Jan. 1 - Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO (Pasadena, Calif.) - Stanford vs. BIG Ten -Michigan State
Jan. 1 - Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.) - UCF vs. Baylor
Jan. 2 - Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Orleans) - Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Jan. 3 - Discover Orange Bowl (Miami) - Clemson vs. Ohio St
Jan. 6 - VIZIO BCS National Championship Game (Pasadena, Calif.) - Florida State vs. Auburn
FUTURE BCS SCHEDULES
Dec. 31 - Orange Bowl (Miami)
Dec. 31 - Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta)
Dec. 31 - Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.)
Jan. 1 - Sugar Bowl (New Orleans) - College Football Playoff
Jan. 1 - Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) - College Football Playoff
Jan. 1 - Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas)
Jan. 12 - College Football Playoff Championship Game (Arlington, Texas)
While Seattle is coming off of the victory of the Seahawks as Super Bowl Champions, what sticks in the gut of every Seattle sports fan is the fact that they lost a NBA Team - The Sonics. It was a successful team with a 41 year history, where the team was stolen using a strategy straight out of the movie "Major League". Ask for the most outragous public contribution towards a new Arena, after the current Arena had been remodeled. Team is sold to Oklahoma City Businessmen, who make public comments saying how they wanted to keep the team in Seattle and yet make public comments in Oklahoma that their plan to steal the team was taking perfect shape. Lets make our players unavailable to the media and not promote games. How about trading away their top players for - "future first round draft choices". Suprised that they did not use a prop plane and a bus to travel the team to road games to make sure they lost every game - which further depresses fans from coming out to watch a team. Only to say after this - Seattle did not want to support their NBA Team - look at the attendance now! They draft Kevin Durant all while the team is making every plan to move to Oklahoma City. Team moves when the Seattle Mayor, who never understood the value of professional sports, accepts a buyout of the lease. No national media crying foul during the process. No ESPN documentaries. It was the town to the National Media - that was next to Bejing and South Alaska.
Last month, the folks at Real Sports on HBO do a story on the Sacramento Kings. The team that was sold by Las Vegas Casino Owners - The Maloof Family to a former Seattle resident, as he quietly bought up land near Safeco Field to build a new State of the art Arena. Without a shovel in the ground and firm building plans, David Stern - Commissioner of the NBA decided that Sacrmento deserved 2nd, 3rd and 4 th deadline extention chances to find someone to keep it in the California Capital. Real Sports talks about the new Owner of the Kings and makes Seattle out to be the opportunistic city seeking an NBA team.
With all of this going on and the energy of the 12 th Man Seahawk Fans breaking through the national media with the Seahawks Super Bowl win, the NHL took a strong look towards Seattle for expansion. While the Seattle sports fans would prefer not to take another cities team, convincing the NBA to provide an expansion team to Seattle has been impossible. A new building, ready to put a shovel in the ground to build, a sports fan base that backs the MLS Sounders on par with most teams in Europe and now the Seahawk win was too much for the NHL to ignore.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, makes a statement at the Heritage Classic game between Ottawa and Vancouver that the NHL was going to pair down the list of 3 possible Owner groups to one particular group - as the focus group to be out front for this Seattle expansion franchise. The 3 include: The same team who is building the Arena - Chris Hanson and Microsoft Former Chairman Steve Ballmer, current Chicago Wolves IHL/ AHL Owner Don Levin - who has worked on getting a building built on the Eastside of Seattle where more Millionaires live than in most cities in the country and the final party being a New York Wall Street guy who tried to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and move them to Seattle last Summer when the Coyotes were having an Arena dispute in Glendale.
So why is all of this important?
Bettman in mentioning the fact that Seattle would not come into the NHL alone, mentions Las Vegas as a serious location for a new team. For many years, it has been known that Film Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has wanted to buy an NHL team and put it in Las Vegas. The question has been the issue of a NHL building being built. After years of dreamers coming into Las Vegas promising a Major League Building and former Mayor Oscar Goodman willing to give away land in Downtown to build an Arena - currently Las Vegas has a new Super Football Stadium on the UNLV Campus that could handle NHL Hockey, former UNLV Basketball Player Jackie Robinson talking about an new Arena on the former Wet n Wild location next to the old Sahara (soon SLS Hotel set to open this year), Downtown Las Vegas with who knows leading that charge and finally MGM RESORTS. Yes - for those who do not live in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts just happens to be building a 20,000 seat privately funded State of the Art building between NY NY and Monte Carlo. Unlike most towns where politics gets in the way of building, sorry Las Vegas green lights Strip Hotels to build what they want - regardless of traffic and parking impacts. The new Arena would join MGM Grand Garden - host of the NHL Pre Season Event, where they seat 12,000 in the only NHL regulation ice surface in Las Vegas and sell it out annually and Mandalay Bay Arena - host of NBA pre season basketball games. Now we are talking about an MGM Arena that will have suites and of course a partnership with AEG - Staples Center Owner in the management of the building.
