Is NHL ready to gam­ble on Ve­gas?

Putting an ex­pan­sion team in Sin City could be a risky propo­si­tion

SundayXtra - - SPORTS SPECIAL - By Kevin Allen

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

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