Take a drive down historic Water Street in Downtown Henderson and you’ll find a slew of local businesses, from tiny shops to cafes and bars. And if you’ve been to the area recently it’s no secret what the city’s newest homegrown business is: Hockey.
Right in the center of Water Street is Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, a brand new 120,000 square foot facility that will serve as the practice home of the Henderson Silver Knights and a community gathering center. The facility replaces the City of Henderson’s Convention Center, which was torn down last spring to make room for the project.
“When we started the project there was no Henderson Silver Knights. With our partnership with the City of Henderson this was always going to be at the forefront of their Water Street District revitalization.,” says Darren Eliot, Vegas Golden Knights Vice President of Hockey Programming and Facility Operations.
The Vegas Golden Knights announced that they purchased an American Hockey League franchise membership in February 2020, long after construction on Lifeguard began. This posed some unique challenges for Eliot and his team to ensure that the facility would not only be great for the community, but would also be the best practice facility in the AHL for the Silver Knights.
“It was a challenge because you have a predetermined amount of space and now you have to make it world class and give the team the functionality and flow that they would expect and deserve as an organization,” said Eliot. “The input from the team was invaluable. Equipment Manager Chris Davidson-Adams, Director of Sports Performance Jay Mellete, my guys, the ops guys, Andrew Stewart who has been through this with me before. I got so much good input that it was like okay, can we do it with the space that we have leftover?”
With the building set to open in the coming weeks it’s clear that Eliot and his team were able to utilize and maximize every square inch of space available to them. The space is complete with two sheets of ice, meeting space and a team space for the Silver Knights, plus a café and a full service MacKenzie River restaurant that will both open at a later date.
Directly behind the building is an outdoor plaza project the City of Henderson is working on that will ultimately be utilized for events, watch parties or just as a place for people to come together and hang out.
“There’re going to be so many reasons for so many families who don’t play hockey to come here. We want them to try it – come to an open skate, come to a try hockey for free – there will be all kinds of opportunities for us to do that for the community. It’s your building, it’s the City’s building and now it’s the Henderson Silver Knights building. That was the ordering. That’s probably why community is at the forefront of this project,” said Eliot.
Lifeguard Arena is going through a soft launch now where the building is beginning to be utilized for youth and adult hockey and skating programming prior to the official opening of the facility. Having the new sheets of ice in Henderson makes it easier from kids and their families to get involved in hockey, a sport that’s in high demand and growing rapidly in the area.
“You’ve got to do this for youth hockey because it’s really for your hockey, for future fans,” said Eliot. “To have that kind of commitment is smart business, but it’s not really about business. It’s about the community. It’s like the old saying, if you do the right thing for the right reasons, typically you get the right results.”