditto for Lashbook, though he’ll be one llama short for the home opener.
He confirmed news that Dottie the Llama, half-sister to Dollie-Llama and half of the Lights’ popular grass-eating mascot team, has unexpectedly died.
“Do we put a tombstone in the outfield? Do we shoot off confetti in her honor?” Lashbook asked in a way that would have made Bill Veeck, the old baseball pitchman, raise an admiring eyebrow.
You could almost hear the exploding scoreboard between his ears begin to percolate.
🎉 4 Days To Home Opener! 🎉
Get Your Tickets Today: https://t.co/BlF7p0i4bC
— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) June 1, 2021
Tacoma at Lights FC
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Cashman Field