The NHL is currently unbalanced with 2 fewer teams in the West than in the Eastern Conference. While Kansas City, has an Arena in downtown KC that hosts BIG 12 Conference Basketball Tournament with no professional sports tennant - no one has indicated an ownership group. Quebec City - has a new Arena being built right now and wants an NHL team to replace the former Nordiques. Their issue - they are in the East Coast. Portland has the Rose Garden, Paul Allen - Seahawk and Blazer Owner - who is the wealthiest Owner in pro sports. Seattle and Portland Minor League Hockey is very strong with great crowds to watch the equivlent of Single A Hockey. Las Vegas has an ECHL team that has consistently drawn fans and after a recent announcement that the Orleans Arena was not renewing their lease (of course to host more national cheerleading and Whitesnake/Loverboy old school concerts instead) the team is playing next 3 years in downtown Las Vegas with a temporary structure that is to seat 4,000 fans on the former Pool Deck of the Plaza Hotel Downtown. This team follows in the footsteps of the Las Vegas IHL team that was a top draw for 5 years in the mid 90's, while competing against Kansas City and a less than capacity fan base that supported their IHL KC Blades team playing in Kemper Arena.
Las Vegas is not a great corporate sponsorship town. It does support it's teams, but when your main businesses are casinos - hard to see Caesars Entertainment backing a team on MGM Resorts land. Same would be said for Wynn, Venetian, Cosmopolitan and so on. While Zappos is the main corporate player in Downtown Las Vegas, there is not the diversity in businesses. Unemployment is still bad and the housing bubble still has yet to be settled. What the town has is tourists - where the main thought is that you do not have to fill an Arena to support an NHL team with locals in the city of 2 million people - you can do it with all of the fans of the other teams that come to Las Vegas. This did take shape back in the IHL days. But, with a new Arena - would the NHL ignore Quebec, Hamilton, Ontario or even a 2nd team in Toronto - to add an NHL team in a market that is not as financially sound as Seattle? We are not talking about Oklahoma City here - Las Vegas is a large city and even larger when the tourists who fill up over 100,000 guest rooms with an agenda to spend. The other aspect - gambling and the casinos will not listen to any league's demands to not allow wagering. Considering that UNLV and minor league sports teams in Las Vegas have had betting lines on them annually, the days of believing that games would be thrown in Las Vegas are false. Television wise - a big market that does not pay rights fees for it's major sports team - UNLV. Possible that a FOX SPORTS SAN DIEGO, FOX SPORTS UTAH or TIME WARNER SPORTS NET IN LA align themselves with an NHL team out of Las Vegas. More important than in any market - the team must win. While there are snow birds and hockey fans that will attend minor league hockey games for the love of the game, will those same locals drive down to the congested Strip on a Saturday night to see an NHL Game against the Florida Panthers?
The crazy issue - no one in Las Vegas is even talking about this! No news story in the local newspaper or story on local nightly news (for those left with an actual sports segment). It would be a big story for a city who believes that it is major league and is not as much a transient destination as it was in the 90's. With no State income tax, low property and sales taxes and the chance to wear shorts 10-11 months out of the year - while the rest of the country has been in snow. A Las Vegas franchise in a new building would be an exciting franchise for any free agent. Maybe - the sports media can not believe in a story like the NHL coming to Las Vegas as they have talked about pro sports coming to Vegas for 20 years now. It is like the many would be resorts that were hyped to be built and never even put a shovel in the ground. After a while - it is call me when it is real.
Strange how the NHL is throwing Las Vegas into the mix in these discussions - when most in Las Vegas are unaware about it. But, with one privately funded new buidling ready to put a shovel in the ground - with 2 others and a new UNLV on campus stadium to also be added - the Arena issue may not be one and more is happening regarding this NHL interest than the MGM Leaders have mentioned. They have hinted that the arena will be able to host the NBA and other pro sports.
All of this coming from the NHL, a league who did not play for a year and without a substantial television contract. They are taking advantage of the NBA's ignorance. If you consider the US markets for the NHL - the smallest markets - Columbus, Carolina, Nashville - all 3 are larger TV markets, than OK City, Memphis, Sacramento, Portland. Adding Las Vegas (or even KC) and Seattle - are more significant additons than any of these 4 NBA markets. Vegas would have natural rivalries with Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix. Seattle obviously with Vancouver. Portland can not be considered out of the NHL expansion talk either, question does Paul Allen want to own another team in a sport that he is not passionate about?
Seattle and Las Vegas both want NBA teams. Will the NHL jump on the opportunity to get into these markets first, while the NBA still recovers from the bias of David Stern? Certainly looks like Seattle will have a dance partner heading into the NHL in a couple years, Vegas could light up that dance floor. Just let Vegas people know when the party is coming to town. With a guy like Jerry Bruckheimer Owning the team - expect a Pirates of the Caribean spectacular each night - which is what Vegas is used to.