LAS VEGAS (KXNT) – After months of speculation, the National Hockey League made it official Wednesday, awarding an expansion team to Las Vegas to begin play in the 2017-2018 season.
Speaking after the league’s Board of Governors meeting Wednesday morning at Encore Las Vegas, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league’s owners voted unanimously that the time was right to create the league’s 31st team – and Las Vegas was the perfect market to host that organization.
“This is a tremendously exciting opportunity not just for Las Vegas, but for the league as well,” Bettman said. “We are delighted that Las Vegas will be part of our exciting future.”
The as-yet unnamed organization will represent Las Vegas’ first major professional sports franchise in city history. The team’s ownership group led by Bill Foley paid a $500 million price tag for the right to an NHL franchise and already hold more than 14,000 deposits on season tickets for the team’s first year in Las Vegas.
Bettman said the encouraging promise of the season ticket drive was a major factor in eventually awarding the franchise to Las Vegas.
“The success (of the season ticket drive) really got everybody’s attention,” Bettman said.
Foley praised the efforts of the league as well as enthusiasm of the Las Vegas fanbase for making the long-awaited day a reality.
“Well, Las Vegas…we did it. It wasn’t easy, was it?” Foley said. “We want everyone to be a fan, we’re dedicated to it…I’m the owner, but I do it on behalf of the community.”
“We will have significant community outreach,” Foley continued. “I want all of our kids here in Las Vegas to enjoy hockey the way I did (as a kid).”
Following a recommendation by the league’s nine-member executive committee, 24 of the league’s 30 owners had to approve Las Vegas for expansion during this morning’s vote.
The team will call the recently-completed T-Mobile Arena its home. Decisions on the new franchise’s name, logo and team colors were expected to be announced in the coming weeks pending copyright and NHL approval.
The news was not as encouraging Wednesday for Quebec City, whose similar bid to become an NHL expansion city were put on hold by a of the NHL owners.