Posse finds CFL a hard sell in city that never sleeps

August 07, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- "They Better Bring Unitas."

That pronouncement topped a quarter-page ad in yesterday's Las Vegas Review-Journal, hawking the Las Vegas Posse's Canadian Football League game against the Baltimore CFLs last night at Sam Boyd Stadium.

No, the CFLs did not bring Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas.

But the bodacious advertising slogan spoke volumes about the selling job the Posse faces as it attempts to establish a CFL presence in the city that never sleeps.

Here amid the glitter and the ever-flashing neon, the expansion Posse has had to weigh in against a number of minor pro sports teams, all of which are treading water. It can't compete by being a milquetoast entity.

The Posse isn't even the only pro football franchise in town. There's also the Las Vegas Sting, an Arena League team that went head-to-head with the Posse last night and reduced all tickets to $10. The last time the Sting went up against the Posse -- July 23 -- it cut prices and drew 5,414, the second largest crowd of Vegas' indoor season.

The Posse (2-2) has done significantly better, but its two-game home average of 11,475 still ranks last in the CFL.

No one here is panicking, though. Not Nick Mileti, the owner. Or David Humm, the one-time NFL quarterback who serves as marketing director and radio and TV color man for the team.

"We said we'd be exciting and win, and we kept that promise," said Humm, who played for the woeful Baltimore Colts in 1980 and 1981, as well as two Super Bowl teams with the Oakland Raiders.

"Arena football is more like a rock concert. It's a young kid's game. I don't think they compete with us.

"This is my city. Between [coach Ron] Meyer, Mileti and me, we'll will this thing to work."

Humm, 42, was born in Vegas in 1952, when it had a population of about 25,000. "Now we've got a million in the metropolitan area," he said.

It is a city with as many things to do as there are hotels with gambling casinos. And it has a modest history for supporting football.

Steve Buratto, offensive coordinator for the CFLs, was defensive coordinator for UNLV from 1976 through 1979 under Tony Knap. He remembers the Rebels drawing "16,000 to 17,000 for the college game" in a stadium that held 22,000.

Now, Sam Boyd Stadium -- home of the Rebels and the Posse -- seats 32,000.

"It's a pretty good sports town," Buratto said. "To be honest, I'm surprised at the numbers they've drawn. I thought it'd be better. If you live here, they talk about sports a great deal."

As in almost every sports town, Buratto sees a correlation between winning and drawing fans.

Although a number of Las Vegas minor league teams have failed in recent years, one that has done well is the Triple-A baseball Stars.

"They've done a great job," Humm said. "Their secret is their facility. They play in 10,000-seat Cashman Field downtown. It's a great facility."

Humm said the Posse will meet with city officials next week to discuss plans for a multi-purpose domed stadium that might be built in time for the 1997 season.

For now, the Posse must contend with its blistering summer heat and fierce competition for the entertainment dollar.

"This is a tough-sell town," Humm said. "A lot of different sports have come through here. I've been with some great quarterbacks -- Kenny Stabler, Jim Plunkett -- and you can see it in the eyes.

B6 "With Mileti, it's in the eyes, too. We'll be OK."

LATE CFL GAME

Last night's Baltimore-Las Vegas Posse game in Las Vegas did not end in time to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions of The Sun and tomorrow's editions of The Sun and The Evening Sun.

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