Frozen (out): Las Vegas Wranglers cancel ice rink-arena project at Plaza

The Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team Wednesday has pulled the plug on its ice rink-arena project at the Plaza hotel parking lot in downtown Las Vegas because it cost too much, leaving fans wondering about the team’s future in Las Vegas.

“We’re disappointed. It was a cost issue. It was a time issue,” said Billy Johnson, Wranglers president. “It’s heart-breaking for me.”

Johnson said he will pursue “other opportunities” to find a new home ice for the independent Double-A East Coast Hockey League team, but acknowledged that there’s “always that chance” that the Wranglers’ next season — and future in Las Vegas — could be jeopardized.

The Plaza delivered the news Wednesday afternoon that the Wranglers canceled its rink-and-venue plan with the hotel on Main Street with a statement, saying: “Everyone at the Plaza Hotel was excited about the prospect of being the new home of the Las Vegas Wranglers. We believed it was a great fit for our property, for downtown, and for the fans.”

“We are disappointed that the venture is no longer possible,” the statement said.

The statement said the Plaza did not know what the Wranglers’ plans are for a facility for next season.

The Wranglers, which had the worst record in the ECHL, need a new rink for the 2014-15 season after its lease at Orleans Arena expired and the arena’s owner, Boyd Gaming, did not want to renew the agreement. The 72-game season is scheduled to begin in October.

Johnson said he has no complaints with the Plaza and praised the hotel-casino’s efforts.

“They really tried to make this work,” he said.

ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna could not be reached immediately for comment.

A few months ago, Johnson originally unveiled a deal with the Plaza to build a tentlike, $4 million, 45,000-square-foot fabric structure on the roof of the Plaza casino building to house an ice rink and seating for 3,500.

But then a month ago in April, the Wranglers submitted revised plans to the city of Las Vegas, modifying the roof proposal to erect the structure instead in the Plaza parking lot on Main Street. The revised plan, submitted April 16, said it would be structurally difficult to erect the structure atop the roof.

Eleven-year season ticket holder Al Rogers was disappointed to hear the news that the Wranglers canceled its plans at the Plaza and fears the Wranglers have played their last hockey game in Las Vegas.

“I would say sadly it’s bye-bye Wranglers,” said Rogers, a Las Vegas resident. “If the Wranglers canceled (the Plaza deal), they milked it to the end unless Boyd delivers a miracle, but I doubt that. I’m sorry. It seems like it’s the end.”

Californian Gary Jacobs, 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.

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

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