Bird in the hand….

Well what a week. On Tuesday, the King County Council moved the SoDo/Hansen MOU out of committee and up for possible full council vote on Monday. Second, a Gretzky  sighting at the Mariners game unleashed all kind of speculation that he was meeting with the City of Bellevue about the NHL in the area as part of a separate arena deal. On Friday, Don Levin went public with his plan of a separate arena in Bellevue. I will tackle them one at a time…

  1. The King County Council vote. This is the critical step in getting an Arena deal in the area, specifically the SoDo proposal that we have been publically talking about over the last 7 months. It’s hard to get a perfect read on what really went down at the county council & I did watch it. The general consensus is that the county has the votes to approve the MOU with some modifications. Once the county approves it, the feeling is this will put much more pressure on the City, which is something City Council member Tim Burgess didn’t want. What was hard to understand is that this move to take it out of committee was surprising to council members to a point where Larry Phillips called Joe McDermott’s move “really bad form”. After the short recess, Larry Phillips did not return to the meeting. I can only take that to mean he was really upset that this was moved along. Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer noted that he doesn’t think it will get approved next week. Either way, this is a big step in moving the SoDo Arena in the right direction.
  2. Gretzky! Well it is great to have him in the area. A day after all the speculation, his agent denied he was in the area to meet with the city of Bellevue peeps. That might be the case but he might have been in the area for some other group tied to getting a team to Seattle. According most mainstream hockey press, Gretzky’s relationship with the NHL has soured since the Phoenix Coyotes went bankrupt. You see Gretzky was the coach and some of his compensation was tied to equity in the team and when the team goes bankrupt, there goes the equity. So it is a little surprising to hear him bubble up back in the NHL this way. It would be great for a team to have his involvement but I would rather just assume he is not part of a prospective ownership group for now…prove me wrong. PLEASE!
  3. …and now on to Don Levin. Don Levin was in the Seattle news about a year ago on the prospects of bringing an NHL team here. On two talk radio shows on Friday, he confirmed that he was working with the city of Bellevue for the last 25 months. This is great news for getting hockey to the area and having someone like Don Levin as a potential owner would be great. He is a hockey fan first and “take residence” in Washington state should he land a team. He is said to have 100Million to put up for an Arena and he says his plan has no public risk. This is all great stuff. The catch here is that he doesn’t have a proposal to review yet so it is really hard to analyze the deal against the SoDo deal. Several other sports owners have said zero risk/cost before so we need to wait until we see how this plays out. I believe he has a good deal and feel that he could be a great owner. So why don’t these guys just work together? According to Levin, they have been talking for about a year but they have a difference of opinions on how to run the arena. Don mentioned that Chris has talked to several potential NHL owners and could be weighing his options where Tom has only talked to Chris. Don confirmed that it doesn’t mean they can’t work together but right now he is moving forward with Bellevue.

The unfortunate thing here is the timing of Levin going public with his potential Bellevue plan is that it is right before the county (potentially) votes on the MOU. Several people specualte that was intentional to add confussion and delay the SoDo voting. I don’t know if that is the case. All I know is that right now, the SoDo MOU is the only option we have in front of us and we should stay laser focused on that deal. It’s a bird in the hand scenario. From a public funding standpoint, the SoDo deal is a great deal for the city and those deals do not come around that often. We don’t know how the Levin deal will stack up. Levin can and should move forward with Bellevue plan. We should support both scenarios until the time comes to choose.

47,000 is greater than 19,000

It seems like the Port’s concerns is one of the last major hurdles to approve the SoDo Arena. To be clear, they are not saying it shouldn’t be built there, they just want more time and studies on potential Port impacts. I am not going to get into the fact that they’ve had 5 months to determine the impact or share some data on the impacts….ok well I guess I just got into it but they have their reason. I am fairly certain this is a leverage play to get something they were promised, the lander street bridge . 10 years ago, Safeco averaged 43,000 for Mariners games, with roughly 81 games that is a comparable number of games that an NHL & NBA team would use in the SoDo arena. So if the Port could survive 10 years ago with 43,000/a game and now survives with the Mariners drawing 20,000/game, how could 18,000 (max capacity) break the ports back to costs jobs.

So I thought I would put a graph together to illustrate the insanity of the claim…

Ok so this was an attempt to be a little funny but it is something that has not been addressed. How is it that the port can survive with the mariners but not with the arena even though the average attendance and capacity is much smaller with roughly the same amount of dates? It is also interesting to consider that the NBA and NHL would never have midweek day games which the Mariners probably have 10 times a year.

A couple of call outs on my assumptions:

  • For the average attendance of the SoDo Arena I took the average of Sonics attendance from 2000 to 2008.
  • When the city did their financial projections of the Hansen deal, they assumed an average of 13,000 which is close to the league lowest.
  • Hockey’s max capacity would be lower by about 1000

I didn’t include Seahawks or Sounders since their quantity of MidWeek Games are so much less but for the fun of it….

I would love for someone to explain why the Arena will cost the port jobs. As several people have asked, show us the data.

 

Hansen talks about where we are at with hockey in Seattle

Just a quick note on some of remarks around NHL I caught on KJR yesterday when Chris Hansen called in to their show. You can listen to it here: http://www.sportsradiokjr.com/player/?station=KJR-AM&program_name=podcast&program_id=softy.xml&mid=22279286 I enjoyed the entire piece but if you want to just listen to the hockey comments, it starts roughly at the 21:45 remark.

Here are the main comments:

“There are several people interested in bringing hockey to Seattle.”

“We want to find a great ownership group that is passionate about hockey as we are about basketball.”

“There are good people that are focused on keeping Seattle for the long-term and are not just out of town owners looking for the best market without a long term commitment.”

