It looks like the National Hockey League may have settled on Las Vegas as the 31st and newest member club in the league.
A person with direct knowledge of the situation, told the Associated Press and TSN.ca, on conditions of anonymity, as nothing has been officially announced prior to the Board of Directors meeting in Las Vegas on June 22, that the league has settled on the choice of Las Vegas. Quebec City was also in the running for expansion as well.
If the source is correct, as long as the owners of the Las Vegas group can come up with the 500 million-dollar expansion fee, it would appear as if all odds are on Sin City become the 31st team in the league. TSN also is reporting that a second person that had been briefed on the situation, says that Las Vegas was pretty much a “done deal” following a recommendation by the expansion committee.
The league last expanded in 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets joined the NHL after paying an expansion fee of 80 million-dollars. Prospective Las Vegas owner, Bill Foley is a wealthy businessman that is not like to be turned away by the higher price tag for an expansion club.
The Las Vegas group says that they have secured over 13,200 season ticket deposits, since they began the bid processing. The team will be playing in the brand new T-Mobile Arena, located at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.
The multi-purpose, T-Mobile arena, seats 17,500 for hockey, and was built entirely with private money by MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owners of the Los Angeles Kings.
According to the 2010 Unites States Census, the Las Vegas area had almost two and a half million people, making it the largest metropolitan area without a major league sports franchise.
The days where professional sports tended to shy away from Vegas, due to the potential of corruption surrounding sports betting, have pretty much diminished too. This also has helped making Las Vegas look more attractive to the sports leagues.
Over the past few months, the Oakland Raiders have held discussions with the leaders around Las Vegas seeking a potential move to Nevada. Raiders owner Mark Davis has suggested he and his partners could get a 1.4 million-dollar domed stadium, near the Strip, mostly with public monies. Foley and the NHL though have been working with Las Vegas for a longer time in trying to bring ice hockey to the Strip.
The NHL has debated the decision of expansion for a few years now, with NHL Commission saying he was not concerned that it would dilute the talent pool amongst the league. Seattle and the Toronto suburbs have also generated interest in expansion, but were unable to join Las Vegas and Quebec City in this go around.
Quebec City had a strong bid, but the owners were concerned over the strength of Canadian dollar, as well as an imbalance in adding another Eastern team with the Eastern Conference currently at 16 teams and the Western at 14.
While the Arizona Coyotes have been struggling financially, and were even owned by the league at one time, while they were looking for strong permanent ownership, the league feels that hockey can still survive in the Southwest market of the United States.
While Las Vegas is in the middle of the Mojave Desert, hockey has had a major growth over the past 20 years. Jason Zucker, of the Minnesota Wild grew up and practiced in one of the three rinks within the city.
During the 1990’s the International Hockey League’s Las Vegas Thunder took the ice at the Thomas and Mack Center, where they attracted large crowds to their games. After the Thunder left town, the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL played their home games at the Orleans Arena.
Foley has not discussed what the potential Las Vegas team would be called, but his bid is run by the Black Knight Sports and Entertainment Company, which is also shares the name of his financial services company. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.