The potential ownership group seeking an NHL expansion franchise for Las Vegas has asked and been granted permission to begin a season-ticket drive to gauge the viability of the market, which is seeking to finally land its first major league sports team.
Bettman says potential Vegas owner Bill Foley has been given the green light to generate season-ticket drive to see what interest there is— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 8, 2014
The ownership group is fronted by billionaire William "Bill" Foley and includes the Maloof family. The potential team would play in MGM Resorts International and AEG's new 20,000 seat arena that is currently under construction.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tried to temper enthusiasm by pointing out that no official expansion process has begun. This is just a first step to see if the appetite for NHL hockey in Sin City, a unique market if there ever was one, is actually strong enough to warrant a next step. However, with the price of the next expansion franchise(s) expect to top $400 million, one would think that if the ticket drive is even moderately successful that Las Vegas will indeed be the league's 31st franchise and begin play as soon as 2016-17, or perhaps the year after.
Bettman: Board of governors had no objection to season-ticket drive by owners in Vegas to measure level of interest in the market.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) December 8, 2014
What the news does seem to prove, even if Bettman says otherwise, is that Las Vegas has leapfrogged Seattle, where arena plans are currently hamstrung by the condition of the NBA coming to town first, as the favorite to land a team in the NHL's potential latest (and hopefully final) round of expansion.
It will be interesting to see if Las Vegas does pass the market test, if the NHL will allow them into the league on their own or if they will be forced to wait for a suitable partner to join them in swelling the circuit's ranks to 32. In addition to Seattle, Quebec City and a second Toronto-area team are also heavily rumored to be in the running for new teams.