One aspect that doesn’t get talked about enough when discussing the viability of Las Vegas as a professional hockey market is the lack of competition the team would have for what’s commonly referred to as “the sports dollar.”
That’s the amount of money sports fans are willing and able to spend supporting their teams. In most cities there are two, three, four, or even more teams all vying for those same dollars. Here in Vegas, it’ll be NHL vs. UNLV, which is hardly a fair battle.
It’s not just ticket sales, but merchandise, concessions, and everything else that goes along with supporting a team. If there’s a dollar to be spent on sports in this city, it’s almost certainly going to the first major professional franchise in town.
Now I’m sure you are all thinking it, there’s a giant elephant in the room. Sports gambling. The question is, are these the same dollars? I would be willing to argue that while for some they may be, for most they will come from separate “budgets” if you will.
Sports gaming is seen as a form of entertainment to most. Similar to dining out, watching a movie, or bringing the kids to Disney World (depending on how bad you are at betting). A hockey team would likely be viewed by most as a separate form of entertainment. There won’t be many, if any, sports fans in the valley that think, “well, I can’t go to the game because I need to use my money to bet on it.”
This is excellent news for The Creator and his venture to make Las Vegas hockey a success. However, there’s one other form of competition that has to be addressed, and that’s entertainment.
Hockey will be viewed by most outsiders as simply, another form of entertainment on the Strip. Next to Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and the best show in Vegas Mike Hammer’s Comedy Magic at the Four Queens (I swear he didn’t pay me to say this), hockey will be seen as something else to do.
To locals though, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those of us who have lived in Las Vegas don’t consider which show to go see on the random Friday night. These shows are here and aren’t going anywhere.
The NHL would be in a class of its own. Every game night would be an event because sports offer something Strip shows can’t, uniqueness. Every hockey game will be different. Different opponent, different vibe in the arena, different outcomes. Just like in any city, sporting events are one of a kind…even on a Tuesday night against the last place team.
If and when a team finally comes to Las Vegas, a city with a rich sports culture, they’ll have first dibs on every single dollar Las Vegans are willing to spend on sports. It may change over time if more leagues come to town, but the first one to come has the greatest chance at success, because there’s simply no one else standing in their way.