Bill Foley is planting roots in Las Vegas.
That’s how confident Foley is that he will land a National Hockey League team in Las Vegas.
Foley, lead investor in a bid to start a NHL team at the new $375 million privately financed arena on the Strip, closed on his house in Summerlin on Wednesday, and his wife got a new car.
His Jacksonville, Fla.-based mortgage and title company, Fidelity National Financial, plans to open a J Alexander’s steakhouse in the Las Vegas market. Fidelity National Financial owns the J Alexander’s brand and other restaurant chains, including Village Inn, O’Charley’s and 99 Steakhouse.
Foley is negotiating with MGM Resorts International, which is partnering with Anschutz Entertainment Group on the arena behind New York-New York, to open a Chalkboard restaurant in the plaza leading to the arena. Chalkboard specializes in small-plate menu items.
Foley’s staff is working with a representative of a commercial property in Summerlin to set up shop for a hockey business office.
Foley, a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a former Air Force captain, has launched the Folded Flag Foundation to help veterans.
Foley is leading the charge to create a NHL expansion franchise for the 2016-17 season. Foley, and his minority partners, the Maloof brothers of Las Vegas, started a campaign on Feb. 10 to draw 10,000 season ticket deposits from residents in the Las Vegas area.
They have reached 9,000 deposits and plan to keep on selling deposits of $150-$900 even after the 10,000-deposit goal has been realized, which is expected later this month.
Foley wants the season ticket commitments to show NHL team owners and league officials that Las Vegas is ready for big-league hockey. The ticket deposits are 10 percent of the season ticket deal and will be refunded if the NHL does not award a team to the Foley group in Las Vegas.
“The more we sell, the stronger the argument,” Foley said Thursday.
The MGM-AEG arena is a strong driver in the NHL team initiative. The arena, which will have 17,500 seats for hockey, is scheduled to open in late April 2016. It has lined up programming for early May 2016.
Foley wants his team to start playing in the arena by October 2016 for the 2016-17 NHL season.
For that goal to be met, Foley will have to receive NHL approval soon to start the franchise, which includes hiring a president, general manager, coach and building a practice facility of 150,000-175,000 square feet to house two ice rinks, locker rooms and medical/training facilities.
The last time the NHL expanded, in June 1997, the league announced the births of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild. Both teams started playing in the 2000-01 season — more than three years after the NHL made the announcements.
But Foley can find inspiration in the Nashville Predators. In June 1997, the NHL granted a conditional franchise to Nashville, Tenn., and the team was playing by the 1998-99 season. That’s a potential timeline scenario for the Las Vegas team if it plays in the 2016-17 season — but it would need NHL approval soon.
But Foley said NHL officials have not invited him to any league meetings to discuss the Las Vegas team bid.
Still, he is eager to launch a team.
“We need to get going,” Foley said.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the season ticket launch announcement at MGM Grand on Feb. 10 and knows the Maloofs, former Sacramento Kings owners, well since his pre-NHL days as a legal executive with the NBA.
Publicly, Bettman said at February news conference in Las Vegas that he couldn’t promise a team for Las Vegas. But privately, he is monitoring the Las Vegas team initiative and ticket deposit campaign.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel