The short answer is ‘Yes, SoDo arena is dead.’
As many of you know by now the Seattle City Council rejected the Occidental Street vacation in the SoDo district. This was largely thought to be the final hurdle in a 4-year process for Chris Hansen to have a shovel-ready arena site just south of Safeco field. Traditionally, street vacation votes with such a glowing Environmental Impact Statement are seen as formalities. But that was not the case…
City council members that voted against the street vacation claimed the threat to Port of Seattle jobs without any data or explanation on how the arena would impact their jobs. The council members that voted no on the street vacation also claimed that since there is no NBA team in site, that there is no need to vacate the street to Chris Hansen. This is circular logic since we will never get a team if we don’t have a clear path for an arena. The entire vote was just political theater to say ‘no’ and I feel that Councilmember Sawant’s statement was the only ‘no’ vote that was sincere and transparent. As much as I disagree with her vote, I respect her honesty.
When everything was said and done, you have a City Council that refused to approve a street vacation for an Arena that had an overwhelmingly positive Environmental Impact Study in a location has the land and infrastructure to support large events. There is no realistic scenario I can see the city council reversing course on that location. Unless there is some kind of Lord of Light possibility I don’t see, I am declaring the SoDo location dead. Additionally, I am fairly convinced that if the Seattle City Council won’t approve the SoDo site, there is a slim to none chance that they will approve any other site in the City limits.
As crazy as it sounds, the ‘no’ vote could be a blessing for an NHL team coming to Seattle. Chris Hansen has made it clear that he doesn’t want to own an NHL team, but he is open to partnering with a potential NHL owner for a possible NHL first scenario in regards to the arena. There are/were 3 potential ownership groups (Levin, Bartoszek, and Coleman), but none of them have been able to reach terms. Without the prospects of an NBA team coming to Seattle anytime soon, an NHL owner would be at the mercy of the NBA expansion/relocation plans. With the SoDo arena plans dead, this could enabled other potential NHL ownership groups and local municipalities to come up with alternative plans. If you recall, last summer there were 4 potential NHL expansion application requests from the Seattle area. It is possible that one or more of those groups have been waiting to see how the Sodo arena plans played out to determine their next move?
NHL Expansion Process
It is true that no Seattle group submitted an expansion application last June and that Bettman has been consistent in his messaging that Seattle will not be part of this expansion process. It is unclear how Seattle could get back in the discussion. The NHL is expected to announce expansion to Las Vegas and Las Vegas only which would create a league of 31 teams, 16 in the Eastern conference and 15 in the Western conference. This would give Seattle (or any other city) time to get their collective…stuff together for an arena plan and apply to the NHL to be that 32nd team. Wishful thinking, maybe but certainly a possibility.
Since the very beginning of the Seattle Arena plan, the most vocal opponents have been the Port of Seattle and Seattle Mariners. In the 3 years I have been following the story, they have never produced one piece of data or evidence that the Stadium district cannot sustain a pro sports arena.
Port of Seattle
The port claims that the street vacation will negatively affect the flow of traffic for shipments in and out of terminal 46. In the 3 years of their opposition, we have never seen any data to support their claims of rhetoric and objections.
Here are some ideas we should be asking the port:
- What does the seasonality look like of your container traffic at terminal allegedly impacted by the street vacation?
- What does daily traffic flow look like by hour?
- How long does it take to get a container off a boat? how long does it take to get loaded on a truck? How does this compare to the potential traffic caused by vacating Occidental Ave?
- How long does it take a loaded truck to get in and out of the port, once inside? How far is the typical distance a truck takes the container once outside the port? How long does that take?
- How does the port function during the 81 Mariner games a year?
The Mariners opposition is disheartening to say the least. Obviously the NBA and NHL play opposite of baseball season and the overlap can be mitigated like it is done in Philadelphia where all 4 teams play in one location. Additionally, the Mariners average 50% higher than projected arena attendance than the Sodo Arena so it is illogical to think that a Mariner game of 30,000 can work in Sodo but a basketball or hockey game of 17,000 would impact the Port. The reality is the Mariners are scared. They’ve had continued sliding attendance and realize that another sports team in town could and should be considered a competitive threat to their marginal product.
In the meantime, the SonicsArena group has gone in front of countless city council and committee meetings, gone through a 2 year Environmental Impact Study with public transparency through the entire process. The results of the study have concluded that the Sodo Arena will have no material impact on the Port that is supported by data.
SoDo land owner and prospective NBA franchise owner in Seattle, Chris Hansen, made news today when he spoke to a couple of local media outlets today. This morning he spoke to local AP reporter, Tim Booth, and this afternoon he jumped on the Dave Softy Mahler show on KJR.
The executive summary of his message is that he is still very committed to the SoDo Arena project and believes it is inevitable that the NBA will come here. Most importantly, Hansen made it clear that no prospective NHL owner has approached him with basic terms to enable an NHL first scenario. It could have been a case of wishful thinking, but most of us anticipated that talks between Victor Coleman and Hansen were progressing. As fans, this is a little disappointing, but I do appreciate Hansen sharing information.
