Without a venue, Wranglers will sit out 2014-15 season

The Las Vegas Wranglers minor league hockey team will skip the 2014-15 season because it does not have a place to play, but will work on finding a permanent venue in Las Vegas for the 2015-16 season.

“We are voluntarily suspending for 2014-15 to complete out work on a venue for 2015-16,” Wranglers President Billy Johnson said in a text to the Review-Journal on Tuesday.

On Monday, the East Coast Hockey League Board of Governors granted the Wranglers a voluntary suspension.

The Wranglers plan on finding a new arena and will sell season tickets for the 2015-16 season when a new venue is secured.

The independent Double-A hockey club was forced to find a new home after the 2013-14 season because Boyd Gaming Corp., owner of the Orleans Arena where the Wranglers played, declined to renew the arena lease.

Initially, the Wranglers floated a plan to build an ice rink facility atop the Plaza in downtown, then changed the plan to a hockey rink in the Plaza parking lot before pulling the plug on the 2014-15 season.

In a statement, Johnson said, “We were given very little time to find a solution for the 2014-15 season … We were very close to having everything in order for the 2014-15 season with the little time we had. But in the end, we needed a few weeks more, and the ECHL simply had to get on with its business.”

Johnson said the team now has the necessary time to line up a new home.

“We have a more appropriate amount of time to do things the best way possible, as opposed to rushing into something that our fans may not ultimately embrace,” he said. “We are not going anywhere. We’ve accomplished a lot since 2003, and come too far since January to turn back.”

Gary Jacobs of the San Diego area, managing director of Jacobs Investment Co. LLC, has been the Wranglers owner since 2010. Average Wrangler game attendance is about 4,600, with 1,150 season tickets sold this year.

Eleven-year season ticket holder Al Rogers of Henderson said he blames Boyd Gaming for the Wranglers being homeless and said the Wranglers will “be missed quite a lot” next season.

“Sounds like they really didn’t have a choice based on the position they were put in by Boyd Gaming,” Rogers said. “I would like the public to boycott Boyd Gaming. Boyd Gaming owes the public an explanation about why they did this.”

Boyd Gaming spokesman David Strow said it was unfortunate that the Wranglers could not find a place to play and the company wishes the hockey team good luck in locating new home ice in Las Vegas.

Strow declined to comment about why Boyd did not renew the lease, referring to past statements that said Boyd tried to discuss the renewal issue with the Wranglers in the summer and fall of 2013 but could not agree to terms for a lease renewal.

ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said the 22-team league is very disappointed about the Wranglers’ year-long sabbatical, which he said will mean lost revenue for the other seven Western Conference teams. There will be 15-20 lost weekend dates for the Western hockey clubs, he said.

“They have been working diligently trying to find a solution and the bottom line is that they ran out of time,” McKenna said.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.