SBJ/June 11 - 17, 2007/This Weeks News

NHL talks with producer about Vegas club

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed last week that the league has been in discussions with powerful film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer about owning a franchise in Las Vegas, amid growing speculation that the NHL is on the verge of proposing expansion to Las Vegas and Kansas City.

TV and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer
(left) and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

A group led by Bruckheimer, an avid hockey fan, is the front-runner for the Las Vegas expansion and has been in talks with NHL officials for months, sources said. Additionally, Bruckheimer has had discussions with AEG officials about that group potentially building and/or operating an NHL arena in Las Vegas.

AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke would not comment on that, but said in a statement: “Jerry is like a brother. I will be there to support him anywhere he wants to go.” (AEG also manages the city-owned Sprint Center in Kansas City, set to open in October.)

Bruckheimer is said to be the leader of a group of entertainment executives, including MGM Studios Chairman and CEO Harry Evans Sloan, who want to own the Las Vegas team. Neither Paul Bloch, Bruckheimer’s publicist, nor MGM spokesman Jeff Pryor would comment.

Daly, asked whether the NHL had discussions with Bruckheimer about owning an NHL team in Las Vegas, said in an e-mail, “Bruckheimer is one of many people we have spoken to about their desire to own a team in Vegas.” Daly added that “no decisions have been made” by the NHL board of governors about expanding the league from 30 to 32 teams and that “there’s no ‘agreement’ with anyone” to own an expansion team.

There has been speculation for more than a year that Bruckheimer, producer of dozens of films and television shows, has wanted to own an NHL franchise. Since October, when Bruckheimer attended a dinner at Staples Center with Leiweke and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, media outlets have reported the producer has been talking to the league about how to better market the game. The Toronto Star reported in April that Bruckheimer was in talks about producing the 2008 All-Star Game. However, sources said that the primary purpose of the meetings was to discuss Bruckheimer owning an NHL team in Las Vegas.

NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur wrote in an e-mail last week that Bruckheimer and the league have been discussing raising the league’s awareness in the entertainment community, promoting players and increasing the entertainment value in NHL special events.

Bloch said, “We have nothing more to say than what she said,” although Bloch did add, “Jerry Bruckheimer has nothing to do with the All-Star Game.”

One sports facilities source said that the firm has a “standing offer” to Bruckheimer that AEG would develop, operate and possibly own the building in Las Vegas.

AEG is targeting a 15- to 20-acre site on Tropicana Avenue “not even a pitching wedge” from the MGM Grand, said Daren Libonati, director for UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center. Station Casinos owns the property, which contains a budget hotel, truck stop and small casino. Leiweke and Station Casinos officials would not comment.

Bill Rhoda, a consultant for CSL International, is managing the process for the city to select an arena developer. A CSL study said a new arena with 80 suites and 2,500 club suites that opened in 2010 would cost about $405 million. The season when a team would start play isn’t known.

Rhoda said AEG was one of seven developer-led teams that submitted letters of intent recently to build a new venue (see chart).

Vegas arena interest
Seven developer-led teams submitted letters of intent recently to build a new arena in Las Vegas:
Developer Comment
AEG Co-owns an arena developer, Tim Romani’s Icon Venue Group
Las Vegas Land Partners  
Medallion Financial Corp. Led by Andrew Murstein, who tried to buy the Penguins in 2006
Postolos Group Led by former Houston Rockets President George Postolos
Raul Walters Properties With architect HNTB and sports executive Kiki Vandeweghe
Real Estate Interests With urban planner RTKL
Star Development With architect Ellerbe Becket

Others attending the May 14 pre-proposal conference included officials from general contractors Hunt and Turner and architects HKS, EwingCole and David M. Schwarz. They are not listed in the letters of intent but could join any of the groups

Source: CSL International


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