It was a typical morning on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the temperature approaching 90 degrees in the shade, and adults and children alike were buying ice hockey merch. They scoured the shelves of the Arsenal, a new store at City National Arena, for jerseys, shirts, hats, and hockey pucks in steel gray, gold, red, and black.
The assembled group was celebrating the opening of the practice facility for the Vegas Golden Knights, the first National Hockey League expansion team since 2000. The $24 million, two-rink complex that doubles as a community skating location sits in South Summerlin, 12 miles due west of the Las Vegas Strip. On the ride from downtown, along the highway, there's a billboard from Findlay Chevrolet with an encouraging Go Knights Go. The dusty mountains of Red Rock Canyon National Park rise just past the arena.
The Knights — who will play their first regular season game against the Dallas Stars on October 6th, and host the Phoenix Coyotes in their home opener at T-Mobile Arena four days later, where they’ll pay tribute to the victims of and first responders to Sunday night’s shooting — had been practicing at the complex for two weeks, but team officials waited to christen the space until a late morning in late August.
Men in suits with little Golden Knights logo pins on their lapels meandered about, shaking hands with assorted local dignitaries and eyeing stacks of Krispy Kreme donut boxes set out on folding tables. "We just had one big thing missing," Nevada lieutenant governor Mark Hutchison said during the opening ceremony at center ice. “That was major league, big-time professional sports.”
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak followed up, saying the arena was “going to be a lynchpin for the rest of downtown Summerlin” and promising 4,000 urban dwelling units in the surrounding area. Bill Foley, the billionaire owner of the Knights and by far the biggest reason why a city known for sports betting (but not team sports) and triple-digit temperatures has professional hockey, stressed the new team's connection to the area. “The Vegas Golden Knights are homegrown,” the 72-year-old businessman said. “We are the Vegas team, and we are proud of it.”