Technically speaking, nothing changed last week. We have not been awarded a franchise, yet, but if the league had any doubts of the support for the NHL in Seattle, I think they heard us loud and clear. We are more than capable of supporting it. After such a smashingly successful ticket drive last week, a lot of folks have been asking what’s next?
It’s not clear that the league has everything it needs to make the decision at this point, but one thing they were most definitely looking at was the ticket drive. I think it is safe to say that we cleared that hurdle by a mile. I imagine there is still a healthy amount of due diligence the league must perform on the arena project and the financial viability of the owners, but I anticipate a lot of this work was completed when the NHL agreed to accept an application from the Seattle group. Let’s assume they complete their checklist, then all signs are pointing to a June announcement. One of the major (potential) owners of the franchise, David Bonderman said last week that he is hopeful for a response from the league in June. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson also mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that the success of the ticket drive could expedite the league’s response to the application with a potential response to June. Add to the fact that if they are going to announce something, they probably want to steer clear of the NHL Playoffs and make the announcement after a Board of Governors meeting between the NHL awards and the NHL Draft. The date for the awards has not been set, but the Draft is June 22nd and 23rd so let’s just circle the two days prior. Interesting to note is that the NHL Board of Governors approved Vegas Expansion on June 22nd 2016, ~15 months before the start of their first season 2017-18. If the NHL does indeed award Seattle a franchise this coming June, this over 2 years before puck drop in 2020. I’ve noted before that this process has been different than the Vegas process so there is no cause for concern.
One thing I am keeping my eye on is the continued progress of the arena permitting and contracting phase. It’s generally believed the ~2 year window to complete the arena is aggressive, but doable. In order to hit the start of the 2020 season, we need to make sure the arena stays on track with a groundbreaking in October and November. Earlier this week, Chris Daniels reported that the Design Review process remains on track with no expected delays. It is these seemingly small events and processes that I am keeping my eye on to look for any delays. One thing to note is that a lot of the local businesses around the Seattle Center arena also want the project to be completed on time and open as quickly as possible.