Here is an updated visual on the complexity of a possible NHL first scenario at the SoDo site:
January 30th While sitting on a panel and speaking to students, the Winnipeg Jets Chairman says Seattle is a priority for the NHL via expansion or relocation. He also said Greater Toronto Area could probably hold 2 more teams & Quebec would be great, but neither are top priority for NHL. Separately, assistant GM to the Boston Celtics says the NBA expansion (in the US) is unlikely in 5 years. He later qualified the statement as his opinion and not based on any NBA HQ information.
February 1st David Stern retires. Seattle basketball fans rejoice.
February 3rd NHL Expansion talk begins to heat up. While talking to TVA Sports, Gary Bettman had some responses to expansion talk: “we aren’t there yet” “lots of places have expressed interest” “we are always listening”. (These would be common quotes over the reminder of the season).
February 12th New NBA commissioner Adam Silver clearly states there are no plans to expand.
February 13th NHL says Seattle would be a “good hockey market”. Two days later, Former Seattle Junior Hockey Player TJ Oshie wins a big Olympic game for US in a shootout against Russia.
February 26th A Seattle delegation of business folks plus city and county officials visit Vancouver and attend a Canucks game to learn more about what it would look like should Seattle land an NHL team.
March 17th The first reported delay of the current Environmental Impact Statement for the SoDo Arena. IMHO the EIS is not the long pole here but it is part of the process. The city will not kick in any financing without a team. http://www.king5.com/story/local/2014/12/29/13403682/ I posted this image on March 17th…sadly, not much has changed (except for the Ballmer thing).
March 18th Seattle City Council president, Tim Burgess states that they will not change the MOU (for a NHL first scenario) stating that the tax revenues would be 50% less. It is unclear how those numbers are calculated when the NHL has higher ticket prices and higher attendance than the NBA.
April 26th Seattle Times reports that Ray Bartoszek is looking at options since the SoDo site is tied so heavily to the NBA which doesn’t appear to be headed to Seattle anytime soon.
May 13th In one of the strongest signs of the NHL’s interest in Seattle, it is reported that Gary Bettman and Bill Daly met with City and County officials in Seattle. By all reports, it sounded like a disappointing meeting for the NHL brass as the arena situation was described as “unsettling” by Daly.
May 15th As a follow up to the NHL and mayor meeting, Victor Coleman and Jonathan Glaser emerge as a new ownership group vying for an NHL team in Seattle. Coleman and Glaser with in the meeting with the Mayor, Bettman and Daly. They appear to be the front runners for owning a team in Seattle.
May 29th Steve Ballmer starts the process of buying the Los Angeles Clippers. This should be seen as a neutral to slightly negative on Seattle’s pursuit of getting an NBA team.
June 2nd Prospective Seattle Supersonics owner and the man leading the SoDoArena, Chris Hansen sits down with Chris Daniels of King5 and says that an NHL first scenario would require a potential NHL owner to put in a combination of more money and more risk. (Sorry, link has changed since I originally posted).
June 9th Posted the results from the 1st NHL to Seattle Survey. ~35% of respondents in King, Pierce or Snohomish county say they would be season ticket holders.
June 10th Chris Hansen signs an option for more land in SoDo area near proposed Arena. It is speculated this was done to accommodate some of the EIS feedback received to accommodate more parking.
June 26th NHL Board of Governors meeting comes and goes with no expansion announcement.
July 31st Another reported delay in final EIS.
August 26th Report surfaces that the NHL will expand by 4 teams in 2017. NHL would come out to deny it and I had my doubts about the original source.
August 28th In an interview with KJR, Steve Ballmer says, “ there is a guy pushing hard for hockey (in Seattle)”. ~58 minute mark.
September 30th Chris Hansen submits final paper work for EIS.
October 24th Although rumored for months, the first legitimate report of Vegas being a potential NHL mark surfaces.
November 25th Sports Business Journal post their annual reader survey. 43% of readers think Seattle is the most viable market for an NHL team.
December 3rd I wrote this interesting post that sizes up the Seattle Market.
December 8th NHL gives approval to prospective NHL Vegas owners to begin season ticket drive. No other markets are mentioned.
That leaves us here…which is pretty much where we started the year.
Here is a quick summary of some of the stories that were passed around this week relevant to the NHL coming to Seattle.
Seattle Arena EIS
KOMO news reported that the Arena EIS process was delayed again. Which is pretty consistent with what we heard from Chris Daniels in July. I dismissed it as no news but then…
Chris Daniels from King5 gives us significant insight to the EIS timeline: Hansen submits final paperwork for EIS piece of Seattle Arena.
I do not want to imply that this is earth shattering news but it was the necessary next step in the EIS process so great to see this progressing.
