LV hockey enters ‘rah-rah’ era

Oct 8, 2002 4:53 AM

Been there, done that is not part of John Tull’s philosophy.

"I am a rah-rah guy," said Tull, president of Chandar Sports and new owner of the Las Vegas Wranglers minor league hockey team.

The Wranglers will call the 9,000-seat Orleans Arena their new home when the puck is dropped on a 72-game season in October 2003.

"One year from now there will be 7,500 fans in this building that will make everyone believe there is no place better to be than Las Vegas," said Tull, who also oversees the operation of the champion Fresno Falcons of the West Coast Hockey League.

The Wranglers are scheduled to compete in the Western Division of the East Coast Hockey League, whose headquarters are based in Columbia, S.C. The league is affiliated with the NHL.

"We will know more in January about our situation, but we are delighted the way things worked out," said Tull, a 14-year veteran of pro sports management and recipient of the 2001 WCHL Executive of the Year Award.

"This is a great opportunity for us being in Las Vegas," Tull said. "Never did we consider the move here a risk. Being a breeding ground for future NHL players will be a great way of making this franchise attractive to our fans and this new arena will be the talk of the ECHL."

The new Orleans Arena and Wranglers hockey is a marriage that once looked to be unachievable. The original plan was to have the Wranglers play in a downtown arena, while Michael Gaughan and the Orleans attempted to purchase another minor league hockey team.

Steve Stallworth, vice president of the Orleans Arena, said that the new hockey team will be accepted because families will want to come out and support the team.

"We need to attract fans who have never been to the Orleans," Stallworth said."

Stallworth said that the "O-rena" will be a fan-friendly environment.

"Our 8,000 parking spaces for the games will be free," he said. "You can buy a beer for $3, a hot dog for $2 and a soda for $1. That’s half of what you would pay in the city."

Tull said he has heard the past tales of failure for Las Vegas being able to support any type of pro sports venture and is undeterred.

"We heard all that talk in Fresno and we wound up being voted the best management team in the league and winning the title," he said. "I knew Las Vegas was the right choice from the start and the ECHL will be proud to have Las Vegas."