It’s way back in 2009. You’re bobbing to “Party in the U.S.A.” and talking Las Vegas sports with your buddy when he asks you to predict which will happen first: the city getting its own professional hockey team, or a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight. (I don’t know why he’s asking you this, but just assume your friend has ridiculously accurate foresight.)
Well, here we are more than a half-decade later, and Mayweather-Pacquiao appears to be falling apart yet again. But that other thing? Looks like that’s going to happen.
By all accounts, the NHL is dedicated to adding two Western Conference expansion teams for the 2016-17 season, and as we noted in our cover story last month (“Here’s Our Shot,” Jan. 15), a Las Vegas ownership group headed by finance mogul William Foley is pushing hard for one of the franchises. The NHL is more than mutually interested—in fact, Commissioner Gary Bettman attended a February 10 news conference at the MGM Grand announcing the start of the would-be franchise’s season-ticket drive, and though he said the NHL could make “no promises,” his presence at the event spoke volumes.
If you believe Foley, sealing the deal will be as challenging as scoring an empty-net goal: “I would be amazed if we don’t get a franchise,” Foley says.
The infrastructure is already in place, from the ownership group (the Maloof brothers are also involved) to the venue (the under-construction arena behind New York-New York) to a marketing arm that’s ready to spread hockey fever across the Valley (they ran a local television ad during the Super Bowl).
The only hurdle left to clear? The ticket drive, which is being used to prove (or disprove) to the NHL that Las Vegas wants and will support a franchise. So far, so good: Less than 48 hours after Foley’s February 10 news conference, the group—which hired eight full-time salespeople to spearhead the effort—was already halfway toward reaching its goal of 10,000 season-ticket deposits.
There are various ticket packages available, with deposits ranging from $150 to $900 and terms ranging from a single season to as long as 10 years. There will be a promotional blitz to attract fans, with more TV ads in the works, along with billboards and radio spots. Facebook and Twitter accounts are already actively trying to rally the community.
Even before the ticket drive got off to a roaring start this week, Foley made it clear that he viewed securing 10,000 deposits as a mere formality. He says he and his team have spent 20 months putting together its NHL proposal, and that they’ve planned for every contingency.
“Las Vegas is enthusiastic about it,” he says. “Las Vegas’ identity today is an entertainment town. People go to great restaurants, gamble and enjoy themselves. But this team will give Las Vegas a real identity as an American city. It will give the city a major league sports franchise to rally around. I’m very, very confident it’s going to happen and that Las Vegas will support this effort. There just aren’t any negatives.”
And if Foley gets those 10,000 signatures, then what? “Then I’m on a plane to New York to meet with the commissioner.”
When he’s finished there, maybe he can work on finalizing that Mayweather-Pacquaio deal…