NHL Draft to be first sports event at Vegas Sphere

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has announced that the ice hockey league is finalising plans to host its 2024 Draft at Las Vegas’ new Sphere arena.

The NHL Draft will be the first sports event to be held at the 18,600-capacity venue, which opened on September 29 with the first of 36 performances from U2. The arena was featured along the track of the recent Las Vegas Grand Prix but so far no sporting events have taken place inside the venue itself.

The NHL Draft will take place on June 28-29, with the Vegas Golden Knights to serve as the host team. The Sphere is located close to the Las Vegas Strip, less than three miles from the Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena.

“It will be the first sporting event in the Sphere and I think it’ll be a pretty-well viewed event both in terms of the draft itself and the viral use of the Sphere inside and outside using the globe,” Bettman said. “We think it’ll be fun. We think it’ll be dramatic and compelling.”

The Sphere, which was designed by Populous, was built at a cost of $2.3bn (£1.8bn/€2.1bn) and has drawn attention for its eye-catching visuals. The venue’s 580,000-square-foot programmable LED Exosphere exterior is the largest LED screen in the world.

Last month, Sphere Entertainment announced that the arena posted an operating loss of $98.4m for the first quarter of the 2024 fiscal year, an increase of $19.4m on the previous year. Sphere Entertainment said this was primarily driven by higher depreciation and amortisation, direct operating expenses, and selling, general and administrative expenses. The arena posted first-quarter revenues of $7.8m.

The futuristic Sphere also features its own humanoid robot in the shape of Aura, a ‘spokesbot’ that will interact with guests. Five Aura robots greet guests from the moment they enter the Sphere.

Next year’s NHL Draft is set to be the final edition of the event in its current iteration. From 2025, the Draft will be decentralised, with teams set to stage fan events in their home markets. The 2023 Draft took place at Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville Predators.

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