NHL inches closer to Vegas
A report in today's Sports Business Journal, citing inside sources, said Harrah's will no longer partner arena developer AEG on a proposed 20,000-seat arena behind the Las Vegas strip.
The Journal said a group of investors including Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, MGM Studios CEO Harry Sloan and Wall Street financier David Bonderman would instead partner AEG on the project that was announced in August, 2007.
The group's goal is to bring in an NHL expansion franchise to Las Vegas by October 2010.
This news comes the day before the NHL's board of governors convenes here in Toronto, and ESPN's Pierre LeBrun says expansion will be one of the main topics discussed.
I may have said this before, but I honestly believe the NHL in Las Vegas is all but inevitable at this point. There are too many parties interested in building an arena there for it not to get built, and no other major league sports tenants anxious to take the easy money. (The NBA appears leery of a move to Nevada given what happened at the all-star game there last year and the betting scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy.)
The location of the proposed rink is in a spot only a block or two from the Strip and Caesar's Palace, on Harrah's land where there's now only parking lots. The project has been estimated to cost up to $500-million and has already sparked something of a land grab in the area.
The original plan had been for Harrah's to lease the land and share in construction costs equally with AEG. Details of what the arrangement would be for the Bruckheimer group are not yet available, but you imagine it'd be similar.
We're going to see some movement on this soon. The fall of 2010 is not very far away, and the last thing AEG wants is another empty building to go with the one in Kansas City.
AEG has become one of the real power brokers in the NHL these days, and it's no secret how tight they are with Bruckheimer and friends. Just last year, AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said of the Vegas talk: "Jerry is like a brother. I will be there to support him anywhere he wants to go."
The only way I can see this all falling apart now is if the board of governors somehow votes against expansion into Vegas — and that's going to be a tough call to make given there'll likely be an absurd amount of cash, perhaps up to $300-million, on the table.
Step 1 will be word of a ground-breaking, which should come anytime now. Hold onto your hats.
UPDATE Here's more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It now appears the rink will be ready for 2011.