SoDo Arena Update: Hansen Speaks

SoDo land owner and prospective NBA franchise owner in Seattle, Chris Hansen, made news today when he spoke to a couple of local media outlets today. This morning he spoke to local AP reporter, Tim Booth, and this afternoon he jumped on the Dave Softy Mahler show on KJR.

The executive summary of his message is that he is still very committed to the SoDo Arena project and believes it is inevitable that the NBA will come here. Most importantly, Hansen made it clear that no prospective NHL owner has approached him with basic terms to enable an NHL first scenario. It could have been a case of wishful thinking, but most of us anticipated that talks between Victor Coleman and Hansen were progressing. As fans, this is a little disappointing, but I do appreciate Hansen sharing information.

Here is an updated visual on the complexity of a possible NHL first scenario at the SoDo site:

 

Visio20150526

Seattle needs a new Arena

Over the weekend, CBS Sports ran an article titled “Seattle City council wants to pull public funds from proposed arena”. In there was a quote from Tim Burgess.

“This deal’s just not doable, at least as it’s constructed today,” says Tim Burgess, the president of the Seattle City Council. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those.”

As far as I remember, Burgess has been consistent in this issue, the economics of the MOU need to change to accommodate an NHL first scenario. He has never got into specifics because there are several economic levers to pull to restructure the deal. It could be higher rent, higher surcharges or more guarantees/assurances.

This got me thinking….independent of NBA and NHL, does Seattle really need a new arena. I took a look across the Top 50 Metropolitan Statistical Arenas to determine how Seattle stacks up with other Metro areas and their arenas.

I first isolated the most modern arena equipped to handle major concerts and sporting events that had a capacity over 10,000 within each metro area. For example, for the New York Area, I selected the most modern arena of the 4 in the area, so Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The results may not surprise you.

Most Modern Arenas

MostModern

The data shows that with exception of Virginia Beach and Richmond Virginia that do not have an arena, Seattle has the oldest primary arena. Maybe the City of Seattle needs the arena more than they are letting on?

For the heck of it, here is a list of all main arenas in the top 30 markets.

Top30

The FEIS and what’s next

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

As scheduled, the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Seattle Arena was released Thursday morning and as expected, the results were favorable.

This news is being picked up everywhere but the most thorough article came locally from Chris Daniels and Geoff Baker.

Chris Daniel’s Article here.

Geoff Baker’s article is here.

The Puget Sound Business Journal also had a good summary piece on the economics.

Here are some highlighted tweets of the coverage:

Sonics Arena Statement

Within a couple hours of the FEIS being released, the SonicsArena camp released a statement. There was an entire HockeyView_SonicLevel3paragraph on an NHL first scenario.

We also wanted to take the opportunity to reiterate that we remain 100% supportive of the NHL returning to Seattle and playing in the Arena — and are completely open to the prospect of that occurring prior to the NBA. In light of recent speculation, we would just like to clarify that we have sought to be as accommodating as possible in our negotiations with potential NHL partners, with our only major requirements being that such a deal does not jeopardize the process or put the City, County, Taxpayers or us in a worse financial position.

This is consistent with the Hansen camp’s position from the very beginning. In an interview late 2012 with King 5, Hansen said that an NHL first scenario would be possible in the right scenario. At the time, NBA expansion or relocation looked like more of a possibility which made the scenario less likely. Comments from Victor Coleman last week have muddied the waters a bit so it is great to see the Hansen group affirm their position.

Port of Seattle Opposition

Consistent with the ports messaging throughout this entire process. They released this statement on their opposition to the Arena and the EIS findings. In my three plus years of following this project, the Port has never provided any data on the impacts of the Arena to their business and have never appeared to be collaborative in this project. We should expect more and more of this type of PR from the port.

What is next?

Now that the Final EIS hurdle has been cleared, a couple things will start to play out. For an NHL first scenario, a prospective NHL owner will need to strike a deal with the Hansen group. Once that happens, the Hansen group will need to take a proposal to the Mayor to change the current MOU to be an NHL first scenario. This will more than likely need to happen in PopulationAugust so that the Mayor can bring it to the city council for vote in September.

In the meantime, the NHL has two key Board of Governors meetings, one before the NHL Draft in June and another in September. As reported last week, it appears they will “vote” on expansion in September. Since the news did not come from the league, it is up to us to define “vote”. Most people interpret this “vote” as to start the application process and not necessarily, awarding the franchise.

Meanwhile, the Tukwila arena proposal moves forward and should be considered a major competitor to the SoDo Arena regardless if there is movement on the NHL first scenario in Sodo.

As I tell most people, this is a rollercoaster, try not to get too high or too low on any news. So let’s celebrate the victory but do not assume this thing is a done deal. Lots and lots of work still remain.

