SoDo Arena current state of an NHL first scenario: A little refresher

It is commonly known that the NHL must have assurances of a new Arena in Seattle before awarding the city an NHL franchise. The blocking issue is not as simple as rewriting the current MOU to enable an NHL-first scenario.

For those that don’t know, the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Seattle and King County requires an NBA franchise before construction can begin on the SoDo site. As much as we would like to do a “find & replace” on NBA, it isn’t remotely that simple. First off, Chris Hansen, who signed the MOU with the City & County owns $60Million worth of land on the site wants an NBA team and an NHL ownership group as a partner. The prospective NHL Ownership Group will need to work with Chris Hansen on the nature of their partnership while Hansen still needs to protect his interest/investment should the NBA never come back to Seattle. Of course, Hansen will need to know who the NHL will be selecting before he signs anything binding. If the City & County is going to change the MOU to an NHL first scenario, they must also perform some due diligence on prospective NHL owner (assuming they will be named on the MOU). Oh and we are still waiting for the Final Environmental Impact Study to be completed. So yes…this is complex. There is no one to blame here and based on the one time we have heard from Victor Coleman, he has a “clear path” to getting resolution.

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Sin City and the NHL

As you may have seen, Michael Russo wrote an excellent article about the prospects of putting an NHL team in Vegas. The difference between this report and earlier 2012+NHL+Entry+Draft+Rounds+2+7+lyfx4JlSpv9lrumors circulating on Vegas are the quotes and confirmation from the NHL’s own Bill Daly.

When the reports started surfacing of Vegas being the location of an NHL team, I certainly had my doubts. Small city, lack of local support, lower income etc.Vegas doesn’t rank in the top 40 for TV markets and is ranked 34th in Average Income of US Cities with more than a million people.

However, Las Vegas is like no other market in the NHL and predicting the success based exclusively on conventional metrics is not realistic.Ad dollars will be huge and entertainment revenues are exceeding gaming revenue for several major hotel properties. Yes, the NHL is more dependent on Gate Revenue than any other professional sports league but does that mean it must be so for all franchises? Could being the only Pro Sports team in city be the ticket to success? I don’t know the answers. By the sounds of Daly’s quotes in the article it doesn’t sound like he is convinced either and that will be part of the due diligence. Airing it out so publicly could be a way to see how much local interest is out there.

The more important takeaways from the article is that Daly and the NHL are at least acknowledging expansion and imply that expansion will need to happen in the west. This could be off the cuff remarks or could even be negotiating tactics to extract more expansion $ out of some eastern Canadian city that is well positioned with an arena.

This certainly will not be the last we hear about Vegas and the optimist would say Vegas needs a dancing partner. My advice, don’t get let this news get you too high or too low, it’s going to be a long and bumpy road.

NHLDemoincomeandTVmarket

 

Quick thoughts on Florida Attendance

In case you missed it, there were several photos of an empty arena during the Florida Panthers game last night. People quickly tagged me, mentioned me and emailed last night with references to moving the Panthers to Seattle. I get it, it looks bad and we knew this was coming based on announcements from the new owner in September.

As many of you know, I have never been a fan for relocation as most attendance drops are short term in view and usually tied to poor performance on the ice. So I quickly reminded people that it was not too long ago that the Penguins, Blackhawks and Bruins were all lagers in the attendance department.

Recapping some stories of the week

Here is a quick summary of some of the stories that were passed around this week relevant to the NHL coming to Seattle.

Seattle Arena EIS

KOMO news reported that the Arena EIS process was delayed again. Which is pretty consistent with what we heard from Chris Daniels in July. I dismissed it as no news but then…

Chris Daniels from King5 gives us significant insight to the EIS timeline: Hansen submits final paperwork for EIS piece of Seattle Arena.

I do not want to imply that this is earth shattering news but it was the necessary next step in the EIS process so great to see this progressing.

Arizona Coyotes Ownership

Yes, we are actually talking about the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes Ownership again. Respected reporter from the New York Post, Larry Brooks published this article that the Coyotes were looking for new investors. The tone of the article gave anti-sunbelt critics plenty of material to work with for a day or so. I usually try to give this types of stories some time to breath before forming an opinion based on a source. The article turned out to be fairly accurate but there was certainly more to the story.

Enter Craig Morgan from the Arizona Republic. Craig posted this follow up on the report with more specific information and a very different tone. One nugget of information is that the Valuation is somewhere in the $305M range just a year after the team was purchased for $170M. Without knowing the specifics of the deal between all parties, it’s really hard to assess what is really going on here. Either way, Craig’s article is certainly spinning it as a very positive thing for the Coyotes.

