RBL Group confirms NHL Expansion Application intent

Geoff Baker from the Seattle Time has confirmed that the Ray Bartoszek group will be submitting an NHL Expansion Application for the Tukwila site location.

Geoff later followed it up with this article. This was expected news and it is always great to get it confirmed. For now, Bartoszek is the only group of the rumored 3 interested parties that has confirmed their application submission.

PopulationMaps

I did a larger write up on how the Tukwila site stacks up back in April. I captured several core pieces of information there so go check it out. Taken from that previous post, I copied some of the distances for the Tukwila site and how it compares to other arenas in the league.

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

NHL Officially Opens the Door for Expansion

Well in case you were off the grid for the last 5 days, it might be news to you that Gary Bettman announced that the NHL will be officially accepting expansion Applications from July 6th to August 10th. This comes as no surprise to those of us that have been following the story for the last 7 months as all leading indicators were forecasting some kind of an announcement during the Board of Governors meeting in late June. As the Puck Daddy article mentions, expansion fees are expected to be in the $500M range and the soonest the teams would be added to the league would be for the 2017-18 season.

Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City appear on the top of most people’s list of candidates but there are a few others out there that may throw their hat in the ring. Here is my assessment of the possible expansion cities.

Seattle

Seattle is one of the top 3 candidates for expansion and there is no doubt the league would like to be in Seattle.screen-shot-2015-06-03-at-91053-am We anticipate up to two potential NHL expansion applications, one from Victor Coleman (SoDo Arena) and one from Ray Bartoszek (Tukwila). Last we heard, Victor Coleman and Sodo land owner and would be NBA franchise owner, Chris Hansen, have not come to terms on a go forward plan but deadlines like the NHL application process might help bridge the gap sooner than later. Meanwhile, the Bartoszek group is moving forward on the Tukwila plan but it is still going through the early approval stages. Both groups have their own set of arena challenges that may require some kind of conditional approval from the NHL, similar to the approach done for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they were awarded a franchise.

Quebec City

Potential franchise owner, Quebecor, has confirmed that they will be formally applying for an NHL Franchise in Quebec. Their 500px-Quebec_Nordiques_Logo_svgarena is furthest along of all cities, they have a great NHL fan base, and should be a strong candidate for expansion. Bettman acknowledge that the division balance of teams is not a requirement of the league but it still might not be preferred.

“One of the factors that you would obviously consider in any expansion process is what your footprint looks like and what the alignment would be. I don’t think you expand just for notions of symmetry.

It’s too important, the business decision. But obviously as we go through the process, if there’s an interest in moving forward, that’s an issue you have to deal with.” – Gary Bettman

A lagging Canadian Dollar might be another reason to give the NHL pause and the league might want to keep Quebec open for a possible relocation scenario should one of the eastern teams falter. Either way, Quebec remains a strong candidate and if Seattle trips up, I think QC will get a team.

Las Vegas

Bill Foley’s ticket drive in Las Vegas has been well publicized and acknowledge as a success by the NHL. With an arena set to open before the would be 2017-18 season, their odds of getting a team is pretty strong.

Greater Toronto Area

It appears that Graeme Roustan will be putting in an application for the GTA area. The Roustan plan might not have much of a chance but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else from the GTA might put an application together. With no arena plan even on the table, anything in GTA seems like a long shot but the market could certainly support another team.

Best of the rest

Portland has been flying under the radar and will probably continue to do so but I would never rule them out with Paul Allen in the possible mix. It isn’t widely known but Allen was dancing with the idea of purchasing the Coyotes back in 2013. If Allen wants a team, I am pretty sure he could get one.

Kansas City is often cited as a city with an arena but no anchor tenant that would be a decent fit for the NHL. Yet no owner has emerged over the last couple years and no one has come out to say they will be applying for NHL expansion. Someone sent this article over to me that points out that they are developing a hockey culture in Kansas City. Great to see the development.

Houston although a gigantic market, interest in the NHL remains quiet. With the Aeros leaving last year, it appears this is not the time.

