With little to no land left on Downtown Las Vegas, a hockey team looking for a new venue site would normally have to settle for a vacant spot just outside of town amid the desert and outside of the action. However, being that Las Vegas is an extremely versatile city, the Las Vegas Wranglers have managed to find the perfect place for their new arena: on the rooftop of the Plaza Hotel Casino. Team owners will build a 45,000-square-foot, fabric-shell structure that will cost a mere $4 million. The hockey rink will seat 3,500 patrons and sit across from the world-famous Fremont Street Experience.
The current venue, the Orleans Arena, is located about one mile from the Las Vegas Strip on West Tropicana Avenue on the north side of the Orleans Hotel & Casino. The Orleans is owned by Boyd Gaming Group, which declined to renew the lease on the arena for the team and forced the Wranglers to seek shelter elsewhere; hence, the five-year deal with the Plaza, which if both parties are happy can be renewed for another five years after that, according to Wranglers president Billy Johnson, but the team could outgrow the venue by then.
Johnson told the Las Vegas Review Journal that ticket prices will be re-evaluated for future seasons since a typical game draws in about 4,600 fans, including 1,150 season ticket holders, which increases annually by about 150, so that makes for about 1,000 fewer seats, which will likely raise the price, and everything in Vegas is a by definition inflated. Currently, the cheapest ticket that walk-up fans can buy is $18.
The Wranglers are a Double-A minor league team in the East Coast Hockey League (based in New Jersey with teams throughout the country), and their new season, which will start in October, can be scheduled to start on the road to allow for more time for the venue to get game-ready. The project is estimated to take roughly five months to complete and will be insulated, though the rink will not be frozen during the hot summer months of Las Vegas.
Though the deal only took a couple weeks to finalize, Johnson said he remembers thinking last December, after noticing the south tower rooftop at the Plaza, “This could be funky. It’s a word that I’ve stuck with ever since.”
Las Vegas-based, modular building company Vision Building Systems, LLC will be constructing the will construct the metal structure that will look similar to the nearby white-tent facilities at Symphony Park’s World Market Center. The actual location of the venue will be erected where there are currently basketball courts and tennis courts, on a rooftop that was once part of a parking garage. Johnson is confident that it can withstand the weight of the ice, the arena, and the fans without any new structural needs, though escalators will be installed to get the fans up to the venue. Existing Plaza parking is expected to suffice.
Five floors of the south tower of the Plaza will be converted to space that will be used for medical space, locker rooms, and bathrooms, according to Johnson. He also suggested that fans, the teams, and associated parties can conveniently stay at the Plaza, and while the Wranglers will keep ticket sales revenue, the team will split revenue from food and beverage with the hotel.
Johnson also said, “We’re not counting on outside revenue for viability of the project.” He does, however, hope to boost revenue by offering the venue to the public for skating, men’s hockey leagues, and conventions and concerts, while the 36-game home season for the Wrangler’s must be able to support the facility financially on its own.
The 11-year-old team hopes to design a new business model with the new venture, starting from scratch, that will be better equipped for more midnight games and more quirky promotions that the Wranglers are already known for like the Midnight Circus that kicked off at 11:59 PM earlier this month and featured independent, local talent, according to the team’s Facebook page. He hopes to cash in on Downtown Vegas nightlife and take advantage of the Fremont Street Experience crowd. He says, “Midnight games down here will be sick.”
Some design features that Johnson is envisioning include colorful chandeliers and projectors that will project images across the entire interior of the building.
The Wranglers will play their last game at the Orleans Arena on April 1st.