To tie a bow on it, Joe Yerdon wrote this piece on the situation. The article is worth a read. The cliff notes version is that as much as fans and media have been critical of how Bettman handled the Coyotes situation, the value has gone up, he did not lose a top US TV market and with the new investor, they have more stability and some options.

My take, which is not really going out on a limb, is reality is somewhere in the middle. I have always felt the Coyotes out clause is a reasonable option should the franchise not turn around. I have never felt a move was inevitable. Hopefully the money with help the Coyotes with a marketing push and a potential playoff run. I believe in hockey very much and think with the right ownership group the Coyotes can make it in Glendale. If they can’t, even people in Arizona can not blame the league for trying to make it work.

Portland

Paul Allen sat down for an interview with the Oregonian about the upcoming Trailblazer season and he was asked about the likelihood of bringing an NHL team to Portland inPORTLAND-10 the next five year. (Last Question in the article) His response is consistent with previously reported news about Portland. For those that don’t know, Portland was on the shortlist of destination cities for the Coyotes back in June of 2013.

ProHockeyTalk then summed up the whole story very well with this article. It is a great piece to get caught up on the Portland scenario.

I believe Portland & Paul Allen could be a player in expansion or relocation. Based on everything I have read, I still believe that Seattle is the most preferred city of all cities mentioned so if our Arena plan hits some snags, Portland might move from a contingency plan to “the plan”. IF and it is a big if, the Coyotes ownership ends up exercising their escape plan, Portland could be the destination. That said, I don’t think Paul Allen wants to be the landlord, he wants to be the owner of the team.

 

 

 

NHL to Seattle Survey #2 Part 2: Pro Sports

In the first post on the 2nd Survey, we looked into the results of some of the Western Hockey League questions. For part 2, we will look at some of the professional sports questions that were asked as part of the survey.  Keep in mind, solicitations for responses were primarily done via the NHLtoSeattle Facebook page. This certainly is not a random sample of Washington State residents. If you would like respond to the survey, I intend to keep it open here for a little longer.

NHLGamesWashingtonState

An amazing 40% of folks that responded to the survey in Washington State went to an NHL game last year. I have been thinking about throwing out a challenge to the community to see if we can get someone from the Puget Sound to every hockey rink in the league. I had folks send me pics from Chicago, Florida and Phoenix last year, representing Seattle. Why not every rink?

LiveGames

Nothing to surprising and tough to really compare Mariners to Seahawks and Sounders considering there is so many more games for the Mariners. I also asked about UW Football (80% of people did not go to games) and UW Basketball (92% did not go to one game).

Not a local team but I asked how many Canucks games you went to last year. 20% of you went to at least one Canucks game.

Canucks

Impressive but not surprising. I’ve gone to several Canucks games since I moved to the area. What is more impressive is that when you compare the immediately above numbers to the first graph I posted. The difference means that people are going to a bunch of NHL games outside of Vancouver. (I went to games in LA and Philly last year.)

There has been some discussion on dilution in the Seattle market but I’ve often argued there is very little crossover with Basketball so adding both the Sonics and an NHL team would not really cause the fan base to be split, it would actually be the perfect compliment. Tough to prove that out but this next question paints that picture a little better.

TVgamesbyLeague

From a TV perspective, the people that responded to this survey, which are mostly NHL fans have more crossover into the NFL than any of the other pro sport. Hmmmm…so maybe the close to 1 Million people who flooded the streets of Seattle for the Super Bowl parade could be future NHL fans. It makes sense since the NHL has a lot in common with Football…minus the timeouts and setup time between plays.

What are your thoughts?

NHL to Seattle Survey #2 Part 1: The WHL edition

I received some great insight and response from the 2nd NHL to Seattle Survey. So much so that I need to break it down into two or three posts. Without further ado, I present the WHL edition of the results.

Disclosures: a majority of the promotion and respondents came from the NHLtoSeattle Facebook page or twitter account. These are people who are generally interested in the NHL to Seattle movement so these are not numbers that represent the Seattle population. More they represent the hockey community in the Puget Sound. As expected, most of respondents were from Washington State (~92%).

How many WHL games did you attend last year?

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Here you can see the average WHL games by city. The size of the circle represents the volume of respondents compared to the other cities, while the shade of green represents the average games attended by respondent.

