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Knights president talks new facility, TV channel, PWHL and more

Before the Golden Knights were a thought in the hockey world, there were just three sheets of ice in Las Vegas — two at the Las Vegas Ice Center on Flamingo Road and one at the Pepsi Ice Arena.

Two practice facilities (City National Arena in Summerlin and America First Center on Water Street in Henderson), an arena to suit an American Hockey League team (Lee’s Family Forum) and a successful seven-year run at T-Mobile Arena later, the Knights remain committed to growing the game across the valley.

One way to do that? More facilities.

Knights president Kerry Bubolz confirmed in a wide-ranging interview with the Review-Journal that groundbreaking for another hockey facility, “in a perfect world,” will begin at the end of the summer.

Paperwork still needs to be finalized, Bubolz said, but the facility — expected to be 120,000 square feet and cost between $24 million and $28 million — will be on St. Rose Parkway in west Henderson.

Knights governor Bill Foley said in October 2022 that the team was exploring the area near the Henderson Executive Airport.

“It’ll allow us to continue the growth there that we haven’t been able to accommodate,” Bubolz said.

‘Six sheets to control’

Bubolz said the new facility accomplishes two important factors.

There were 43 weekends in the past year devoted to hockey tournaments at both facilities that the Knights were not able to fulfill, he said. Most were the same tournaments playing at different facilities.

The other key, Bubolz said, is trying to provide more resources to fans who can’t make the drive to Summerlin or downtown Henderson.

“That’ll give us six sheets to control and manage in the marketplace,” he said.

Bubolz said the development along St. Rose Parkway is important to service because a large portion of fans live in that area. The Centennial Hills area in North Las Vegas is another area Bubolz would like to explore down the road.

“You start to think about an automobile dealership. You build where the population and the customer is. It’s the same thing with these hockey facilities,” Bubolz said. “These have become important pieces of our revenue model of the Golden Knights.

“That part of it has worked out well between sponsorships, retail, off-ice training and off-ice equipment, and of course, the restaurant piece. It fits really well together into a nice business model. We’re going to keep building until we reach that point.”

North Las Vegas has a minor outreach from the Knights with the team taking over the management of the Pepsi Ice Arena, formerly SoBe Ice Arena, at the now-demolished Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station.

The 31,000-square-foot hockey arena will be part of a $380 million project, Hylo Park, that will be constructed in partnership with Agora Realty and Management.

“There is a vision to do something broader there,” Bubolz said. “(Pepsi Ice Arena) allowed us to take some programming we couldn’t accommodate here or in Henderson and move it over to that facility.”

More to say

Here are some other highlights from the interview:

— Bubolz said the organization is excited to see what will come of the NHL draft at the Sphere on June 28-29. The draft would normally be held at T-Mobile Arena, but UFC 303 taking place on June 29 forced the NHL to pivot. Visually, Bubolz said, it allows the league to do something unique with the 160,000-square-foot video board.

“You think about an 18-year-old player, he gets drafted and he’s larger than life. I think it’s a really unique and cool opportunity,” Bubolz said.

— The partnership between the Knights and Scripps Sports in their first year with KMCC-34 has been a great one, and Bubolz feels more can be done to enhance the game-day broadcast.

The overall feeling in the Knights’ first season with their own over-the-air channel, the first after a six-year run with AT&T SportsNet, was there was a lot of good to build on going into the second year.

Bubolz said the next step is trying to make the broadcasts more appealing to all fan bases going forward, including a betting aspect. He said the team is looking at incorporating elements similar to TNT Sports’ use of StatView during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That can include tracking on-ice time, high-danger chances, blocked shots and more.

— Bubolz also commended Scripps for the willingness to make KnightTime+, the Knights’ streaming service, an additive to Vegas 34. Bubolz said more than 10,000 subscribers signed up for what “we feel was a reasonable and fair price” of $69.99 for the season.

— Bubolz said he was also excited to keep play-by-play commentator Dave Goucher with the organization “long term.”

Goucher was considered a candidate for the Boston Bruins’ play-by-play job to replace longtime announcer Jack Edwards, who retired at the end of the season.

Bubolz said Goucher approached him as Edwards’ announcement happened.

“Ultimately, he decided his heart was still here,” Bubolz said.

— Knights games are expected to be aired in the Phoenix and Tucson areas in light of the Arizona Coyotes moving to Utah, Bubolz confirmed.

It’s expected to be done on a shared basis. The Colorado Avalanche and the now-official Utah Hockey Club still hold territorial rights where the Coyotes used to play.

Salt Lake City was one of the Knights’ TV territories before the Utah move. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to the RJ that the Knights would receive additional territories as part of the switch.

— While there have been no formal discussions on adding another team to the league, Bubolz said the Knights are interested if the Professional Women’s Hockey League wants to expand to Las Vegas.

Women’s hockey is growing in interest in Las Vegas. Bubolz said 6,008 kids at the 14-and-under level are registered to play hockey in Nevada. About 400 of those are girls.

The junior Golden Knights’ 14U girls team won the USA Hockey National Championship on April 7. They were the first girls team from Nevada to make nationals.

Bubolz said Lee’s Family Forum would be the perfect arena to host a PWHL team if it reached that point.

“We remain interested in the context of growing the game,” he said. “If that’s part of growing the game in Las Vegas, we want to be a part of that.”

— The Knights are partnering with the Desert Dogs of the National Lacrosse League to bring Camp 99 to Lee’s Family Forum.

The Desert Dogs will begin play at Lee’s Family Forum next season after playing their first two seasons at Michelob Ultra Arena.

The camp, organized by Desert Dogs owner and Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, will run July 22 to 25 for kids 8 to 10 years old and July 29 to Aug. 1 for 12- to 14-year-olds. Participants will get six hours of on-ice training and six hours of lacrosse training.

The four-day camp costs $299.

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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