The city of Las Vegas is in process of attempting to add a NHL franchise, and the UNLV club hockey team is looking to piggy back off of the popularity of hockey in the desert with an attempt top elevate from club to NCAA status.
This is not all that far fetched for ice hockey to have a team out in a location where 100-plus temperatures are the norm for a good portion of the year. Arizona State added ice hockey to become the 60th varsity team, and the Rebels want to become the 61st team.
UNLV has had club hockey since 2005 but they want to take it to the next step, but the move will be pricey. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the price tag will be around $18 million. That includes funding 20 scholarships, coaching staff, equipment and uniforms. The yearly cost to operate the program would be $1.5 annually, so this is not cheap.
The current status of the club program has a budge of $250,000 where some funds come from the student government, fundraisers, donations and then players also have to pay dues in the amount of $2,000 per season.
"This would be privately funded," said Zee Khan, who is the club's general manager. "We believe we can line up the funding to get it done in the next couple of years."
Khan said that he has spoken with many donors privately about establishing a fund, and he has been working with former NHL player Murray Craven, has been an adviser as the investor attempts to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas.
Even if the money is there for UNLV to upgrade men's hockey to varsity status there is more to make it happen. Title IX must be matched so with the addition of a men's varsity sport there must be women's sports added to balance the numbers. A few teams that could be added are lacrosse or sand volleyball, and the latter could pull players from indoor volleyball and still count toward participation numbers.
Another hurdle is where a potential varsity team will play. Currently the club team plays at the Las Vegas Ice Center on and they also has used the Sobe Ice Arena. A possible solution might be the proposed practice facility Foley will build should he get his NHL team, or use the Thomas & Mack Center.
Athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy was very impressed with the presentation to move the team up to varsity status, but wants to make sure the funding really has legs to get the numbers needed.
"Their plan was logical and they were well-organized," she said. "I don't know much about hockey. But I spent two years working for the Thunder and I know it's an exciting sport. I think it's something that might appeal to our students and something they would be willing to support.
"The fact ASU was able to do it is encouraging. The great thing about UNLV is we can be different. We should be different."
Arizona State would love to have UNLV join them at the varsity level to be able to have a travel partner.
The ultimate roadblock will not be Title IX, location of home games, conference affiliation, or talent; it will come down if the money will be there.