NHL Coming to Las Vegas as League Recommends Expansion Franchise in Sin City

Posted on: June 15, 2016, 12:21h. 

Last updated on: June 16, 2016, 01:14h.

NHL Las Vegas expansion team T-Mobile Arena
The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is likely to host an NHL expansion team during the 2017-2018 hockey season, the first-ever professional sports team to call Sin City home. (Image: Zenaida Reekie/Special to the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The National Hockey League (NHL) is ready to bring professional sports to Las Vegas and end the Big Four’s suppression of allowing a franchise to call Sin City home. If the reports from ESPN turn out to be true, the NHL’s executive committee will recommend to the league’s Board of Governors on June 22 to approve an expansion team based in Las Vegas.

The Board of Governors is the ruling body of professional hockey. Each of the league’s 30 teams elects a representative to the Board, typically the franchise owner, along with two other delegates.

The NHL has long been considering expansion and the addition of a 31st team. Las Vegas needs two-thirds approval from the Board to move forward.

Billionaire Bill Foley is the man behind bringing professional hockey to Sin City. The chairman of Fidelity National Financial will be on the hook for a $500 million expansion fee should the NHL approve the team.

“Las Vegas has been waiting for this for decades,” Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak told ESPN. “We’re a major league city. We deserve major league sports.”

The NHL and Foley haven’t talked publicly about the developments, though one source told The Associated Press that Vegas is basically a “done deal.”

Risky Bet

Professional sports and Las Vegas has mixed about as well as oil and water. Nevada legalized gambling in 1931 just two years after the stock market crash, and over the next 85 years, no pro sports league has been interested in doing business with Sin City due to sports betting.

The NHL dates back to 1917, and after decades of opposition from the NFL, MLB, and NBA, the odds seem to be changing in Vegas’ favor. But for Foley, the investment is certainly one not without plenty of risk.

Hockey is the least popular of the Big Four sports in the US in terms of revenue, and the Southwest has been reluctant to get behind the NHL. The Arizona Coyotes went bankrupt in 2009 and the league assumed control of the franchise until a new owner was found in 2013.

Located in the Mojave Desert, hockey isn’t exactly a national pastime for residents in the Silver State. However, that isn’t stopping Foley, a man worth an estimated $4 billion, from trying to bring the NHL to Las Vegas for the 2017-2018 season.

MGM Calls Sands

Foley and the NHL have reportedly been talking Las Vegas for more than a year, but efforts to bring the NFL to the desert by Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson have overshadowed hockey.

Davis and Adelson want to build a $1.4 billion football stadium near McCarran International Airport, and partially fund the construction with revenues generated through hotel occupancy taxes. MGM Chairman Jim Murren opposes the notion in favor of directing those revenues to the renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The two casino heavyweights each have their own motives.

Adelson relies on his own convention space during slow gambling periods to boost his Las Vegas Sands bottom line. On the other hand, Murren’s company just recently finished the $375 million T-Mobile Arena, a multiuse arena it owns a 50 percent stake in.

Foley’s proposed NHL franchise would call the T-Mobile arena home, meaning this round between Murren and Adelson goes to the MGM boss.