Glendale goes nuclear on Arizona Coyotes

Sorry for the glamorous headline but there is no other way to explain it. Yesterday, the Glendale City Council scheduled a special meeting for today that could potentially cancel their two year old lease and operating agreement claiming that the Coyotes are in breach of their agreement. It appears the city council is citing Arizona State law 38.511:

The state, its political subdivisions or any department or agency of either may, within three years after its execution, cancel any contract, without penalty or further obligation, made by the state, its political subdivisions, or any of the departments or agencies of either if any person significantly involved in initiating, negotiating, securing, drafting or creating the contract on behalf of the state, its political subdivisions or any of the departments or agencies of either is, at any time while the contract or any extension of the contract is in effect, an employee or agent of any other party to the contract in any capacity or a consultant to any other party of the contract with respect to the subject matter of the contract.craigtindall

City attorney Craig Tindall took a job with the Coyotes just a few months after he was let go by the City of Glendale. This is not the first time this has come up but details of his involvement in the original deal with IceArizona seems to be debatable.

Although there have been several rumblings for a couple weeks, most people chalked the chatter up to nothing more than political grand standing by Council Member Ian Hugh and it has been no secret that Mayor Weiers has been against this deal from the very beginning. The likely scenario is that Glendale would like to renegotiate their agreement with IceArizona but this certainly seems like a hostile approach. This seems to have caught the Coyotes ownership group off guard, having given this interview just 24 hours earlier as if everything is normal. The Coyotes then issued a press release shortly after the special meeting was announced that did not strike a particular collaborative tone.

“This is a blatant attempt to renege on a valid contract that was negotiated fairly and in good faith and in compliance with all laws and procedures. In the event the City Council initiates any action to revoke, repeal or otherwise rescind the agreement, the Coyotes will immediately take all actions available to them under the law against the City of Glendale.” – Nick Wood, of the Law Firm Snell & Wilmer, outside counsel for the Arizona Coyotes

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Regardless if the city rescinds the agreement, it would appear there is troubled relationship in Glendale. That will but more attention and focus on the 5 year out clause coming up after the 200px-Phoenix_Coyotes.svg2018 season. If they do vote to cancel the agreement then a lot of things could happen. The most likely scenario is that the City and Ownership group negotiate a new agreement that keeps the team in Glendale. Of course another possibility is that the league could relocate the Coyotes to Quebec, Las Vegas, Portland or Seattle. Quebec and Las Vegas seems to be the more likely destinations as their arenas are in place.

The truth about Florida Hockey

This Stanley Cup Playoff has brought a lot of attention to Florida hockey. A packed barn with rabid fans and great TV ratings. Success has not been limited to the playoffs either. An NHL team in Florida was top 10 in NHL attendance this year and averaged 98% capacity. The bummer for the Florida Panthers is that it is happening less than 300 miles to the north of Miami, in Tampa. How can a city with less than half the population of Miami be so much more successful than the Panthers? If you listen to the critics online, hockey cannot work in Florida…yet here we are, one time thriving while the other struggles.

Success on the ice

As with most teams and sports, the single biggest thing that impacts attendance is winning and more specifically, reaching the playoffs. Often the attendance lift happens the year after making the playoffs while people set on locking in playoff tickets by becoming season ticket holders the following year. So let’s take a look at the success rates of NHL Franchises.

Playoffappearances

Some of you that grew up with hockey might not know this, but Playoff hockey is the gateway drug to hockey. Tampa Bay has seen average success in getting into the playoffs where Florida has struggled. You can see the impacts of their success on their attendance records of both teams below.

tampa-floridaAttendance

As I’ve called out many times before, this year’s substantial drop in Florida was expected as new ownership went through a strategy shift of no longer offering deeply discounted tickets.

Bandwagon?

I know I know…why should winning impact attendance, I mean “real fans” go to see their team play regardless right? Well not so fast my friend. With rare exception, (see Edmonton & Toronto) most teams struggle to draw attendance during a stretch of poor performance.

attendance compare

USA Hockey Growth in Florida

I have never thought that you need to play hockey to be a hockey fan but hockey participation can be an indicator on how it is doing. Unfortunately USA Hockey only provides detail at the state level but it is clear that Hockey is taking roots in Florida.

USAHockeyMemberships2

There are 25 USA Hockey territories with over 5000 USA Hockey memberships and of these, Florida has seen the 5th highest growth over the last 10 years.

Since I started this project people assume I want to see the Coyotes or Florida move to Seattle. I have several “discussions” with friends on the topic as well. Do I think those franchises should relocate? The answer is a resounding, No. I don’t know if the Panthers will stay in Florida but I do know that they need to win to stay and I believe the new ownership group is taking the necessary steps to make it work.

A lot of Seattle Sports fans had their hearts ripped out when the Sonics left so the last thing I am rooting for is to do that to another community.