The Las Vegas strip. ( (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
According to a report, if Las Vegas gets an NHL franchise, they’ll be asked for upwards of $450 million as an expansion fee. The last two expansion teams, Columbus and Minnesota, paid an $80 million expansion fee.
If the prospective owners of a Las Vegas NHL franchise want to put hockey in Nevada, they may have to pony up at least $450 million, according to a report from TSN.
TSN’s Rick Westhead reported that two current NHL owners said the fee could realistically be anywhere between $450 and $500 million, with one owner, who requested anonymity, saying he would venture a guess at $475 million being the actual fee.
The expansion fee for the potential franchise in Vegas is a far cry from the $80 million both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, the NHL’s last two expansion teams, paid. The most recent fee paid to the league came when the Winnipeg Jets moved from Atlanta to Manitoba’s capital and were charged a $60 million relocation fee.
Even with the reported fee, however, it does not guarantee a team will land in Las Vegas. There are still many hurdles for potential owners to clear, including succeeding in their season ticket drive, which will begin on Feb. 10. According to USA Today’s Kevin Allen, the number of season tickets potential owner Bill Foley would like to sell is 10,000. If the season ticket drive sells 10,000 seats that would be in the neighborhood of 56 percent capacity for the proposed venue for the Las Vegas team, the 18,000-seat MGM Resorts-Anschutz Entertainment Group arena.
The question also remains whether or not the demand is there on a long-term basis, and what kind of game-to-game attendance the team would garner regardless of the season ticket drive. It’s not a traditional hockey market, and the Las Vegas Wranglers ECHL club was a middle of the pack team when it came to attendance, drawing only 4,581 per game. That number fell significantly in the playoffs, as the Wranglers drew a mere 2,263 over two playoff contests.
The ECHL club’s lease was not renewed by The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Dec. 2013, and the team suspended play for the 2014-15 campaign after failing to find a suitable venue for the season. Obviously, the lack of a proper facility would be taken care of in Las Vegas were they to get an NHL team, but the Wranglers’ willingness to move into a venue that seats only 3,500 might be telling of hockey’s draw in Nevada.
Regardless, however, if the ticket drive is successful, it’s just another step towards placing an NHL team in Las Vegas. And if a franchise is awarded, we may see a record-setting expansion fee.