“Optimal solution for them would be to probably come a little later, maybe like a year or two”

“Key Arena is a tough place to play. It is only 10,000 Seats”

“Hockey is more dependent on Arena revenue.”

“Really tough for them (a hockey team) to play in KeyArena for 3 years”

I’ve assumed that the Hansen groups has some dialogue with potential or existing NHL owners and it is great to hear it validated. For the out of towners that might not hear all the comments and remarks that Hansen & even public officials are making but the NHL is very much part of the conversation and mentioned all the time. The Sonics, for good reason, are driving the bus and dominate conversations but the NHL is much more than an afterthought.

Data Data Data….on the Public Hearing.

Here is my quick assesment of the public hearing tonight (7/19).

For the most part, the issues at hand require so much research, nothing can really be learned at these things because there are biases and claims that can’t really be answered or addressed in this forum. One thing it does provide is an opportunity for council members to take their constituents pulse on the matter. Hopefully they got something out of it and it was useful.

I really wished I would have recorded all the “coulds”, “mights” and “mays” in Tay Yoshitani’s comments to the councils. There were a lot and he never said, it would cost jobs once.

Here is the tally that I took during the event:

A couple notes and comments on my tally:

  • Pro:Industry or Con:Industry pretty much mean that the person was representing a trade of sorts. The pro’s were construction, sheet medal, painters etc., where the con’s were probably tied to the port in some fashion but did not mention it the port.
  • Pro: Sonics Fan is probably doing a disservice to the category because there were a lot of sonics fans that brought up good arguments citing the deal that should have been in the Pro: General category. There was some obvious fans that just wanted the Sonics back in this category.
  • Pro: General are those that had a multiple set of arguments, usually well-constructed and fairly fact based.
  • NEU: General were mostly the 17 members of the Seattle Stage Hands Organization/Union. Most of them mentioned opposing privatization of Key Arena and Seattle Center. I am unaware if this is part of the MOU so if someone knows, please let me know. I felt their stance was relatively neutral here other than they want their interests heard…which they were.
  • Con: Port – well you probably know this one. Anytime the Port came up or the reference to Longshoreman came up I coded the speaker in this category. (By the way, how awesome would the name Longshoreman be for a Seattle NHL team?)
  • Con: General were comments generalizing the arguments against it or the more time, “what’s the rush” category.

Here is the summary in pie chart form:

Current state of Affairs of the Chris Hansen proposal

Well we are inching the closer to the City and County Council voting on the Hansen proposal and I thought I would sum up the current state of affairs. For the record, I am trying to be as objective as possible here but I know I can’t be since I would love for a hockey team to come here. I certainly don’t want a team no matter what I take the public financing and/or subsidies very seriously but I am sure I have some bias here.

The main issues that are pretty much listed in priority order with the top 2 being the most contentious:

  • I-91 Compliance
  • Port of Seattle & Traffic
  • Job Impacts
  • Key arena (way down the list)

I-91: In my opinion this is the biggest issue and has council members the most concerned. Well, it has the Seattle City Council members the most concerned. Chris Van Dyk, long standing sport stadium subsidy opponent has threated to sue the city because he says it is not I-91 compliant.

As you may or may not know. I-91 basically says that any sports stadium subsidies must make the city money at a rate no less than the US T-bill rate. Well, turns out that it isn’t written that well to deal with the Hansen proposal and has thus caused some discrepancy in how to calculate rate of return since the city is not putting in cash for this project. Unfortunately, the City’s staffer’s analysis showed that the projections would not make the city money. Hansen countered (publically) claiming that the analysis by the city was flawed. I’ve tried to make sense of it with some healthy and spirited debates on fieldofschemes.com but hard for me to identify who is right and who is wrong. The author of the site and book of the same name seems to think the truth is somewhere in the middle and that this could cost the city anywhere from 50Million which even to him, is a really good deal. That doesn’t make it I-91 compliant though so it is hard to get a real answer from everyone. I believe it comes down to a difference of financial approach to plead whatever side of the fence you are on.

Port of Seattle and Traffic: The most vocal group opposing the deal from the start has been the Port of Seattle. They have claimed the added traffic will lead to job loss. To date, they have provided no data publically. Hanson funded an independent traffic study that came back with data that said it would be immaterial and several news reporters showed that there was no traffic around 4 which would be the typical time the area would start to see traffic on game nights. My take, this is just a leverage play by the Port of Seattle to get something they want. They were promised an overpass with the construction of Safeco but those funds were diverted to the Mercer project and thus they are feeling a little swindled.

Job Impacts: The complete job impacts are not known. Very easy to lean back and say 3 to 5 years construction will lead to significant job growth and certainly there will be people need at the arena and team operations etc but what about key arena and potentially the port. Nothing to meaty here other than it gives people ammo to question the deal if there is no data to say it adds jobs. I am fairly certain the net of it will add jobs but I don’t know definitively especially the port jobs, should there be an impact.

Key arena: There are many constituents that question why Key arena can’t be used. At a town hall, one of the King County councilmen reaffirmed that it really isn’t an option on the table. They need to consider the potential impact to key arena rev streams but Hansen has been adamant that the Key is not an option….and I don’t want to go into all the reasons for it.

That’s the lay of the land on the Arena proposal. After following this the last 3 to 5 months it is clear people (public) have their minds made up and do not research the structure of the deal. There certainly are some confusing aspects of the deal but when I went to the town hall on Tuesday, I would say 50% of the questions or comments had some kind of in accurate facts claimed (on both sides).

If it were to go to vote now, I think the county passes it and the city rejects it. It will be unfortunate if Seattle misses this opportunity because it may not come around…ever.