Published Wednesday, June 22, 2016 | 12:30 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, June 22, 2016 | 1:43 p.m.
For years, every attempt Las Vegas made at scoring a professional sports franchise wound up blocked.
The city finally landed a shot in the back of the net this afternoon. An NHL franchise is coming here starting with the 2017-2018 season, the league’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, announced in a press conference at the Encore.
The NHL’s Board of Governors approved the expansion franchise unanimously in a morning meeting following the recommendation of a nine-member executive committee.
"We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity, not only for Las Vegas, but for the League as well," Bettman said.
Las Vegas’ to-be-named team will enter the league alone, perhaps increasing its chances to be competitive immediately, after the board deferred a decision on Quebec City, the other market to apply for a franchise.
New majority owner Bill Foley, a financial tycoon, beamed with pride as he soaked in a day he had worked toward for more than a year and a half. His ownership group must pay the NHL a $500 million expansion fee for the team, which it has been prepared to do for more than a year.
Foley also secured approximately 14,000 season-ticket deposits after Bettman asked for 10,000, and he agreed to a deal with MGM and AEG, which co-own T-Mobile Arena, where the team will play.
"NHL is the best league, a legendary league," Foley said. "Vegas is my home, along with 2.3 million people, and we want everyone to be a fan."
The news conference was open only to media, but Foley is planning a public celebration in September at T-Mobile Arena.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for more updates as they become available.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will finally reveal the fate of Las Vegas’ proposed expansion franchise this afternoon.
Any announcement other than a new team that will play its home games at T-Mobile Arena beginning with the 2017-2018 season would come as a major surprise. Bettman and the league’s 30 current owners have convened in an undisclosed ballroom at Encore Las Vegas for their Board of Governors meeting where they will vote on expansion.
That gathering precedes a scheduled press conference in the NHL Awards media center featuring Bettman, who will share the board’s decision. Prospective Las Vegas owner Bill Foley is expected to attend the press conference alongside Bettman.
It will be the first time Foley and Bettman have appeared publicly together since a season-ticket deposit drive in February 2015 at MGM Grand that launched Las Vegas’ expansion bid. Foley was back at MGM four months later to announce the league was officially considering expansion.
Foley provided updates along the way until recently, when he’s stayed mostly quiet in an attempt to let the NHL process run its course without causing any issues. If everything plays out as projected, he’ll have plenty to address after today.
The most immediately scrutinized decision will be giving the team a name. The Black Knights is the likely choice, given Foley registering his company under the name and getting permission from his alma mater Army to use it.
But he’s also mentioned holding a vote. Those are likely details for another day, though. Today is about ensuring the team is actually coming.
Follow along with the Sun’s live blog of the announcement, and continue to stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for more coverage.