After years of planning and previous failed attempts, the vision of a new sports and entertainment complex in Las Vegas has finally become a reality with the opening of the T-Mobile Arena on the Strip between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos.
One of the reasons the arena was built was to help lure a professional sports team to Vegas, and that too may come to fruition if an NHL team is awarded to the city.
A decision is expected to be made this summer on whether or not the NHL will expand to Vegas following a strong pitch by businessman Bill Foley, who has teamed with the Maloof family, former owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
Foley has done everything he can to bring a hockey franchise to Sin City even though the NHL has not added any new teams since 2000. There have been rumors that a current franchise could relocate to Vegas, although the goal all along has been an expansion team.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has overseen the addition of the Nashville Predators (1998), Atlanta Thrashers (1999), Minnesota Wild (2000) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2000) to the league. In 2011, the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets due to financial issues in Atlanta.
The league is currently unbalanced with 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference, so adding two teams in the West makes a lot of sense. However, Vegas has often been viewed in a negative light due to the city’s history with gambling, hurting its chances to get a pro sports team in the past.
The birth of the new arena should change that stigma associated with Vegas though and help further promote the city as the “entertainment capital of the world” instead. T-Mobile Arena is now the largest indoor venue for sporting events and music in Vegas, holding up to 20,000 people overall.
The arena is estimated to hold up to 17,500 fans for hockey and 18,800 for basketball based on floor configurations for each sport.
Locally-formed rock band The Killers officially opened T-Mobile Arena on April 6 with a sold-out concert, as the Vegas natives persuaded management to give them that special opportunity over The Dixie Chicks and boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, according to lead singer Brandon Flowers.
Other big musical acts such as Guns N’ Roses and Billy Joel are also booked for April while major sporting events like Canelo Alvarez versus Amir Khan for the WBC middleweight title and UFC 200 are also scheduled for the arena in the coming months. The arena’s ability to handle this high level of entertainment effectively and efficiently can only help its case for a team.
The addition of a retail and dining space called “The Park” adjacent to T-Mobile Arena that opened around the same time will also make the area a popular destination for tourists and residents alike.
But the hope of Foley along with developers MGM Resorts International and the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), who privately funded the arena, is that their gamble backed by a lot of hard work and dedication will ultimately pay off with an NHL team calling Vegas home in 2017.