It’s been a while since I have posted anything here. I figured we all needed a cooling off period after the NHL application deadline came and passed with no Seattle applicants. It was rumored (but not confirmed) that 4 of the 16 NHL expansion application requests came from the Seattle area. The details of why no one from the region actually applied for expansion were never revealed. Revealed through spokespersons and local press, at least 2 Seattle parties (Coleman/Sodo & Bartoszek/Tukwilla) of the 4 vowed to continue their pursuit of an Arena/NHL franchise.
At the end of the deadline, only Quebec City and Las Vegas submitted their applications by the league mandated deadline of July 20th. It looked as if all was lost for Seattle and yet another chapter of our unsuccessful attempts at landing an NHL team could be written. However…there have been a couple items of interest that have popped up recently.
The Seattle arena project located in SoDo (Hansen/Coleman) cleared some expected, but critical hurdles. Early last month, the Seattle Downtown Design Review Board gave final approval on the Seattle Arena and 2 days later the Seattle Design Commission unanimously approved the public benefit of the project. This will require a final vote by Seattle City Council which should occur sometime in December. This should not be a contentious issue as the City Council usually takes the recommendation of the Design Review Board. Too little, too late? Maybe…but moving forward reduces any friction for any future opportunities. One thing we might get out of this final vote is to hear if Hansen and/or Coleman have a strategy to make the NHL or NBA team happen. As far as I know, the MOU is written for a basketball-first scenario, but that is only upon the condition of funding, so technically, Hansen (with help) could start building as soon as this final city council vote is made (and passed).
Key Arena study
Last week King5 reported that the Seattle City Council commissioned a study (back in 2012) to look at options on what to do with Key Arena. One of those potential options was to renovate the Key to make it compliant to both NHL and NBA standards for an estimated price tag of $285M. This was just one of the options the consulting firm came up with regarding the site. With more questions than answers, I think it is safe to say this probably won’t happen for a variety of reasons. Who pays the $285M? Would a potential NBA or NHL owner want to play at the Key? Would the league(s) even approve it as a potential site? Oh, and there is that entire traffic thing. I give this a generous 5% chance of getting legs, so don’t get that wound up about the Seattle City Council (of 2012) for just doing some level of due diligence.
In spite of Gary Bettman’s attempts to lower NHL fans expectations for expansion, most of us assumed that expanding by two was pretty much a done deal. With two strong applicants, it appeared that Quebec City and Las Vegas shooting on empty nets to get teams. They both have a great shot of getting teams, but skepticism started creeping in the media in early September. Sportsnet, The Globe and Mail and Washington Post ran stories on why NHL expansion is no done deal. After the BOG meeting this week, Bettman reaffirmed the “no timetable”, “lot of work” & “no guarantee” regarding expansion. This triggered Seattle to start bleeding back into the conversation.
Pierre Lebrun ran a story that theorized Seattle could get back into the race with this little snippet.
“the NHL has said that if it does expand, it could be by only one team (read: Las Vegas) for now. Which, by the way, would give Seattle more time to get its act together.”
Then, Boston Bruins outspoken owner Jeremy Jacobs threw a little more cold water at the expansion talk with a little complimentary statement about Seattle.
“I’d love to see us in the West to be up in Seattle. Seattle’s a natural, and I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”
The big question around Quebec appears to be if the market can handle the weak Canadian Dollar. It wasn’t too long ago that the NHL was offering up financial relief to all Canadian teams outside of the Montreal and Toronto. To be clear, I would still prefer to be in Quebec or Las Vegas shoes so don’t get your hopes up here.
We will need to wait and see on how these things shake out. I am convinced that the longer this thing drags out, the better Seattle’s chances. In the meantime, let’s rally this hockey community and try to enjoy the WHL and NHL seasons for a while before we start speculating on what is going on behind the scenes.