Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau
Monday, March 27, 2017 | 1:56 p.m.
As owner of the first major pro sports franchise in Las Vegas, Bill Foley of hockey’s Vegas Golden Knights congratulated Raiders owner Mark Davis today on becoming the second.
“On behalf of the entire Vegas Golden Knights family, I would like to welcome and congratulate Mark Davis and the Oakland Raiders on their relocation to the great city of Las Vegas,” Foley said. “It truly is an exciting time to be from Las Vegas. There is only a select group of cities in North America that are home to both an NHL and an NFL franchise and Vegas is now one of them.”
The city is only nine months removed from having no professional sports teams, and before Foley’s efforts to bring the NHL to Las Vegas, it was never seriously considered by most leagues.
“This alone should be a great source of pride for our community and our fans,” Foley said. “Las Vegas has always been one of the most popular destination cities in the world, and it is now emerging as a premier location for major league professional sports.”
But Foley knows the Raiders coming to town will create competition for ticket dollars.
“If I had complete control of the situation, I would not have opted to have the Raiders come here,” Foley told Brian Blessing on the Vegas Hockey Hotline radio show. “But I didn’t, so I welcome them.”
If not for Foley’s vision for major sports in Las Vegas, Mark Davis and the Raiders may have never considered the move. Las Vegas is a smaller market than Oakland and many other NFL cities, but Foley’s season ticket drive that sold nearly 13,000 seats before the team was even awarded a franchise showed Las Vegas was ready for professional sports.
“I don’t want to speak for the NFL, but they had to be watching during the ticket drive and all the positive press that the city received during that,” Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz said. “I give Mr. Foley a lot of credit, because he put in a lot of hard work for those couple years to get to a place where the NHL said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Unlike Davis and the Raiders, who will get $750 million in hotel room tax money to help fund a stadium, Foley brought the Golden Knights to Las Vegas without any public funding. T-Mobile Arena was privately funded, and Foley paid the NHL’s $500 million expansion fee himself.
“I felt like there were a lot better ways to spend $750 million than bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas,” Foley said on Vegas Hockey Hotline. “We could spend it on police, firefighters and teachers and have them all be the best in the country. But I guess we’re going to spend it on the Raiders.”
Bubolz said, however, the Raiders would provide some benefits for the hockey team.
“What it does bring is the visibility of the NFL, which gives all of us a broader platform,” he said. “National sponsors that maybe wouldn’t have considered Las Vegas before will now see it as somewhere they want to be, and the Golden Knights will be part of that.”
Bubolz has experience working in a city with multiple sports teams. He was previously president of business operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“People sometimes think that we did better when the other teams were playing poorly, but that’s not the case,” Bubolz said. “When the Indians and Cavs were both having great seasons, we did even better. Sports bring the community together and contribute in a positive way about how people feel about themselves. When they’re in a more positive mood, they are willing to spend on tickets and merchandise. Everybody wins in that situation.”