STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #2
- Location: Paradise, Nevada
- Opened 2016
- Capacity 17,368
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2019
As over-the-top as the Vegas Golden Knights’ game presentation looks on TV, it pales to the live experience. Las Vegas is home to glitzy showmanship and a Golden Knights game at T-Mobile Arena does the city proud.
The Vegas story is similar to the Nashville story: a non-traditional hockey market in a party city, fills its barn with enthusiastic local fans thanks to a great show, fabulous location and on-ice success. The difference is Nashville had to build that over time. Vegas came out of the gate right away and instantly became part of the city fabric.
The Golden Knights were the first pro team to call Sin City home; they made use of their first mover advantage and made a tight connection in this transient town in very short order. After the awful 2017 shooting tragedy, the team helped heal city residents with its community outreach and immediate on-ice success. Going all the way to the Cup Final in Year One, a strong bond between city and team was immediately created. The real test will come in leaner years once the novelty has worn off, but the Knights have positioned themselves for long-term success and are enjoying amazing fan support.
The arena is located just behind the New York New York casino hotel on the Vegas Strip, and vies with Nashville for the best located venue in the NHL. For visitors, a Knights game can be the nightcap to a great day in Vegas, or the start of an all-night bender depending on your approach to life. Obviously, finding a place to pre-game or post-game is not an issue.
The arena is absolutely gorgeous. Outside, the side facing The Strip has lots of neon signage, massive videoboards, lots of glass and a huge public plaza out front; the side facing away from The Strip mimics the colors of the desert and is more basic. Inside, the lower bowl has an open feel, allowing fans a glimpse of the action from many areas of the concourse. The seating areas are nice and steep, and nice and roomy with good width and legroom. Concessions, while pricy, were highlighted by a Shake Shack and an outpost of Hollywood’s Pink’s Hot Dogs. Good beer could be found with a little effort.
The pregame ceremonies are by far the most spectacular in hockey, and perhaps in all of sport. In a live-action show, a black-caped evil figure waving the banner of the opponent is vanquished by The Golden Knight after the latter pulls a sword out of the stone at center ice. All this is accompanied by great on-ice projections, creative uses of the videoboard and a live drum line. It’s a high-production, cheesy Vegas show that does an amazing job of whipping the crowd into a frenzy before puck drop. And the atmosphere and energy remains in the building throughout the game, even on an early-season weeknight game like the one I saw.
Vegas is a place that probably shouldn’t exist yet succeeds against all odds and never ceases to amaze. The same could be said for its hockey team. A trip to T-Mobile Arena is a sensory blast and to my surprise and delight, one of the very best experiences in the NHL. If you needed another reason to make a quick jaunt to Sin City, here it is.