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December 17, 2014

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No hockey at the Plaza; Wranglers seek another venue

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Steve Marcus

The downtown Plaza had planned to host Wranglers hockey games in a tent on its rooftop pool deck, but the team announced Wednesday, May 7, 2014, that it was pursuing another venue.

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A capacity crowd of 7,786 fans cheered on the hometown Las Vegas Wranglers as they played the Ontario Reign at Orleans Arena on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014.

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Wranglers forward Adam Huxley, right, vents his frustration against Alaska Aces defenseman James Martin during a stoppage in play on Friday night. Launch slideshow »

The ice-in-the-sky concept to turn the pool deck at the Plaza into a hockey facility for the Las Vegas Wranglers has proven too costly to complete.

The Plaza announced in a news release today that the Wranglers will not move their home games to the downtown hotel-casino. It cited the team’s concerns that the project had exceeded original cost estimates.

Team owner Gary Jacobs informed Jonathan Jossel, managing director of Plaza hotel parent company Tamares Group, in an email this morning that the team was moving on.

“The pool deck wasn’t going to be feasible in a time frame for us to play at the Plaza,” Wranglers President Billy Johnson said in a phone interview just after the release was issued via email.

“We do have another (plan) that we’ve dual-tracked in case things didn’t work out as smoothly as we’d liked with the Plaza,” he said.

Dual-tracked in this context means the team was simultaneously working out a plan for another venue.

Johnson declined to say where that facility would be located, but he did say ECHL officials have been kept informed during the team’s attempt to develop the site at the Plaza.

The original plan was for the team to play in a steel-reinforced, fabric-covered tent that would seat 3,500 to 4,000 fans on the hotel’s fifth floor between its two towers at 1 Main St.

When asked if the team would play its games in Las Vegas for the 2014-2015 season, Johnson said, “That is the point of dual-tracking, and that is our intent.”

The challenge facing the team now is a return to the mad-dash climate of late December through January, when the team was essentially given about six weeks to develop a deal to remain in Las Vegas after Boyd Gaming officials informed Jacobs that they would not renew a lease to play at Orleans Arena. That reality became public the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

That led to a scramble to find a new facility, with such suitors as MGM Resorts, World Market Center and Silverton Casino Lodge emerging as possible partners with the team. The deal with the Plaza was announced Feb. 14.

Johnson said the league wants a commitment from another venue operator “yesterday” but would hammer out a deal “quietly and appropriately.”

Johnson said the team could have something lined up this month, but he had no time frame for a public announcement. The team’s home season begins in November.

In its statement, Plaza spokeswoman Michele Voelkening of Purdue Marion & Associates said, “Everyone at the Plaza Hotel was excited about the prospect of being the new home of the Las Vegas Wranglers. We believed it was a great fit for our property, for downtown and for the fans. ... The Plaza remains committed to the downtown community and will continue to seek new ventures that will be a benefit to all.”

Unlike the hasty and acrimonious events that led to the team’s ouster from the Orleans, the end of this brief relationship is not so contentious.

“Jonathan Jossel and the Plaza had an amazing vision, and we wanted to see that through,” Johnson said. “We went very, very long to see it happen, and their boldness was just off the charts. ... But sometimes you just have to look at feasibility and understand when something just can’t work.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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