How Tukwila Stacks Up

Full disclosure: This is somewhat recycled content but wanted to update some of the maps I have done with the news from yesterday.

Population

As most of you know, the bulk of the population is located in Seattle and the East Side (Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish). The Tukwila site is roughly equal distance for the two locations. One clear advantage is the ability to tap into the Tacoma market (the third biggest city in Washington State).

Population

Income Levels

Now population does not create a market itself. You need customers that fit the demographic and one of those core components is income. I have already established that NHL fans tend to be wealthier compared to other sports fans.  Similar to an approach I did a few months ago, I overlaid income levels by looking at tax returns by zip code. Below is a map of the # of returns that had an Adjusted Gross Income over $75,000.

income

Travel distance tolerance

As luck would have it, I conducted a survey about a month ago and asked the following question: If Seattle were to get an NHL team, how many miles would you be willing to travel (drive, public transit, etc.) to a game? To my surprise, a majority of respondents said they would travel over 15 miles (red box in dashboard below). Here is the break down by county:

DistanceDistance Proxies

Here are a few of the distances to some of the proxy arenas in the NHL and NBA.

Tukwila Site

  • 11 Miles from downtown Seattle.
  • 14 Miles from downtown Bellevue.
  • 23 Miles from downtown Tacoma.

Canadian Tire Center, home of the Ottawa Senators:

  • 16.6 Miles from downtown Ottawa

St. Paul MN, home of the Minnesota Wild:

  • 12.4 Miles from Minneapolis

The Palace at Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons:

  • 33 Miles from Detroit

Glendale AZ, home of the Arizona Coyotes:

  • 10 Miles from Phoenix
  • 21 Miles from Scottsdale
  • 27 Miles from Mesa

Sunrise FL, home of the Florida Panthers

  • Sunrise, FL is 31.2 Miles from Miami

On a personal note, I grew up going to Oakland A’s games, a lot of them. The distance we traveled seemed very reasonable. Traffic seemed bad but just something we lived with to go to games. I looked up the distance and it was 20 miles with a good stretch on the parking lot known as I-680. I did not live in San Francisco Area when the Sharks moved to San Jose but occasionally I would be visiting my family while the Sharks were in town and we would catch a game. That distance we would drive was 55 Miles. This just seemed like a normal distance to drive to watch a game.

Seattle Mayor Murray chimes in

Quick post this morning. I thought it was important to share this statement from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. Great to see such a commitment from the Mayor’s office. It is going to get really noisy over the next couple months as I expect to hear from Chris Hansen and/or Victor Coleman over the next couple weeks as the Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) is published on or before May 7th.

If you have the time, I would recommend listening to yesterday’s Sin Bin with guest Chris Daniels and Brian Robinson.

Mayor

(Sorry for the screen shot vs. embedded tweet. I was having issues with the picture of the actual statement being displayed correctly).

Tukwila plans start to emerge

As we have been hearing for a while now, Ray Bartozek is putting an alternative arena plan together in the Tukwila Area. Originally, the Tukwila site was thought to be at the Unified Grocers site just south of Boeing Field along the Light Rail line but based on Craig’s article, the site is off 405 in between the Family Fun Center and Southcenter Mall.

Bettman talks a little expansion in NYC presser

bettman_gary640I caught a bunch of comments on twitter from Gary Bettman’s press conference this morning in NYC. He talked quite a bit about Expansion and Seattle so I wanted to share for the folks that might not be on twitter or may have missed it. There could be some follow up articles on some of these points but for now I am going to embed some of the tweets of the coverage and give some commentary where necessary.

Expansion and Vegas

Nothing really new other than Bettman confirming what we heard from Scott Burnside earlier this week. If you want to take the Seattle optimist view, you can hope that Seattle is part of the “pursue it” conversation since Bettman has said that a ticket drive was not necessary in Seattle or Quebec.

Seattle Specifics

This is the most direct comment I have ever read or heard from Bettman on the opportunity for NHL in Seattle. We have known the NHL has wanted to be here but Bettman usually phrases things with “There is some interest…” or “we haven’t studied the market”.  It might not seem like much but this is progress.

Very consistent with what we have heard from Geoff Baker, Chris Daniels, the Mayor and the limited comments we have heard from the NHL. Hearing it all wrapped up together from the NHL is dare I say, encouraging. There are a couple things that can fall into place over the next 2 months. The Final Environmental Impact Study of the SoDo Arena due on May 7th. If Victor Coleman is still the NHL front man in that deal, we should expect to some of those details to emerge on getting the financing for an NHL first scenario. Additionally, the Tukwila (or Bellevue) plan could emerge to compete with the SoDo plan. SoDo still has some hurdles so whether it is a competing plan or a backup plan, I am all for it.

Get ready for a wild 60 days.