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The road to NHL approval

It has been a relatively quiet period since the Stanley Cup Playoffs started in early April. Every day I find myself chomping for something to do that can help the NHL come to Seattle or even increasing its success once it arrives. But I know we are in this quiet period, and as much as I would like to share, discuss, and report some kind of news, there really are no updates. It is as a good time to recap where we are at and speculate a bit on what to expect over the next 4 to 6 months.

As great as the last 6 months have been, we have not been awarded an NHL franchise. The NHL is still performing their due diligence on the Seattle NHL Franchise Application.

At a high level, that due diligence falls into 3 categories:

  1. Do the potential owners of the franchise have the wherewithal to pay the franchise fee and run the club when it launches?
  2. Does the potential market fit into the broader landscape of the NHL and is there enough demand for the franchise to be successful?
  3. Is there a viable arena for the club to play in, if awarded a franchise?

Financial wherewithal

This is the area I probably know the least about on what it takes, other than a “boat load” of money. Between principal owners, David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer, they have a reported net worth of $3 billion dollars. I tend to assume if we have gotten this far, the league is comfortable with their financials, but it probably doesn’t hurt to do one more round of due diligence. Side note: If you want to hear about a case where not enough due diligence is performed, you should check out ESPN’s 30 for 30 called Big Shot.

The Market

I’ve been getting on my soap box on the market for about 8 years now, you can read my post from 3 years ago. Long story short, it’s a perfect fit. As far as the demand side, one of the first things the league asked from the ownership group was to get 10,000 season ticket deposits. The Seattle hockey community signaled loud and clear that we want hockey when we blew through that 10,000 milestones in, oh…12 minutes! OVG stopped taking Season Ticket Deposits at 33,000 (for a 17K capacity building) and have been adding people to a wait list for the last couple months. Side Note: Maybe we can move half our games to Safeco…ok, that’s a joke.

The Arena

As most of you are aware, OVG will be remodeling the arena at Seattle Center with the intent to break ground in October/November and open in time for the 2020-21 NHL Season, which would be October 2020. In early April, at the announcement of Tim Leiweke as Chief Executive Officer and President of Seattle Hockey Partners LLC, David Bonderman foreshadowed what we can expect from the league when asked about the progress of the application, “We expect some kind of announcement in June and some other kind of announcement in September.”

I interpret that as some kind of conditional approval, provided we hit the key construction permitting and agreement milestones with the city. To hit that target, they will need to break ground as early as possible and can ill afford any major delays so the league is probably taking all of this under consideration. Last week, at a City Council briefing, the project team acknowledged all the work that needs to be done between now and September, and that things remain on track and are progressing well. If all continues to go well, we might be officially awarded a franchise as early as September.
In summary, all things remain on track and ironically, the less we hear, the better, since the only time we will probably hear about things is when issues come up.

Here are the dates I am circling on the calendar:

Others Odds and Ends

John Barr
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