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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.

John Barr
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