The Vegas Golden Knights are almost set to start their funky little experiment in the desert, and one of the big questions entering the 2017-18 season is whether the franchise can actually build steady support in such an unusual market.
Based on word of early ticket sales from Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, the team seems to be off to a good start. According to Foley in a report by Forbes, the Golden Knights are already one of the highest-grossing teams in the NHL in terms of annual ticket revenue.
“We are number five, six, or seven in terms of ticket revenue in the league. That’s how good Las Vegas has been to us,” Foley told Forbes. “Edmonton has more revenue in their brand-new arena. The Rangers, Toronto, Chicago Blackhawks, they’re all ahead of us. Montreal is right with us. We have more revenue than the Flyers, Penguins, the Boston Bruins. Most of our tickets are multi-year. The lower bowl is three to 10 years.”
That’s an impressive feat for a team that’s got a lot of skeptics because of its geographic location. Vegas, a city known far more for casinos and nightlife than hockey, has never had a major sports franchise and the NHL is far from the most popular league in America.
But with Vegas having the hype of an expansion draft franchise, which usually leads to extra attention in the first few years, the Golden Knights are trying to set the stage to be successful. Part of that is higher-than-average ticket prices, as Foley says Vegas’ average ticket is $88, whereas the league-wide average is in the low $70s.
Whether fans will continue to be willing to pay that price in the future will likely depend on whether the Golden Knights can become a winner. GM George McPhee clearly took a long-term view with his moves this offseason, building a team that should be respectable but won’t be anywhere near a contender out of the gate.
Instead, it seems like Vegas is hoping to use the first couple of years, when interest will be high no matter what, to build toward a great team, so after that it can keep fans coming with success on the ice. It’s also worth noting that ticket sales aren’t the only thing that matters in the era of big television deals and digital rights, so there will be other ways to gauge the franchise’s success.
The plan may or may not work, but the Golden Knights seem to be on the right path toward creating a healthy hockey market in Vegas.
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