By ALAN SNEL
The headline tonight for the Vegas Golden Knights was a no-brainer — a 3-2 OT win over the Winnipeg Jets in Canada and a 34th victory to set a new record for most wins by an NHL franchise during its inaugural season.
And back at in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin at the team training center, Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz smiled.
Bubolz was upbeat because not only he enjoy another dramatic VGK win, but he also witnessed the spirited Golden Knights fans who skated and watched the game on a giant screen at City National Arena while hundreds of others filled a pizzeria tavern in the team’s training center to also watch the OT triumph.
Sure, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley made money tonight from the fans who paid $10 per adult and $5 per kid to skate and watch the game. And in Foley’s MacKenzie River pizzeria inside City National Arena, revenues also piled up, as much as four to five times the nightly revenue above the pizzeria income during a non-game night.
But in an interview with LVSportsBiz.com tonight, Bubolz explained tonight was about building a community of Golden Knights fans who bonded by watching a hockey game under the same roof, whether they skated together, drank beers together or munched pizza together.
“It generated revenue, but there was also the community aspect of watching a game together,” Bubolz told LVSportsBiz.com.
The event tonight was the second “Skate N’ Watch” party at the Golden Knights training center and two more are planned: March 24 at 12 noon when the Knights play the Colorado Avalanche and April 7 at 7 p.m. when VGK play the Calgary Flames.
Haley Craven, Golden Knights director of guest services and events, said 400 people came for the skate and watch event at one of the facility’s two rinks. The other second rink was used by 120 kids learning to skate.
The Golden Knights had to use 22 workers at City National Arena to accommodate the crowd. A typical night when there is no event like the skate and watch requires about five workers at the facility, said Craven, daughter of Murray Craven, longtime former NHLer and Golden Knights senior VP who oversaw the construction of the $31 million training center.
With the Golden Knights on a long six-game road trip, the team is planning another event Sunday when the club plays the Washington Capitals at 9:30 a.m. local time here in Las Vegas. The MacKenzie River Pizzeria at City National Arena is having a breakfast game-watching gathering for the Golden Knights-Capitals battle that is 12:30 p.m. on the East Coast on Super Bowl Sunday, Bubolz said.
He knows the experiences that fan enjoy collectively will build a fan base to follow a new NHL team through the good times — and even when the wins don’t come so readily.
It’s all about sowing the economic seeds of hockey longterm in the desert in Las Vegas.
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