I have a confession to make; I get a kick out of reading sports related comments on social media. Yes, I know you get the trolls and virtual finger pointing at one another, leading many times into a hot mess of vulgarity and poor spelling.
But it’s fun.
Not that I always bother to weigh in with my thoughts. But occasionally, I find some arguments interesting. Perhaps in a slow motion car crash kind of way.
One online argument I see time and again refers to the NHL’s newest franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. How could the NHL allow another team to go into a non-traditional hockey market? Especially over a market like Quebec City, equipped with a brand new, state of the art arena that’s custom made for an NHL team. How does this make sense?
Well, let’s try to piece it together. There is a little history with the NHL and Las Vegas. The very first NHL outdoor game was held in Vegas in 1991 between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings, in a pre-season match-up, outside of Caesars Palace. Well that’s hardly traditional. And other outdoor games have been held in Vegas since, including teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.
So you can’t argue Vegas hasn’t had a taste of NHL hockey before.
Fast forward to June of 2015 when the NHL decided to open up bids for any new potential expansion teams. Enter financial magnet, and life long hockey fan Bill Foley who put his name down, (along with the Maloof Family, former owners of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA), along with $500,000,000 to help secure an NHL franchise for Vegas. Quebec would once again end be left out in the cold as their bid was not approved.
Meanwhile, the Vegas franchise has been full steam ahead. George McPhee was hired as the General manager and Gerald Gallant is the team’s first head coach, (both solid hockey guys). Then going through and expansion draft, the rookie draft, free agency, to hiring a broadcast crew, and here we are today.
Oh, and a sold out T-Mobile Arena to play in.
In a smart move by the Vegas team, they worked closely with Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman, (the last “new” franchise in the league who play in a perpetually sold out Bell-MTS Centre), to figure out a season ticket strategy for their market that would help make ticket demand a realistic entity. And further securing hockey as a viable entertainment option in a city overflowing with entertainment options.
Okay, the question still remains. Why Las Vegas as an NHL city? Let’s look at Clark County, the main Vegas suburb itself and get some answers.
What seems to have been forgotten in all the discussion over Las Vegas is they have been experiencing some of the best population growth in the US over the last few years. (Source: https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-las-vegas/clark-county-3rd-in-nation-for-population-gain/ )Clark County is now home to over two million people. That would be more than almost every Canadian NHL market.
Their demographic continues to grow as Nevada continues it’s economic growth. Vegas isn’t just a gambling city anymore. It’s now a budding major center. And of course the NHL isn’t the only professional sports league that’s noticed this.
Mark Davis, owner of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders made his intention clear to move the Raiders to Las Vegas. But the Raiders, who have their own history of relocating their franchise before, had to get approval from the NFL Board of Governors first. And they certainly did. With only one franchise, (the Miami Dolphins), saying no to going to Vegas.
So what do two major sports leagues know about Las Vegas as a major league city that we don’t?
Demographics, that’s what. Clark County has the ideal age group, (25-50 years) and household income, (around 60K), that they’re looking for. (Source: https://statisticalatlas.com/county/Nevada/Clark-County/Household-Income).
Okay, so does this necessarily add up to ticket sales for sporting events though? Well so far, it appears so. There are countless millions yet to be made on ticket sales, merchandise, hotels, concessions, etc.
Should I even bring up the Knights have hired Cirque du Soleil to perform during intermissions?
A team that wins probably isn’t a bad idea either. The Raiders are getting good at the right time for their move. And the Golden Knights had the advantage of a much deeper expansion draft than any other team before them. They have the opportunity to get good fast. And with some smart hockey minds running the franchise, the odds are good for them to potentially over achieve in their first season.
Sorry Quebec, your time will eventually come. But right now, the smart bet is on Las Vegas.