Tuesday, June 14, 2016 | 12:55 p.m.
It finally hit me last month when I first walked into T-Mobile Arena, that beautiful, 17,500-seat facility built by MGM Resorts International and AEG on the Strip. Soon there would be hockey players wearing sweaters with Las Vegas stitched on the front playing in this venue with the sport’s most prestigious league. They would be representing our city.
It was a feeling of pride, excitement and optimism. I know very little about hockey — can’t even name 10 players in the league — but immediately envisioned how bonkers residents would become if our hockey team made a deep playoff run. They are the type of meaningful nights of sports that bond a community together with a common goal of supporting the home team.
For months, Las Vegas has been considered a lock to receive an expansion National Hockey League team, but I wasn’t ready to believe it. Some of you also were skeptical because our hopes of landing a professional sports franchise had been crushed before. Today, thankfully, that changes.
Las Vegas has its first team, according to a report from the Associated Press. The franchise will begin play in the NHL in the 2017-18 season, finally placing our town in an elite fraternity of cities with major professional sports. We have arrived.
Thanks, Bill Foley. Thanks, MGM and AEG. Without you, this wouldn’t have been possible.
If Foley, a businessman who has made money in everything from real estate to wineries, wasn’t so persistent in wanting to own a team, and own one here, this would have never happened. He could have easily found other ways to spend his fortune or another town to bring a team to. Instead, he is ponying up expansion fees of about $500 million and will pour more into a practice facility near Summerlin and other startup related costs. He’s determined to build a successful franchise, on and off the ice.
If MGM-AEG didn’t combine to pay $375 million to build the hockey-ready arena, the team wouldn’t have happened. It was all private money; no harm to taxpayers. Past attempts to bring professional sports here didn’t succeed because there was nowhere to play and nobody willing to pay for a venue.
Yes, Foley and others have done their share. Now, it’s up to us, Las Vegas.
For this franchise to be successful, we have to support it. The Vegas sports fan is notorious for only getting behind winning teams. That can’t be the philosophy with hockey, especially considering expansion franchises typically aren’t instant successes.
Win or lose, we can’t stop cheering or taking an active interest in the team. It’s our team, after all. And we have to do more than buy tickets to the occasional game.
Stock your closets with Black Knight — or whatever the team ends up being named — gear, spend time each day with media following the team’s progress, and if you aren’t happy with how they are playing, post to a message board or call a radio show to voice your displeasure. This is how fans in big-time sports towns operate. It’s OK to be fanatical. It’s OK to let your kids stay up late to watch the game on a school night.
Don’t complain about traffic on the way to a game, parking or the price of concessions. Don’t leave a game early or show up late. If one of our players scores three goals in a game, throw your hat onto the ice to celebrate the hat trick.
Getting a team is a historic moment for Las Vegas. Together, we’ll continue making memories thanks to those players with Las Vegas stitched across their jerseys.