There's no such thing as a "lock" in Las Vegas, but the city is looking like a good bet to eventually land a team from one of North America's four major professional sports leagues.
That time might be close at hand, according to a report by SportsBusiness Daily on Wednesday.
The report said the National Hockey League has been holding discussions with film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer for months about owning a franchise here, amid speculation that the league is on the verge of proposing expansion to Las Vegas and Kansas City, Mo. -- the latter where the $276 million Sprint Center is slated to open in October.
The Sprint Center was developed by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which owns and operates several major entertainment/sporting venues, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Bruckheimer also has had discussions with AEG officials about the group building and/or operating an arena in Las Vegas, with an NHL team as its primary tenant, according to the report.
AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke wouldn't comment on the arena issue but was quoted by SportsBusiness Daily as saying, "Jerry is like a brother. I will be there to support him anywhere he wants to go."
Bruckheimer heads a group of entertainment executives that appears to be a front-runner to land the Las Vegas expansion franchise, according to the report.
Bruckheimer's publicist, Paul Bloch, told the Review-Journal, "We have no comment on it at all." But NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed discussions between the league and Bruckheimer in SportsBusiness Daily.
"Bruckheimer is one of many people we have spoken to about their desire to own an team in Vegas," Daly said in an e-mail. "There have been many expressions of interest by a number of individuals and a number of cities."
Daly added that "no decisions have been made" by the NHL Board of Governors about expanding the league from 30 to 32 teams and that "there's no 'agreement' with anyone" to own an expansion team.
"I don't know if or when there might be an announcement," Daly wrote. "We will update the board on the expressions of interest we have received."
Daly did not return an e-mail or phone call to the Review-Journal by press time.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last week during his annual news conference at the Stanley Cup Finals that the league had no interest in expanding. "At the present time we're not looking at expansion," he said. "At the present time we're not looking at relocation."
Bruckheimer, 61, has produced such blockbuster movies as "Top Gun," "Remember the Titans" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, and also created the hit television show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
An avid hockey fan, Bruckheimer has hosted his annual Bad Boys Invitational Hockey Tournament in Las Vegas for the past 12 years. The event features celebrities such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Kiefer Sutherland and Bruckheimer playing with and against NHL stars such as Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios.
AEG is the world's largest owner of sports events and sports teams, including the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer, as well as holding interests in professional basketball's Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Sparks.
There has been speculation for more than a year about Bruckheimer owning an NHL franchise. He attended a dinner at Staples Center in October 2006 with Leiweke and Bettman, with the purpose of discussing the possibility of him owning an NHL team in Las Vegas, according to Wednesday's report.
The report also said AEG has a "standing offer" to Bruckheimer that the company would develop, operate and possibly own the arena in Las Vegas.
AEG was one of seven developer-led entities that recently submitted letters of intent to build a new downtown arena, according to the report.
Calls to AEG, Bill Rhoda -- a consultant for CSL International, which is managing the process for Las Vegas to select an arena developer -- and Mayor Oscar Goodman weren't returned Wednesday.
The last four NHL expansion teams -- the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers -- paid expansion fees of $80 million each. Minnesota and Columbus were the most recent teams to join the league, beginning play in 2000-01.
Tennessee businessman Craig Leipold nearly tripled the $80 million he paid for the Predators in 1997 when he sold the team in May for $220 million to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie. That sale still must be approved by the NHL Board of Governors.