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Las Vegas awarded NHL expansion franchise, with play starting in 2017

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LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas will get its first major professional sports league team in 2017 with an NHL expansion franchise, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday.

The league will expand to Las Vegas after awarding its 31st franchise to billionaire businessman Bill Foley on Wednesday.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the decision after the league’s board of governors met on a 109-degree day and voted to put an ice hockey team in the Mojave Desert’s gambling mecca.

Foley is expected to pay $500 million to the NHL’s other owners as an expansion fee. The new team will play in T-Mobile Arena, the $375 million building that opened just off the Las Vegas Strip in April.

The NHL is expanding for the first time since 2000, when Minnesota and Columbus each paid $80 million to join the league.

Quebec City’s bid for an expansion team was deferred, Bettman said.