Beyond The Benches

Las Vegas Wranglers: Still Homeless, Still Hopeful

Guest Contributor: Taylor Zamiska is a student at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in Sport Management and Marketing. Follow her on twitter @taylorzamiska.

The Las Vegas Wranglers should’ve known something was wrong when earlier this summer Orleans Arena, home of the Wranglers for the past 11 seasons, had removed its signage to promote the ECHL hockey team.

To follow this, the Orleans hotel-casino released a list of their top 10 events in the 10-year history of the venue. Shockingly, the Las Vegas Wranglers were not even so much as mentioned on the list.

On December 6th, without formal warning, the Wranglers’ fears were confirmed. Boyd Gaming Corporation, owners of the Orleans building, did not wish to renew the team’s lease at the Arena … at all.

Gary Jacobs, the Wranglers’ owner, was hoping to renew the team’s contract with their home ice arena, but upon receiving this news he settled for requesting a one-year extension to enable the team to find a new home. He was turned down.

Even though the hockey team has brought in 1.3 million people throughout its 10-year history, averaging 4,800 to 5,000 fans per game this year alone, Boyd Gaming doesn’t feel the team is “financially viable” for their building.

Boyd Gaming and the Orleans released a statement saying, “We are in the final season under the Las Vegas Wranglers’ current agreement with the Orleans Arena. Unfortunately, we have been unable to agree to terms for a renewal that would keep the team at the arena after this season. We greatly enjoyed our relationship with the Wranglers, and we wish them every success in the future.”

The Wranglers’ President, Billy Johnson, corrected this statement on social media and explained his reasoning on January 3rd during the Kats With the Dish podcast interview.

“The clarification is that there was no negotiation, there were no terms. The phrase, ‘unable to come to an agreement’, implies that there was an effort to come to terms,” said Johnson. “We have to make very clear to our fan base, who trusts us so much with making sure that we have hockey in this town, that it’s not that we didn’t come to an agreement. They have to understand that we believe in this city.”

The fan base has also taken to social media during this process. The hashtag, #MyTownMyTeam, has become synonymous to the Las Vegas Wranglers’ cause and Billy Johnson also addressed this during his interview:

“The outpouring has been remarkable,” he said, “We are not programming these people. These people have had kids grow up in the Orleans Arena watching hockey games for the last 11 years and it’s become sort of their place; their family place.”

The franchise has until January 20th, 2014 to submit a memorandum of understanding, specifying that the team is in serious contract talks with a suitable venue in Las Vegas, to the ECHL so that the league can begin creating the 2014-2015 season schedule, or the team will not play next season.

So far the team is still homeless. And running out of time.

“There are places,” Johnson answered during his January 3rd interview, “The issue is that, is there availability? There are a number of places that we could play. Everything’s booked. At this point they’re booking a year or two years out.”

Johnson has also decided that he is considering enrolling multiple venues to host the 36 different home games temporarily.

Despite the team hitting quite a bit of a rough patch, fans should still be optimistic, because Billy Johnson still is.

“We have momentum. Our attendance is better than it’s been in 4 or 5 years, and why stop it?”

To sum it up, the President of the team has confirmed, “We’re very much looking forward to the future now. There is still hope, absolutely.”


(Photo Credit: Save The Las Vegas Wranglers Fan Page)

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