(Joel Grace Photo by MNG Partners, Inc.)
(The Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena renderings by Jeff Frame/Frame Architecture, Inc.)
Reno–Today we continue our segment on the Reno Ice story with President Joel Grace as he revealed to us the impact that the Vegas Golden Knights have made on hockey fans in Northern Nevada.
When you think about that fan support for hockey in Reno the one thing that comes to mind is the San Jose Sharks.
From 1991 thru 2017, Reno has been known to support the Sharks given with their close proximity to the Bay Area.
Regional Map Of Reno And San Jose
For those of you who may not know, Reno, NV and San Jose, CA in terms of distant between the two cities is roughly 251 miles apart and about four hours drive by car. If you fly between the two cities, it is roughly an hour long flight.
Ever since the Golden Knights came in the league, hockey fans in Northern Nevada have gradually made the shift over to the Vegas side and with Grace having lived in Reno 16 years he knows that in great detail.
“There’s a huge Knights fever going on right now. I met with one of the owners of the Sharks who lives in Incline and when we started talking before the Knights were going, we started talking to them and you know they’re full support of it and they think that this is obviously Knights territory and they’re seeing that. ” Grace said.
“Your still seeing some people wearing Sharks gear but from the event the other day you can tell that the shift is happening. You go to the Reno/Tahoe Airport on game days its black and gold and people are flying south, and there’s quite a few season ticket holders up here as well.” Grace added on the shift that Reno has been experiencing from the Sharks to the Golden Knights.
The event that Grace mentioned above was the recent Golden Knights 2nd Annual VGKRoadTrip that they recently put on at stop number one at the Atlantis Casino and Resort during the opening of the 32nd Annual Hot August Nights.
That event alone brought out approximately 350 Golden Knights hockey fans which we think is an impressive number considering that was the first time in club history by Vegas making a stop in “The Biggest Little City in the World”.
Grace told us how the Golden Knights presence in Nevada has united the state together like never before as opposed to the typical collegiate rivalry you see on a daily basis with the UNR Wolfpack and UNLV Rebels.
“You know it’s funny because I’ve been here since 2002 and it’s always been kind of a north south rivalry, especially when it comes to the university sports. The Knights have kind of been the unity of the state. They’ve kind of unified everybody whether you’re north or south you’re all Knights fans and you’re even seeing the shift which I noticed with some long time Sharks fans, there still Sharks fans, but they rather travel to Vegas than go over to San Jose to see a game. Easy to get on a flight and go.” Says Grace.
He’s spot on because the appeal factor traveling to Vegas than the Bay Area is much more appealing to a hockey fan wanting to visit an exotic locale like “Sin City” as opposed to “Silicon Valley”. To add, T-Mobile Arena being so new off the Las Vegas Strip, makes it a more enticing venue for Northern Nevada hockey fans to go to than the 25 year old SAP Center in San Jose.
In addition to that, comes with the fan engagement part in the community at watch parties that bring hockey fans together to show their support for the Golden Knights, especially during their deep Stanley Cup Playoff run and Grace noted that involvement.
“We had a couple of watch parties during the playoff run and we probably had 40, 50 people show up just on that Facebook message thrown on our website. So there’s a huge resurgence of it.” Grace said.
Thru that support that Northern Nevada hockey fans have been showing the Golden Knights, has led to demand of access to official team merchandise in the marketplace.
Right now, there is a handful of retailers in the Reno/Sparks area that are actively selling Golden Knights gear to the public. Scheels at The Outlets at Legends in Sparks, Pro Image which is inside the shopping district at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, Lids (two locations), Pro Team Sports, Sports Fever, and Dicks Sporting Goods.
For Grace, he believes that there should be more access to Golden Knights merchandise in the Reno/Sparks metro area for hockey fans to get their hands on than what is currently available in the marketplace.
“I’d like to see more, you don’t have enough of it in my opinion because you walk into Dicks and you got a lot of Wolfpack stuff, but I think that there’s a huge opportunity for a lot of marketing up here. You’ve got with Northern Nevada, 600,000 people, 650,000 people in the trade area and that’s a good fanbase.” Grace mentioned on the need for more Golden Knights gear to be made accessible in the local marketplace for both Reno and Sparks.
With the Golden Knights entering into their second season in the National Hockey League for 2018-19, the support for them in Northern Nevada will grow even more.
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