Gary Bettman has long said that the primary two things a city needs to be considered for an expansion franchise is a suitable owner and arena.
Las Vegas, long rumored to land an expansion team that could begin playing in the fall of 2017, has always had a strong potential owner in billionaire Bill Foley. As of Wednesday, the would-be Las Vegas NHL team also has its own facility -- the T-Mobile Arena, which was christened with a concert featuring local artists The Killers and Wayne Newton.
Although it'll be six months until the venue houses its first hockey game -- a Los Angeles Kings-Dallas Stars preseason tilt -- it's already easy to see that T-Mobile Arena would be a unique NHL venue. Its five most hockey-friendly features include:
5. The size of T-Mobile Arena's dressing room facilities for the road team will impress visiting players. In NHL arenas, home teams invariably have a spacious setup that includes everything from the actual dressing room to player lounges and workout rooms. In many venues, however, road locker rooms aren't much fancier than what you see at a (nice) municipal skating rink. At T-Mobile Arena, the visiting accommodations will rival the setup many home teams currently enjoy. T-Mobile Arena's road-team dressing room is already completed, while its home dressing room is still under construction.
4. This arena's architects didn't try to hide the fact that this is a Las Vegas facility. On its opening night, performers dressed as traditional Las Vegas Showgirls danced atop a bar in an upper-level, general-admission concourse. Outside, in T-Mobile Arena's Toshiba Plaza, stands a massive 200 foot by 45 foot LED video screen, within a few dozen yards of a 40-foot sculpture of a dancing woman. For a general hockey audience, some of these features might seem a little peculiar at first. But for those who hoped that a potential Las Vegas NHL team would play in a Vegas-ish atmosphere, T-Mobile Arena definitely won't disappoint.
3. The arena is about a block off the Las Vegas Strip, between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo hotels. In conjunction with the arena's opening on Wednesday, a fan experience called "The Park" also debuted, connecting the Las Vegas Strip and the arena. The Park primarily consists of restaurants and bars, and could create a vibrant pre- and postgame experience that would combine a hockey crowd with the Las Vegas Strip, which is a five-minute walk away. The Park, including its own waterfall pathway, could rival LA Live in Los Angeles and Broadway in Nashville as one of the most fan-friendly setups outside of an NHL arena.
2. T-Mobile Arena features at least one club on every seating level. They range from expensive VIP lounges that casual fans will never see to the building's Hyde Lounge, which will be open to the general public. The Hyde Lounge sits above the upper deck behind the net that the Las Vegas home team would shoot at twice per game, from one corner to the other corner. The boundaries for the Hyde Lounge are the seating bowl's most distinguishable feature. Two gigantic triangle platforms jut out from the club over the upper deck, which some of the arena's first visitors have noted as being reminiscent of the deck of the Titanic, where in the film about the ill-fated ship Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of the movie's signature lines.
1. As much as T-Mobile Arena has all the earmarks of a Vegas-specific venue, its seating bowl is very much set up for hockey. In fact, if you were to take out venue's signature Hyde Lounge triangular platforms atop one of the end zones, the seating bowl is reminiscent of Winnipeg's MTS Centre -- scaled up to fit 2,500 more fans. Part of the reason for the hockey-specific sightlines is technology (in the lower bowl) that's been installed to allow the arena to alter the angle of the seats, depending on what sport is being played that night. For hockey, the angle would be one of the NHL's steepest inclines.