Is NHL ready to gamble on Vegas?
Putting an expansion team in Sin City could be a risky proposition
WHAT everyone understands about Las Vegas is it’s an intriguing venue for bachelor parties, gambling, vacations and retirement. What nobody knows about Vegas is whether it is the right place for an NHL franchise.
“I’ve never understood who the Vegas market is,” said former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button. “People live there (because they work there). I don’t know any Las Vegans or whatever you call them. I don’t know if you can have a professional sports team there if you don’t know who your market is.”
The answer will become clearer on Feb. 10 when billionaire businessman Bill Foley and former Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof launch a season-ticket drive for their proposed NHL team to play in the under-construction MGM Resorts-Anschutz Entertainment Group arena.
“If we sell 10,000 season tickets, I believe we will go a long ways to getting the franchise,” Foley told USA TODAY Sports. “Ten thousand is our number.”
The NHL has not committed to expanding beyond its 30 teams and is not making any promises about Las Vegas, but the board of governors agreed to Foley’s plan because it wanted more information about the market. Vegas has been mentioned with Seattle and Quebec as possible contenders if the NHL expands.
“What’s going in Vegas is that we have someone expressing an interest and I don’t know if he knows or we know what it represents because it is a unique market,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told USA TODAY Sports. “Before he continues his pursuit, he decided it was time to make an evaluation, from his standpoint and ours, whether this makes sense.”
Las Vegas is an attractive venue for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is a high-profile city without any franchises in the three other major sports. The arena, which will seat about 18,000 for hockey, will be completed in April 2016.
Adding teams in the West is desirable for the NHL, which has 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are about a four-hour drive from Las Vegas. The Arizona Coyotes are less than five hours away.
About two million people live in the Las Vegas area, and plenty have moved from traditional hockey cities.
“We are confident that this will come through for us because there are so many transplants who are hockey fans,” said Foley.
Foley said his group’s marketing resear 130,000 hockey fans, making $55,000 or m miles of downtown Las Vegas.
“If the NHL didn’t have interest in Las V they would not have brought their awards Strumm, a former NHL team executive w minor league Las Vegas Thunder in the 19
The NHL moved its awards night to Las has become a much grander event, with a celebrities in attendance.
What creates the uncertainty about Las never sleeps, meaning many people work have come from elsewhere. Do the right p time to support a team charging NHL tick
Pat Christensen, president of Las Vegas group that secures events for the city, said number of people working evenings might
“This is a town of big-time special event big-time special events,” he said. “I’m rath us being able to support that.”
According to Strumm, the key to makin ticket is to have early sellouts.
“People here in Vegas only want to go if ticket,” he said. “You want to go where you one to get a ticket. That’s the identity of Ve tickets.”
LAS Vegas has hockey tradition. The T defunct International Hockey League a Las Vegas franchise until this seaso “Minor league sports is a tough proposit said Strumm, who still lives in the area.
Strumm said casino support is the key b industry in town. Lack of support had hur
“Their identity for years was they want erties, 24/ 7,” he said. “Eating in the restau shows, playing the slot machines. To get a for the city, will some of the casinos jump
Foley, the majority owner, will ask peop $120 and $900 as a down payment during t drive. Foley’s group is developing a call ce ies and ticket purchases.
The Maloofs suggested establishing the ing 50. If you join the group and sell 60 se serve on the team’s advisory board. It has concept it has become the Las Vegas Foun pro poker legend Daniel Negreanu and box Mayweather.
There has been a buzz in Las Vegas abou He is trying to buy a home in Las Vegas, a wanted to talk to Foley about the NHL.
“I said; ‘Well I can tell you what I’m doin ‘Oh, no, no, I want to know how I buy ticke
Foley is an American, but, as a youngste