Newspaper article International New York Times

Las Vegas Seems a Sure Bet to Get an N.H.L. Team ; New Arena Is Being Built, and 11,500 Have Paid Deposits for Season Tickets

Newspaper article International New York Times

Las Vegas Seems a Sure Bet to Get an N.H.L. Team ; New Arena Is Being Built, and 11,500 Have Paid Deposits for Season Tickets

Article excerpt

With a new arena being constructed and a wealthy businessman pursuing an expansion team, the N.H.L. in Las Vegas feels like a case of when, not if.

In a city built on chance, it feels like a safe bet that the N.H.L. will become the first major professional sports league to plant a franchise in this gambling and entertainment oasis in the desert.

The outer walls of a new arena are going up behind the New York- New York casino, and the interior is perfectly configured for hockey, from the dressing rooms to the press box.

The wealthy businessman Bill Foley is leading the way for an expansion team, bolstering his bid group with the Maloofs, a family of market-savvy former N.B.A. team owners with long ties to Las Vegas.

A goal of securing deposits on 10,000 season tickets was met this spring faster than anyone had expected, with the number sitting at 11,500, according to Foley, plus another 1,000 unpaid commitments from casinos and other businesses.

Now, N.H.L. owners are headed here for meetings and the league's annual awards gala Wednesday at the MGM Grand, part of the same resort company that owns New York-New York and is building the arena.

The N.H.L. in Las Vegas feels like a case of when, not if, with only the name of the team left to decide. Foley's hope is to have a team ready to play in 2017.

"I don't think anything at this point derails it," said Ed Graney, a columnist for The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The N.H.L., of course, presents a more measured approach. Despite speculation that the league wants to expand to 32 teams from 30, perhaps placing two teams in the West to balance its two conferences, the league has made no announcement of such plans.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has said only that he would update the N.H.L.'s Board of Governors -- its owners -- on interest from potential expansion markets, reportedly to include Seattle and Quebec City, and certainly to include Las Vegas.

"If the board has any interest in pursuing it, my recommendation would be, then, to open a formal expansion process," Bettman told reporters at the Stanley Cup finals this month. "And even if they green-light a formal expansion process, it doesn't mean we're going to expand. …

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