WHLGames by City

I then asked people what is the biggest barrier in attending more WHL Games. For the data below, I filtered on King. Pierce and Snohomish County respondents.

ReasonsWHL

I would say the results are fairly predictable. For those of you that don’t know, Everett (Silvertips) and Kent (Thunderbirds) are about 30 mile drive away from the two densest cities of Seattle and Bellevue. For people that work a traditional 9 to 5 job, getting to a midweek game from either Seattle or Redmond-Bellevue area could take well over an hour. I know that is the reason I don’t get to more games (I live & work in Seattle).

There were several write ins that said something to the effect of, “because it isn’t the NHL”.

What is your favorite WHL team?

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When you look at the state view, it is no surprise where the fans are clustered.

FavoriteWHLMAp

How many Seattle Thunderbirds games did you attend last season? (Filtering on Washington State Zip codes)

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When isolating on respondents that indicated the Seattle Thunderbirds as their favorite team, you get the following results:

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How many Everett Silvertips games did you attend last season? (Filtering on Washington State Zip codes)

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Isolating on Everett Silvertips fans you get the following results:

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Some bonus data, 23.4% of respondents went to at least one Seattle Thunderbird game and Everett Silvertip game. 35.4% of respondents went to neither a Tips or Birds game last year.

 

The NHL to Seattle Weekly roundup

We had a wild week. I have highlighted some of the most impactful articles, podcasts and other content that framed the week. It might be obvious, but I don’t agree with everything I am sharing but I still wanted to show some of the more interesting articles on the topic at hand.

Two initial reports set the stage and speculation on NHL expanding to Seattle.

  • Gallagher: Bettman has changed his tune on NHL expansion – This initial report seemed to reiterate a lot of what we have heard over the last 9 months with relatively no new insight with the exception of Las Vegas being a “done deal” other than picking an owner. (Let’s forgive the oxymoron in that sentence). This did not shock me or anyone else that has been all over this saga. I interpreted the done deal as maybe the NHL is convinced it could work in Vegas.
  • Howard Bloom tweets that NHL will expand 4 more teams by 2017 – This tweet kicked off a ton of articles with one that seemed to give it more credibility, the SI article. My opinion is that I am sure somewhere at NHL Headquarters there is a roadmap or a strategy document that probably has all four of those cities as potential expansion and relocation targets or options, it is not necessarily the plan of record. Having looked at Howard Bloom’s content on his website and his twitter account, I do not give it a lot of weight.

Denials from the NHL

It took less than 12 hours for mainstream hockey press to get the NHL’s take on the reports. Here are some of the notable articles on the denials.

The local perspective

Although other Seattle news outlets started reporting on the news, the NHL to Seattle mainstays, Geoff Baker from the Seattle Times and Chris Daniels from King5 weighed in.

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Other interesting insight and notable opinions.

  • Half Of The NHL’s Rumored Expansion Cities Don’t Make Sense – article from Nate Silver’s 538 says Seattle and Vegas don’t make sense because…wait for it. Buried a link and 10 paragraphs in, people are not searching for “NHL” on google enough. Yes, that is the basis of the claim. In the referenced article, it also says “Sudbury-Thunder Bay” could better support a team. Keep in mind that those two cities are only 12 hours away from each other and have about 100,000 people in each of those cities so I am not sure where they anticipate putting an arena. Most of the people I talk to have been fairly critical of 538 since it moved over to ESPN. The unfortunate part about this article is that most people don’t read far enough to understand the methodology and/or have the time to fact check some of the claims in the article. By the way, I am sure NBC and Rogers would love a Sudbury vs Moncton Stanley Cup final matchup.
  • Duhatschek: NHL shift on expansion thinking came more than a year ago – I enjoy the globe and mail (most of the time). There were several articles that validated that expansion is coming, this is just one of the better ones.
  • Canzano: When the NHL is ready, Paul Allen is waiting in the ‘Shark Tank’ – I have never counted out Portland and this article sums up their position fairly nicely. My take, if Paul Allen wants an NHL team, he can probably get one. If (and that is a big If) the whole Arizona Coyotes thing does not work itself out, Portland could be a destination.

The irony of this whole week is that if news like this broke in October or November, we would not have heard 10% of the volume we heard this week. Writers are itching for some content to write about while in season I am hanging on Bettman and Daly’s every word to hear something about Seattle. We are going to be riding a rollercoaster for a while but we have to be patient. Try not to get too up or too down on these reports. It all takes time and to steal a phrase from Chris Daniels, there are lots of moving parts.