Sports – March/April 2013
March – April 2013
BY CHARLIE JOHNSTON
Before you forego your next mortgage payment on tickets and associated costs for a major league or national sporting event—parking alone at San Francisco’s AT&T Park will set you back at least $30, assuming you can even find tickets following the Giants’ 2012 World Series Championship—perhaps you should consider taking in a game a little closer to home.
Whether you’re root-root-rooting for the home team at a Las Vegas 51s or Reno Aces Triple-A baseball game, hitting the hardwood with the Reno Bighorns basketball team, or annoying everyone in earshot with your vuvuzela at a Las Vegas Legends soccer match, Nevada’s array of professional and collegiate sporting events will keep you entertained without breaking the bank. Play ball!
Northern Nevada’s Triple-A baseball franchise, the Reno Aces, first took the field at Aces Ballpark in April 2009. Formerly the Tucson Sidewinders, the team is part of the Pacific Coast League and the minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In their four years in The Biggest Little City, the Aces have maintained a winning record, claimed division titles in 2011 and ’12, and defeated the Pawtucket (Rhode Island) Red Sox, 10-3, to claim the Triple-A National Championship on September 18, 2012. The Aces are set to host the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 15 and the nationally televised Triple-A All-Star Game on July 17.
Las Vegas 51s
Renamed in 2000 in homage to central Nevada’s mysteryshrouded, alien lore-laden Area 51, Las Vegas’ Pacific Coast League Triple-A franchise started its 30-year residency in Sin City as the Stars in 1983. The team was the city’s first professional sports team since the Las Vegas Wranglers baseball club left in 1958. The 51s were previously affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays (2009-2012), Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-2008), and San Diego Padres (1983-2000), and are currently affiliated with the New York Mets. The team, which plays its home games at Cashman Field, has amassed eight division titles (1983, ’84, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’92, ’96, and 2002) and Pacific Coast League titles in 1986 and ’88.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IN LAS VEGAS
The Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers are set to meet for a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas before the start of the 2013 season. Tickets for the March 16-17 games can be purchased at lv51.com or by calling 702-798-7825.
ITALIAN AMERICANS AT BAT: FROM SAND LOTS TO THE MAJOR LEAGUES
Exhibit at Reno’s arte italia honors some of baseball’s greatest.
Through May 19, the exhibit galleries of Nevada’s premier Italian cultural arts center, arte italia in Reno, will overflow with the stories of famed players such Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Tony LaRussa, Mike Piazza, Dustin Pedroia, Terry Francona, Jason Giambi, and more.
Italian Americans At Bat chronicles the history, contributions, and influence of more than 450 Italian Americans on baseball and explores the connection between the sport and the Italian immigration experience in America beginning in the early 1900s. Accompanying the collection of photos and press clippings of some of the greatest moments in baseball are vintage jerseys, memorabilia, and an educational interactive touch-screen with players’ memoirs, statistics, and career highlights.
The NBA Development League Reno Bighorns debuted for the 2008-’09 season. Interestingly, the team is Reno’s third basketball team with the moniker, the other two having played in the former Western Basketball Association (1978-’79) and Continental Basketball Association (1982-’83).
In the team’s five years it has been affiliated with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, and Orlando Magic and is currently affiliated with the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Utah Jazz. The Bighorns claimed the D-League’s Western Division title in 2010-’11.
Promotions such as “Building Bright Futures” with Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and “Drive Away in a Dodge Truck” give fans extra incentive to visit the Reno Events Center and take in a Bighorns game.
LAS VEGAS WRANGLERS
The Las Vegas Wranglers hit the ice in 2003 following the East Coast Hockey League’s takeover of the West Coast Hockey League, a merger that created the ECHL. Though the team had been affiliated with the NHL’s Calgary Flames (2003-’09) and Phoenix Coyotes (2009-’11), it is currently independent of NHL teams. In the Wranglers’ 10-year existence, the team has maintained the highest winning percentage in league history, won the league’s Brabham Cup for finishing the regular season with the most points (2007), taken home ECHL Pacific Division championships twice (2007 and ’08), and played in the league’s championship Kelly Cup Finals twice (2008 and ’12). In addition to league-wide admiration on the ice, the Wranglers are also a local darling, hosting entertaining promotions (such as “topless” hockey—see it to believe it) during games and having been named the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best Local Sports Team” three times (2005, ’06, and ’09).
Pond Hockey in the Desert
Temperatures hovering in single digits proved cold enough for Washoe Valley’s Little Washoe Lake to amass enough ice to support several pick-up games of hockey in January. The valley, about midway between Reno and Carson City, sits at a higher elevation than either city and typically sees much cooler days and nights. While the lake and its much larger neighbor, Washoe Lake, often freeze in winter, ice that is thick enough to support a person, let alone several of them playing hockey, is rare. Don’t believe me? Visit You-Tube, search “Pond Hockey at Little Washoe Lake,” and see for yourself.
