The NHL is ready to roll the dice on Las Vegas.
The league has settled on Las Vegas as its choice for expansion, provided organizers can come up with a $500 million fee, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The Board of Governors will meet June 22 — in Las Vegas. Quebec City was also considered for expansion.
The 2017-18 season would be the earliest the league would expand.
The franchise would be the NHL's 31st team and the first major professional sports franchise in Las Vegas, the rapidly growing gambling center of the American West.
The NHL hasn't expanded since 2000, when Minnesota and Columbus paid $80 million each to join the league. Prospective Vegas owner Bill Foley is a wealthy businessman who isn't likely to blink at the elevated price tag previously proposed by commissioner Gary Bettman as an expansion fee.
The Las Vegas bid says it has secured more than 13,200 season-ticket deposits for the new team, which would play in T-Mobile Arena, the sparkling new multipurpose building on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. The arena, which seats 17,500 for hockey, was built entirely with private money by MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owners of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Las Vegas area had nearly 2.2 million people in the 2010 census, making it the largest population center in the U.S. without a major pro sports franchise. Public support for Foley's bid has been robust, and the NHL has noticed the appeal of being the only big sports show in a town that loves a big event.
The days when sports leagues were wary of the potential corruption in Vegas' massive sports betting scene are apparently finished — the NFL's Oakland Raiders have held serious discussions with city leaders in recent months about a move from Oakland.
But Foley and the NHL have been working on a deal for much longer to bring hockey to the city — with the enormous advantage of an NHL-ready building freshly opened. T-Mobile Arena had its grand opening April 6 with a concert featuring Wayne Newton and the Killers.
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