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Golden Knights fans stay up all night

24-hour open house at T-Mobile Arena proves signature Las Vegas event

by Mike Cranston / NHL.com Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- Cate Costanzo posed in the penalty box when her husband, Joe, snapped a picture. A few feet away, Chris Hunt wore a mask and pads while he struggled to stop shots by his wife and nephew. 

It was after 1 a.m. Wednesday and T-Mobile Arena was buzzing. The NHL's newest team turned its fan open house into a distinct event with a Las Vegas twist. 

"I have to work at 10 a.m. but I'm having a great time," Sandra Hunt said, sitting on what will be the expansion Vegas Golden Knights bench. "They should do this every day." 

Steps away from the always lit-up Strip, the Golden Knights held what's believed to be the first 24-hour fan party involving an NHL team. It drew more than 7,500 people to their new arena, even though their first regular-season game is still more than seven months away.

"The idea was a 24-hour event because Las Vegas is a 24-hour city," owner Bill Foley said at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. "But I really thought we'd get about 1,500 people total. It's amazing, it's gratifying. We have so many season ticket holders here, new season ticket holders. It's beautiful." 

The open house began at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The ice wasn't down, but the boards were up, the netting was in place and goals were stationed at each end to allow for some slap shots.

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: Anyone looking to play some late-night hockey? We'll still be going strong for another 10 hours at @TMobileArena. #BoldInGold pic.twitter.com/puyPLdDMsB

The action picked up in late afternoon, with kids shooting at an air-filled target near what will be center ice. Steps away, toddlers lined up to get their faces painted in Vegas gold and black as a parent marveled that come October, real NHL players will be skating in that same spot when Las Vegas becomes home to a major professional sports team for the first time. 

"We're really building this business based on the local community," Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz said. "When we look at the convention traveler or the leisure traveler, we kind of see that as kind of being extra opportunity."

NHL games were shown on the big screen in the early evening. Pop music replaced hockey on the speakers as it got later. Season ticket-holders wandered around the lower and upper levels, testing their new seats. Two tickets to the first home game next season were given away every hour by various radio personalities. 

The crowd thinned near midnight, but fans kept trickling in. Joe Costanzo normally works an overnight shift at a Strip casino, so a middle-of-the-night trip fit his schedule.

Tweet from @MikeCranston1: Upper deck view of @GoldenKnights fan day. pic.twitter.com/Sv0IRu6qXo

"We're supporters and we're real excited about a team coming to Las Vegas," said Costanzo, wearing a crisp, new Golden Knights cap. "It's great." 

The motivation for the event was to get closer to the goal of 13,200 season tickets sold. Foley said Vegas had 12,500 confirmed going into the event and its 44 suites were basically all gone. Reaching the season-ticket goal would leave about 3,500 seats for individual sale each game. 

Available seats for season tickets had a white sheet of paper with the price draped over them. They ranged from $400 a game in the second row to $40 a game in the corner of the upper deck, which still produces a quality, unobstructed view of the ice.

Haley Jarvies, who works in sales, convinced her parents to purchase two season tickets in the lower bowl with VIP access. It was planned to be an investment, allowing the family to make money by often selling the tickets depending on the opponent and demand.

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: Sun's up, and we have another winner of home opener tickets. Is it just us or is the gong getting louder? #BoldInGold pic.twitter.com/rOlnLJitEy

But when Jarvies and a friend toured the arena shortly before 9 p.m., she had second thoughts. 

"I'm literally so upset that I can't be part of every game," Jarvies said, pointing to a temporary Golden Knights tattoo on her cheek. "I'm committed. I think hockey is the best thing that could come to Las Vegas." 

Sales of Golden Knights sweatshirts, T-shirts and hats were brisk on the concourse, not bad for a team with no players. Vegas won't be fully stocked until the NHL Expansion Draft in June. 

But that didn't damper the enthusiasm for Sandra Hunt, who declared herself a new hockey fan. 

"I don't follow hockey that much, but now that we have our own team here in Vegas, I'm becoming a fan," she said. 

The Golden Knights also unveiled 11- and 22-game ticket packages and at 2 a.m., eight people stood in line waiting for ticket information. Next to them stood a gold-and-black gong, which rang every time a sale was completed.

And the owner promised that wouldn't be the only out-of-the-ordinary sound heard next season. 

"We're going to push the envelope," Foley said. "We're just not going to be the same old horn. We have some different ideas that will make it more exciting when a goal is scored. It's Las Vegas, so the cha-ching of money, maybe. Or bells and whistles. Everything we do is going to be a little more interesting, I believe, than a lot of other teams do."

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