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July 30, 2014

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‘KWTD’: Billy Johnson says ECHL’s ‘confidence is high’ in Wranglers’ capacity to find suitable home

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Special to the Sun, Josie Vimahi

The Las Vegas Wranglers’ Chad Nehring beats Utah Grizzlies goalie Aaron Dell in the shootout on Jan. 7, 2014.

Kats With the Dish

Wranglers update

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John Katsilometes and Tricia McCrone talk to Billy Johnson for an update on the Las Vegas Wrangler's search for a new home.

Wranglers President Billy Johnson stopped by "Kats With the Dish" for the second time in a month to talk about his team’s search for a new home, and, as he promised in his appearance on Jan. 3, “going dark” is not an option.

Johnson was asked about the three potential home sites for the Wranglers for the 2014-15 season. He effectively skated the question, saying he was curtailed in his authority to talk about any ongoing talks because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

But as co-host Tricia McCrone accurately noted, she and I were approached by guests at the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Black & White Ball at Aria asking me specifically about a temporary site at the Silverton, and also about the possibility of playing next season in either (or both) of MGM Resorts’ arenas — MGM Grand Garden Arena and Mandalay Bay Events Center. These were some well-informed individuals, too, who know the market, who know sports in Las Vegas, and who understand the finer points of leasing a venue.

Without confirming or denying any of those possibilities, Johnson reiterated that he could not specify the short list of potential venues for the Wranglers. But as I’ve said since the day after Johnson confirmed the team was being hustled out of Orleans Arena after its contract with Boyd Gaming expires at the end of this season, I fully expect the Wranglers to play in Las Vegas next season.

More of from the interview:

On the current situation of the LV Wranglers:

We lost our home around Dec. 14 and we were given five to six weeks to solve the problem, to find a new place to play. We had an ECHL deadline to commit to the league, so that the rest of the arenas in the league could schedule. That deadline was Jan. 20. Since we’ve spoken, we’ve gotten a two-week extension, which gets us to next Wednesday.

On why the Wranglers were given the extension:

We were able to show them three different options that we could figure out and activate, so their confidence was high that we would have something by then. Once we have it, we will deliver it to league officials.

On where negotiations are now:

As these things typically go, as you get closer to getting Memorandums of Understanding and legal documents, the news really gets cut off. We are at the point where the silence is probably very good news. People are working out of our hands now. We are waiting on other people to do what they need to do.

On how he handles the rumors of the Wranglers moving to MGM Resorts properties or a tent set up at Silverton:

Let me say that either one of those options would be terrific. They would both be great. Everybody involved with those organizations' intentions would be a philosophical match with ours. My job is to save it, not kill it and I’m true to that. If I said anything prematurely, I’d probably violate whatever agreements with whomever we are talking with.

On what the Wranglers require from a facility:

You have the fan component and the fan experience and when it comes to that we will program it. We will put on a good show. The professional part comes down to the treatment of our athletes. These guys are professional athletes. You have to treat them well and you have to treat the visiting teams well. They need a safe and comfortable place to be, locker rooms are a big issue.

On the Wranglers players’ reactions to changing the venue:

I’ve spoken to the guys in the locker room about what is going on. Keeping them posted. They do not care. They love this organization. They love playing in Las Vegas. They understand that whatever we come up with saves the team.

On if the ticket price will change with a new venue:

We want things to remain as same as possible. With the three options we are looking at, I’ve got three different business models. We are trying to keep it as close to what it is.

On when they will be the announcing the decision:

By Wednesday we should have an announcement. Our fans need it.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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