Arizona Coyotes Ownership
Yes, we are actually talking about the
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes Ownership again. Respected reporter from the New York Post, Larry Brooks published this article that the Coyotes were looking for new investors. The tone of the article gave anti-sunbelt critics plenty of material to work with for a day or so. I usually try to give this types of stories some time to breath before forming an opinion based on a source. The article turned out to be fairly accurate but there was certainly more to the story.
Enter Craig Morgan from the Arizona Republic. Craig posted this follow up on the report with more specific information and a very different tone. One nugget of information is that the Valuation is somewhere in the $305M range just a year after the team was purchased for $170M. Without knowing the specifics of the deal between all parties, it’s really hard to assess what is really going on here. Either way, Craig’s article is certainly spinning it as a very positive thing for the Coyotes.
To tie a bow on it, Joe Yerdon wrote this piece on the situation. The article is worth a read. The cliff notes version is that as much as fans and media have been critical of how Bettman handled the Coyotes situation, the value has gone up, he did not lose a top US TV market and with the new investor, they have more stability and some options.
My take, which is not really going out on a limb, is reality is somewhere in the middle. I have always felt the Coyotes out clause is a reasonable option should the franchise not turn around. I have never felt a move was inevitable. Hopefully the money with help the Coyotes with a marketing push and a potential playoff run. I believe in hockey very much and think with the right ownership group the Coyotes can make it in Glendale. If they can’t, even people in Arizona can not blame the league for trying to make it work.
Paul Allen sat down for an interview with the Oregonian about the upcoming Trailblazer season and he was asked about the likelihood of bringing an NHL team to Portland in the next five year. (Last Question in the article) His response is consistent with previously reported news about Portland. For those that don’t know, Portland was on the shortlist of destination cities for the Coyotes back in June of 2013.
ProHockeyTalk then summed up the whole story very well with this article. It is a great piece to get caught up on the Portland scenario.
I believe Portland & Paul Allen could be a player in expansion or relocation. Based on everything I have read, I still believe that Seattle is the most preferred city of all cities mentioned so if our Arena plan hits some snags, Portland might move from a contingency plan to “the plan”. IF and it is a big if, the Coyotes ownership ends up exercising their escape plan, Portland could be the destination. That said, I don’t think Paul Allen wants to be the landlord, he wants to be the owner of the team.
Earlier this evening, Chris Daniels from King5, shared info and a conversation with prospective Seattle NHL franchise owner, Victor Coleman. The article was full of important information and is one of the few times we have heard from one of the potential owners. Please read the entire article here and I will break down some of the critical pieces.
“I think the demographic base (in Seattle) and the desire of the NHL in that marketplace is the perfect match right now. The expansion of the NHL into the Pacific Northwest, with Vancouver and the presiding area, makes it a perfect fit,” said Coleman. “There are built in synergies. That’s a ‘Day 1’ rivalry.”
There sounds great but there isn’t much that a lot of us know. We have had Bettman and Daly both speak well of the market & several NHL governors have spoken highly of the opportunity as well. A ton of you have confirmed this with your desire to purchase Season tickets. It is awesome to hear a prospective owner believe in the market but I expect that from an owner.
Coleman and co-investor Jonathan Glaser, who sits on the board of Hudson Pacific, met face to face with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine in separate meetings in Seattle. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly were also on hand. The parties all left without an agreement or plan to move forward. Coleman says he feels like he’s made progress since.
“We have a clear path,” he said.
Key piece here is the last bit. He has made progress since and “clear path”. The City of Seattle’s position and role in this has been a little unclear. Yes, we have heard the Mayor and other city council members say there is no plan to change the MOU. Many reports suggest it is the risk associated to the NHL first vs. the NBA in the case of default and less about the financial (recovery) projections. Specifically, it is the value of an NHL franchise vs. the NBA. Forbes Valuations are historically in accurate but at least you can get a feel for the difference between the leagues (Forbes links: NHL and NBA). If that is the case, the prospective ownership group would need to do something to mitigate that risk. This is responsible by the city and can be resolved under the right situation.
Two sources with knowledge of the talks between Hansen and Coleman say that the two potential owners met in person a couple of weeks ago, and have been actively talking for months. In fact, according to the sources, the two potential ownership groups have signed a “non-binding” agreement which lays out the terms for Coleman’s contribution to the project and his potential revenue streams for a hockey franchise.
That is the money quote from the article right there. We have generally thought this was happening and to hear they could have a non-binging agreement is excellent. The best thing about it is that both Hansen and Coleman are actively working on a solution.
“There is obviously a deal in place that can get done,” said Coleman. “The semantics by which it gets done, and the priorities by which it gets done, are going to depend on city officials, the county, and the Hansen group.”
That just about sums up where we are at. We could be waiting for an NBA team or we might not but it sounds like they are moving to a framework that could land the NHL in Seattle. There is a lot of work to be done here and there are no guarantees so be patient with the League, Potential Owners and Elected Officials. There has been no call to action, rallies or public hearings but when the time comes you will know.