Months after I originally announced it, there has finally been confirmation that the National Hockey League (NHL) is coming to Las Vegas in the form of an expansion team. What will be the 31st team will start playing in the 2017-18 season. The Las Vegas franchise creation was approved in a unanimous vote conducted during the Board of Governors’ meeting on Wednesday.
The NHL is the first of the four major North American professional sports leagues to belatedly put a team in Las Vegas. This will be the NHL’s first expansion team since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild came into the League in the 2000-01 season. The League will receive a $500 million expansion fee from Bill Foley, the billionaire businessman who spearheaded the Las Vegas expansion bid and will be the franchise’s principal owner. The $500 million will be distributed equally among the existing 30 teams.
Foley hopes to have the name of the team and its logo in place by the start of the 2016-17 season so they can start selling merchandise. Apparently his preference is Black Knights, largely because of his ties to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (and which doesn’t on the face of it have much to do with Vegas) but the plan is to work with the NHL to come up with the appropriate name for the franchise.
In terms of how this will work, it is believed that Las Vegas will be the eighth team in the Pacific Division and the 15th in the Western Conference. The NHL has 16 teams in the Eastern Conference. The Las Vegas team will play its home games at the brand new T-Mobile Arena, which can hold 17,368 for a hockey game. MGM must be breathing a huge sigh of relief that their expensive project (which was built with hockey in mind) is going to get its anchor franchise team. There have been more than 14,000 deposits for season tickets and all of the luxury seats in T-Mobile Arena have been sold.
There’s going to be an expansion draft designed to give the Las Vegas franchise the best chance to be successful immediately. Vegas will select one player from each of the existing 30 teams, including at least 14 forwards, nine defenders and three goalies. It must select a minimum of 20 players who have existing contracts that carry through the 2017-18 season and the average annual value of the total contracts it takes on must be at least 60 percent of the 2016-17 season salary cap limit, which is $73 million. The existing 30 teams will have the option to protect seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie, or eight skaters regardless of position and one goalie, from the expansion draft. Teams have to submit their protection lists by 5 p.m. ET on June 17, 2017. Las Vegas has to submit its selections for the expansion draft by 5 p.m. ET on June 20. The results of the expansion draft will be released publicly on June 21.
We can only hope that this decision paves the way for the NFL to follow suit and allow a football franchise in Vegas. Great sport that ice hockey is, the NFL would be the jewel in the crown and the interest shown in the hockey franchise would be dwarfed by comparison to that expected were an NFL team to be based in the city. How about LV Raiders?
Honey, we’re going to spend the evening at the driving range, OK? I can imagine some of my friends saying this but I can’t imagine many positive responses from their nearest and dearest.
I mention this because MGM have just opened an interesting new facility near the MGM Grand at Koval Lane. You may well have driven past when it was in the process of construction. Like other driving ranges worldwide you can go and practise your golf by hitting balls from one of 108 purpose built (and air-conditioned) bays. Obviously that won’t appeal to your other half (unless she’s a golf fanatic too) but before you dismiss the idea out of hand there are other goodies to be had from a visit to the range. Amongst other things you can eat, drink, swim and play!
If you’re driving to the facility all parking is by valet. It’s free at the time of writing (6/16) but, as this is an MGM property, expect a fee to be levied shortly. Once inside the surroundings are new, plush and young – like nothing you’ve ever seen at a conventional driving range in the UK. Three story neon chandeliers are just a taste. Then there’s the concert space which is used for other games like shuffleboard when there’s no act on the roster.
If you’re in to watching sport and having a beer or three ‘The Yard’ has massive screens and a retractable roof. Bars include the ‘Riv Bar’ – an homage to the now closed and shortly to be imploded Riviera Hotel and Casino. Big screens aren’t only inside there are a bank of them at the end of the range itself! I guess I won’t be the only one trying to hit them! There’s the ‘Runway Bar’ and loads of places to order food – burgers, flatbreads, wings, desserts, chips, wedges – perhaps the food offerings you’d expect but served up by a host of pretty young things. When they advertised for staff 8,500 applied for the 950 positions!
As for the golf itself, wow! You can bring your own clubs if you want, some do, but they’re included if you don’t. Worried about hitting balls out of the arena? Don’t be. MGM even flew in some of the world’s longest and highest hitters to see if they could breach the safety nets but they all failed.
Imagine golf, darts and bowling combined. Remarkably, all the golf balls have chips inside them so their distance, track, velocity etc can all be measured. Couple this with a customizable LCD display in your bay and you can see exactly where your ball would have landed. Add into the mix targets that register electronically as well and you can have nearest as well have farthest competitions with your mates. You can get six to ten people in each pay with the complex accommodating up to 3,000 golfers at once.
Prices are currently between $30 and £90 per hour per bay. Now, go back to line one of this post and ask your other half again!
As the closest MGM-owned casino hotel property to the Park and the T Mobile Arena, the Monte Carlo has been selected to undergo a two-year, $450 million makeover that will create a new luxury property to be known as ‘Park MGM’. Work will begin this year and be completed by the end of 2018 it has been announced.
The design of Park MGM, a 2,700-room luxury property, will apparently build on the property’s history, incorporating European design influences while retaining a branding connection to The Park. No one can say a refurbishment isn’t overdue as the guest rooms and some other areas of the Monte Carlo have become tired and dated, after all it was built in 1996. This announcement is also reflective of the buoyant feeling about the town with the market doing better and visitor numbers rising again at last.
Apparently the hotel won’t close during the project and workers will work floor by floor during the course of construction. Some public areas may have to be closed though as work progresses. Look out for some potentially exciting deals then. You can often get rooms for next to nothing when building work is in progress and how often are you in your room anyway during a trip to Vegas?
By way of Monte Carlo history – the 32-story property opened in June 1996, shortly after the Stratosphere. The property eliminated the “00” on its roulette wheels, giving players a slight advantage (smaller disadvantage) by using the 37-pocket wheel as used in the French European version of the game.
The property was closed for a while in January 2008, following a fire on the top six floors of the building apparently caused by construction workers whilst welding. The property said damage and lost business totaled $100 million. A year after the fire, the Monte Carlo made two big changes: MGM Resorts converted the top floor to Hotel32, branded as an ultra-luxury boutique hotel with 50 lofts and an exclusive lounge, and at the end of 2009, the hotel became connected to the newly opened CityCenter complex via the Aria Express tram.
I have my reservations about this. The Monte Carlo fills something of a niche in the market. It is very affordable (if you said cheap I wouldn’t disagree) yet is very well located. Aria is right at the top end of the market in terms of price. Monte Carlo doesn’t just sit right next to it, it’s connected to it and the free tram service to Aria, Crystals and Bellagio. For the savvy traveller it’s a way of staying right in the heart of the action at a fraction of the price. I’ve also always found the staff to be pleasant and down to earth and there’s a food court with very sensible prices including a MacDonald’s. Will that continue when room rates escalate and the new breed of visitor demands different things from the property? Every property can’t be the same, there needs to be a variation both in price and what is offered.
If the price does go through the roof (which, after all, is the usual by product of a lot of money being spent on something) we’ll have to look elsewhere for our bargain hostelry in that part of the Strip. NYNY might come in to its own – located next door and very close to the Park and the T Mobile Arena – this move may have the curious effect of promoting the Monte Carlo’s neighbour. Also owned by MGM it already has one of the best pubs in town – Nine Fine Irishmen. I wasn’t that keen on the hotel when I stayed at NYNY but if it becomes better value for money than everything around it we might be happy to overlook its other shortcomings. Watch this space!
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