Breaking down the 3 arena options

In case you missed it, Gary Bettman mentioned Tukwila and Bellevue as potential sites for an NHL arena in the Seattle Area on a radio interview in Vancouver. Stick tap goes to Paul Rogers, from, for covering the news ahead of our more traditional media outlets. Geoff Baker from the Seattle Times then published this article with a lot more detail on the specific locations. As much as I love the SoDo location, it is great to see that Seattle’s dreams of landing an NHL team are not tied to any one plan. I breakdown the 3 locations by population, income, and driving distance.


Puget Sound Population Map3

Seattle has ~ 6 times the population base of Bellevue. It is worth pointing out that Seattle’s area (142 Sq Miles) is much larger than Bellevue’s (36 Sq Miles). For this reason, to get a fair comparison you could include Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish. If you combine those populations, the Bellevue area has ~325K compared to Seattle’s ~650K. The closest comparable NHL market could be Minneapolis-St. Paul. The city of Tukwila is much, much smaller, but based on the location of the reported site, it is literally on the southern border of the Seattle city limits.

Side note: I received over 15 times more responses from people living in Seattle vs people living in Bellevue when I launched my original survey.


We have already established that the NHL fans have the highest income levels of the big 4 Professional Sports Leagues. For income comparisons, I used IRS adjustable income reporting data from 2012 by zip code that I then consolidated into city. I filtered on how many IRS tax returns had an adjustable income of over 75K by city. This is not to say that the only people going to NHL games will be individuals/households that make over 75K a year but a large amount of Season Ticket holders will come from this income bracket.

Puget Sound IRS returns Map

Similar to the population levels, Seattle has a significant amount of households with tax return Adjustable Income over $75K when comparing to Bellevue. However, when you add Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, Issaquah and Newcastle, the number is much closer than the population number: Seattle has ~117,000 households to Eastside collective around ~100,000 households.


Seattle arena map

From a distance perspective, Bellevue and SoDo are somewhat of a wash. Yes, traffic won’t be great regardless of the route, but 10 Miles seems like a reasonable distance to travel to a game for either side of the lake. Certainly, there are more people working in downtown Seattle during the week, but there are obviously quite a few companies located on the Eastside, as well (Microsoft, T-Mobile, Costco, etc…). From downtown Seattle, Tukwila seems like a reasonable distance, even closer than Bellevue.

In a perfect world, a potential owner could obtain some data from a few NHL teams that show the distance traveled from season ticket holders & single game ticket purchases to analyze the viability of the three locations. If I had my pick, I would analyze San Jose, Colorado & Minnesota ticket sales by zip code.

Side note: 35% of respondents to one of my surveys over the summer, sited “Inconvenient Location” as the reason why they did not watch more WHL hockey game.

Here are a few distances for other NBA/NHL arenas:

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 an unrelated note and a shameless plug, I am trying to get 100 people to donate $10 to the RMHC of Seattle just so I can donate $1500. Please consider donating

9 thoughts on “Breaking down the 3 arena options

  1. St. Paul is pretty unique I suspect in that it isn’t particularly close to the pockets of money in the Twin Cities. But this is the State of Hockey, so comparisons to us are largely invalid anyhow I suspect.

    • I agree with you but from a population & proximity perspective, MSP seems to have the closest thing to a Bellevue-Seattle thing going on. Hockey is in their blood and therefore makes any other kind of comparison non-existent.

  2. I think all that matters is picking a site that is most convenient to those who are spending the money and going to games…..Bellevue/Eastside. People from North, South and Seattle will travel to this central location.

  3. Great article. I’d like to add the BC effect. While it’s a 2 1/2 hour drive away, a number of people from the BC lower mainland would gladly make the drive down for a game. They are rabid hockey fans and would gladly like to see two teams in the area.

    For comparable figures the author should look into the percentage of Canadians who are Seahawks and / or Mariners season ticket holders. I can only imagine the percentage would be higher if the NHL ever comes to Seattle / Bellevue.

  4. I drove by and around the Tukwila site yesterday. I don’t see the vision of this site at all? It is at the end of Boeing field in a industrial manufacturing area unless I am missing something?

    Would the idea be to redevelope the whole area along with the Asscociated Grocers site? Let me say that I am all for getting a NHL team here first over the NBA but I am really having trouble with the vision of the area that is being recommended for Tukwila.

  5. Picking a site SEEMS to matter but hockey fans are a different breed. Case in point-:when Tampa Bay was playing for 4 seasons at the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field) in St.Pete- an area some might consider similar to the Tukwila site as it is 30 minutes from the city (Tampa /Seattle), is considered less desirable than the namesake city due to potential crime/safety concerns, is more blue collar than white collar and is looked down upon by those who can afford to live in the more desirable zip codes- they regularly drew 18-22,000 per game and had several sell outs for the playoffs with near 28,000 in attendance.
    Now, take that same stadium, put a few million $ into it, rename it Tropicana Field and STRUGGLE to draw more than 15,000 any game that isn’t against the Yankees/Sox or Intra league game. The Rays can’t draw flies in the same building with a playoff calibre ( until last year) team that a recent expansion franchise hockey team in a non traditional market had tremendous success doing so.

    My point is, if you build it somewhere near a population center, near transportation hubs and provide a quality product on the ice, the hockey fan will show up.
    BTW, I had season tickets from 1992-2000 with the Lightning and until they moved to the Ice Palace/Amalie Arena, I never had less than a 45 minute drive through some of the worst planned roads and traffic in the northern hemisphere.

    Picking an ownership group is FAR MORE IMPORTANT the the location because as you can see with Jeff Vinik here in Tampa, an owner who invest in the community, thenfans and the team will help any struggling team at the gate until fortunes on the ice can be reversed.

    Find Seattle an owner who puts the NHL ahead of the NBA, who has deep ties to the community or who is willing and able to weather the struggle after the initial glow wears off. Begin with capturing the hearts of the youth and they will grow into lifelong fans while dragging their parents along for the ride.

  6. Excellent Comments Phil. Thanks for sharing. It is tough for us to be picky on ownership groups but your logic makes total sense!!!

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