Reno is set to be the home of the United States Bowling Congress Open and Women’s Championship this year. The Open Championship starts March 1, runs through June 30, and will be held at the National Bowling Stadium, while the Women’s Championship starts April 12, concludes July 8, and will take place on 44 specially constructed lanes at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
In addition to the championships, several side events for bowlers of all skill levels are also being held at the bowling stadium.
JOE KELLEY NAMED “PERSON OF THE YEAR” BY BOWLERS JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL
Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority Vice President of Facilities Joe Kelley was recently named “Person of the Year” by Bowlers Journal International. The publication, which has been in circulation since 1913, cites “insiders” who praised Kelley’s efforts in putting together a deal that will bring United States Bowling Congress tournaments to Reno’s National Bowling Stadium through 2030. “While I’m honored to receive this recognition…it’s really the entire community of policymakers in the area who earned this award for Northern Nevada,” Kelley says.
Nevada’s pair of universities have left some pretty big marks in sports, with such claims to fame as the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ men’s basketball team’s 1990 NCAA National Championship and University of Nevada, Reno’s standout quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to an NFC Championship in January.
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS REBELS
Founded in 1957 as an expansion of the University of Nevada, Reno, UNLV (called Nevada Southern until 1969) followed the monumental growth patterns of the city it occupied, surpassing its northern rival’s attendance by the 1977-’78 academic year. Today, the university is attended by more than 27,000 students and supports eight men’s and 10 women’s sports at the NCAA/ Division I intercollegiate level. Men’s sports at UNLV include baseball, basketball, football, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, and cheer and women’s sports include basketball, golf, cross country, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and cheer and dance.
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO WOLF PACK
Nevada’s oldest institute of higher learning, the University of Nevada, Reno was founded as the State University of Nevada in Elko in 1874 and moved to Reno in 1885. Today, the university is attended by more than 18,000 students and supports six men’s and 10 women’s sports at the NCAA/Division I intercollegiate level. Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, football, golf, rifle, and tennis and women’s sports include basketball, cross country, golf, rifle, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
NEVADA’S CIVIL WAR
Being the only two universities in the state, little love is lost between the Nevada Wolf Pack and UNLV Rebels. While the rivalry lives in virtually every corner of each campus—and in the hearts of alumni who relish any opportunity to laud the supremacy of their alma mater…GO WOLF PACK!—nowhere is it more pronounced than on the football field. Each fall the teams fight for bragging rights and the Fremont Cannon; the winner keeps the cannon and paints it in their school’s colors. The rivalry game has been played since 1969, save a few seasons in the 1980s when the teams did not meet, and Nevada leads the series, 23-15.
More than 100 golf courses make Nevada a golfer’s dream come true, and the big-name tournaments that tee off on the Silver State’s greens make it a golf fan’s dream come true as well. The Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational will return to Las Vegas for the third consecutive year, April 4-7, at the acclaimed Shadow Creek Golf Course and is known to attract the likes of Aaron Rogers, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens, Drew Brees, Cedric The Entertainer, and, of course, Jordan himself. The event’s Celebrity-Amateur Competition, April 4-5, pairs celebrity golfers with four amateur participants each, and the celebrity tournament takes place April 6-7.
The American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe returns to the lake, July 16-21, for its 24th year. Like Jordan’s invitational, the tournament features top-name athletes, actors, and entertainers.
The Professional Golfers Association of America’s PGA TOUR makes just one stop in Northern Nevada. The Reno-Tahoe Open at Montrêux takes place July 29 through August 4 and brings some of the biggest names in golf to The Biggest Little City in the World.
The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open happens October 14-20 at Las Vegas’ TPC Summerlin. The PGA TOUR event benefits the Shriners facilities and includes the Charley Hoffman Foundation Las Vegas Pro Am, MGM Resorts International Championship Pro Am, and four rounds of professional competition.
For three days in March, the eyes of the motorsports world are on Sin City. NASCAR Weekend—featuring the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series—at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 8-10, draws hundreds of thousands of spectators who, in addition to the main events at the 142,000-seat speedway, have access to qualifying and practice races as well as the chance to meet teams and drivers at the Neon Garage. The speedway’s dragstrip is also set to host the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series SummitRacing.com Nationals April 5-7.
And Nevada’s racing action isn’t restricted to the pavement. The Mint 400 returns to Las Vegas and the surrounding desert March 21-23. The self-proclaimed toughest, most spectacular off-road race in North America started as a public relations event to promote Las Vegas’ Mint Hotel’s deer hunt in 1967 and has been one of the city’s best-loved events since.
LAS VEGAS LEGENDS
Founded in 2012, Nevada’s newest pro sports team is the Professional Arena Soccer League’s Las Vegas Legends. Capping of its inaugural season around the same time that the magazine you’re holding went to press in early February, the Legends held an 11-3 record and had already clinched the PASL’s Southwestern Division title with two games remaining in the regular season.