Vegas: Event Mecca, Yes; Franchise Wrecka, TBD
Sin City seems to be on the verge of scoring another sporting coup.
An NHL expansion team? And/or one with MLS?
Showcases offer one-stop shopping for team scouts. :
Occasions like this are tailor-made for Las Vegas. The city's a tournament magnet, as other organizations will quickly attest:
- The Pac-12 moved its post-season tourney there and attendance surpassed what it had been getting in Los Angeles, as Commish Larry Scott alluded when the move was made;
- The West Coast Conference was already there, and its post-season tourney has done very well from the start;
- There's one nagging issue for the Mountain West Conference, which is that UNLV has a home-court advantage; still,
- The NBA is mega-pleased with its summer league being located there.
All of which is well and good. But the success of those events is due to fans flocking to them from all points beyond.
So, can the locals carry the freight of 41 home games plus a pre-season exhibition or two and eventually -- very eventually -- some playoffs?
Numbers gnome Nate Silver had his crew look into the viability, and their conclusion is it's gonna be a tough row to hoe:
Teams in markets with fewer than 300,000 hockey fans ... have tended to lose money, and that’s where the wisdom of adding franchises in Seattle and (especially) Las Vegas gets iffy.
We estimated that Seattle contains about 240,000 NHL fans ... And if Seattle is an enigmatic choice by this metric, Las Vegas would be a disaster. According to our estimates, there are only 91,000 hockey fans in the Vegas media market
Prospective owner Bill Foley obviously thinks otherwise, and he's launched a season ticket drive with a goal of selling 10,000 ducats to 'prove' to the NHL that Las Vegas is -- or can be -- a hockey hotbed.
Frankly, the league would like to see it because -- contrary to hollow denials -- the NHL is seemingly desperate to plant two more teams in the West, and candidates are few, far between, and rife with complications. The big hurdle in Seattle: no public funding for an arena unless an NBA team is committed to be there. The odds of that happening anytime soon are slim and none.
And Slim left town.
So, even if Foley shows Vegas is viable, unless the NHL is willing to run with an odd number of teams -- not at all implausible -- he's still gotta wait until a tag-team partner steps up.
Right now, that isn't gonna be Slim.