With plenty more sports teams & investment to come, the Golden Knights proved that a tourist town can be a sports town. PIC: John Locher, AP
Bill Foley had long been in search of a sports team to call his own. Foley has certainly seen his fair share of life over the years; he’s a veteran of the US Army, had a long career in financial services, and worked his way up to Chairman at Fidelity National Financial. He turned his $40k in stock market from the stock market when he was a cadet at the USMA, and built generational wealth.
Bill Foley could have retired long ago and been more than comfortable. But, he wanted to have another major experience in life; he wanted to own a sports team.
Foley explored buying the Jacksonville Jaguars in the early 2010’s when original Jags owner Wayne Weaver put the franchise up for sale, but Shahid Khan beat him to the punch. Then, rumblings of NHL expansion teams ran rampant throughout the nation. Foley wouldn’t be denied this time; he started a group that purchased the rights to the expansion franchise that became the Vegas Golden Knights for $500 million, and even got a slice of ownership at the newly-minted T-Mobile Arena.
Now, just six years into their existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are worth almost $1 billion, propelling them up to the mid-way point of the NHL’s average franchise valuation. And last week, the Golden Knights earned the seeming prerequisite of climbing up that ladder further by hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. Vegas became the quickest expansion franchise in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup, eclipsing the Philadelphia Flyers who did it in just 7 years (1974, incorporated in 1967).
The Golden Knights took the Stanley Cup Playoff by storm this year; they trounced Winnipeg in the first round, held off an Edmonton Oilers team who had the weight of the hockey community on its shoulders and the pressure to win, avenged their former coach Pete DeBoer (who now calls the shots for the Dallas Stars), and put the Cinderella story Florida Panthers to bed at T-Mobile Arena last week.
In the grand scheme of things, the Golden Knights proved a major point: Las Vegas can be a sports town.
Years before the Golden Knights and Raiders made the move to Nevada, people worried. They worried about building a loyal fanbase. They worried about the ability to attract talent. They worried about real estate for facilities, investment to build them, and buy-in from a crowded Las Vegas Strip.
But just a few years later, these worries have been shattered. Fans in Las Vegas are rowdy; they buy tickets, they wear merchandise, and they watch at home. The Golden Knights recently entered into a deal with Scripps Sports to stream games for free in Nevada & some other states in the Western US. Top talent wants to go to Las Vegas; all of its major sports teams continue to be competitive in free agent signings. The facilities are some of the best in the nation; Allegiant Stadium was $1.9 billion to complete, without a worry of funding, and Raiders’ average attendance topped 95% to their capacity in their first year. Formula 1 will add a third race in Las Vegas, and they should sell out there as well. The Oakland A’s move to Vegas seems all but likely, securing both land and funding.
The Vegas Golden Knights hoisting the Stanley Cup proved to the world that sports can be successful in Sin City. The sky truly could be the limit for sports in Las Vegas.