What’s next?

Technically speaking, nothing changed last week. We have not been awarded a Atrium view from the southeastfranchise, 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?

The League

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 Interior seating bowl view – Hockey configurationaggressive, 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.


NHLtoSeattle 2017 News in Review

We entered 2017 without a whole lot going for us to bring the NHL to Seattle. SoDo Arena was largely dead and a lot of us where skeptical of a  potential redevelopment of KeyArena could accommodate a sheet of ice. If you want to see how gloom it looked at the end of 2016, take a look at my report card from last year. A lot has changed in 12 months….

Here is a timeline of activity over 2017:

January 17th – City of Seattle issues Request for Proposal (RFP) to redevelop KeyArena that could accommodate an NBA and NHL franchise. AEG and OVG are both expected to bid.
February 2nd – The SoDo group launches their PR campaign to counter the City’s efforts at KeyArena with an opinion piece in the Seattle Times from Russell Wilson.
February 4th – In out of town news, the Coyotes deal with ASU for a multi-sheet facility that would accommodate the Coyotes and Arizona State Sun Devils hockey is reported dead. (I am not a fan of relocation but I still pay attention to out of town news concerning fragile franchises.)
February 8th – The SoDo Group resubmits their application for Street Vacation.
February 10th – While speaking at a Sports Business Conference in Philadelphia, Bill Daly talks about Seattle and if a possible remodel of KeyArena could work for the NHL. 2012+NHL+Entry+Draft+Rounds+2+7+lyfx4JlSpv9l

“It would totally depend on the extent and substance of the renovations. Certainly, there’s been a lot of well-intended people who’ve wanted to build a new facility in Seattle, whether that’s a renovated KeyArena or an entirely new facility.
None of that has come to fruition, for whatever reason, so we’re not judging. But by the same token, it’s not something we can even get excited about unless and until something happens. And nothing has happened.”

March 16th – Tim Leiweke speaks to the Seattle times and among other things, says KeyArena remodel could be done in 3 years to accommodate the NBA and NHL. He also mentioned that an NHL team is more likely to come before NBA based on where the leagues are positioned. inside-Hockey
March 18th – a combined 14,162 people watch Junior hockey in the Seattle area. Both the Everett Silvertips (7,989) and Seattle Thunderbirds (6,173) had a home game.1512340_10153169894289145_4550175528159932028_n
March 26th – 100 years ago on this day, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup.
April 12th – As part of the responses to the KeyArena redevelopment RFP, both AEG and OVG name partners with hockey ties to their proposals. AEG added longtime rumored to be potential NHL Owner, Victor Coleman to group, while OVG adds Delaware North to their bid. Delaware North is owned by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. (James Dolan, Executive Chariman of MSG, was already part of OVG group.)
May 1st – Details of KeyArena redevelopment responses begin to circulate including endorsements by NBA and NHL executives.
May 9th – SoDo group continues their campaign against KeyArena. Hansen says KeyArena should be nitpicked like his proposal. outside
May 11th – Both OVG and AEG showcase their Arena proposals in an open house to the public at KEXP. This proved to be a nice opportunity for the public to interact with the two bidders to ask questions and provide feedback to the two bidders.
May 15th – The Seattle Thunderbirds claim their first WHL title in franchise history.
June 4th – After several days of speculation that the City of Seattle was leaning toward the OVG proposal, Seattle Partners (AEG) scorches the earth by issuing a statement saying they are pulling their bid.
June 7th – Mayors office selects OVG as primary negotiating party for KeyArena redevelopment.
On that same day, OVG announces an NHL ownership group have joined their proposal: David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer. In retrospect, this is probably the biggest indicators that we are primed to land an NHL team. 

July 20th – Reports that Houston Rockets owner, Les Alexander plans to sell the Rockets. Almost immediately, people start speculating it could mean that Houston could be the landing spot of the 32nd NHL franchise.
July 31st – Prospective NHL owner David Bonderman is spotted at Seattle City Hall.
September 5th – Houston Rockets owner, Les Alexander sells the Rockets to Tilman Fertitta for $2.2BillionKeyArena_SoDoGroup
September 7th – Just days before Memorandum of Understanding for KeyArena Remodel is expected to be delivered to Seattle City Council, the Sodo group proposes an alternative development plan for KeyArena. This would largely fall on deaf ears as a proposal that was not submitted in appropriate and legal channels.
September 12thMemorandum of Understanding is delivered to Seattle City Council with an intent to open October of 2020.
September 18th – OVG MOU continues to gain support from city council and the public at large.
October 11th – In an interview with CBS Houston, new Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta says he is open to the NHL. “I would put an NHL team here tomorrow, but this one has got to work.”
November 7th – During an Seattle Civic Arenas committee meeting, Council Member Mike O’Brien mentions the timeline is designed to get an NHL team by the start of the 2020 season.
November 15th – Katie Strang from the Athletic reports that the Houston Rockets owner Tilman Feritta met with the NHL on the prospects of bringing an NHL team to Houston. Talks seem early but after seeing Vegas get a franchise before Seattle, fans start to worry a bit.
December 2nd – The national hockey media begins reporting that Seattle will be discussed at the NHL Board of Governors meeting should the City Council approve the MOU for KeyArena just 3 days before BOG meeting. It’s almost as if this was planned all along…hmmm.
December 4thSeattle City Council approves the Oak View Groups $660Million Memorandum of Understanding to redevelop KeyArena to a state of the are Arena that can accommodate the NHL and NBA.
December 7th – At the NHL Board of Governors meeting, the NHL agrees to “accept and consider Seattle expansion application.” Mayor 20171209
December 15th – Potential NHL owner, David Bonderman meets with new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
December 29th – 710 ESPN declares the NHL’s formal interest in expanding to Seattle as the #1 Seattle sports story of 2017.

What do you got 2018?

Seattle is ready for the NBA and NHL

From Brian Robinson and John Barr

Seattle’s rapid and inspiring growth over the last decade has placed our city atop many important lists. For example:

Even as we enjoy this unprecedented regional growth and the opportunities it has brought, we still find ourselves with another very dubious distinction: Seattle is the largest city in the United States without a winter professional sports franchise. It is long past time for this to change.

The City of Seattle is very close to formalizing an agreement with the Oak View Group (OVG) that would transform historic Key Arena into a world-class modern sports venue, paving the way for the return of the NBA and the introduction of an NHL team. The City Council will vote on a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) on December 4.

After years of waiting, Seattle sports fans, and countless businesses that will benefit from our new teams, should be ready to celebrate.

Why now?

 Seattle is an ideal location for an NHL franchise. It’s bigger than 15 of the current 31 cities with NHL teams. A Seattle franchise would also add geographical balance. The league’s recent expansion to Las Vegas leaves the NHL with 15 teams in the Western Conference, compared to 16 in the Eastern Conference.   Meanwhile, Seattle’s growing economy, and its strong basketball tradition, will ultimately call for a return of the NBA.

However, the commissioners of both the NHL and NBA have made it clear in their public statements that Seattle must build a world-class arena to house any prospective new franchises.

“I have no concern that the building proper won’t meet our requirements,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the Seattle Times in a recent interview, adding that serious discussions can’t begin until an arena gets built.  The article goes on to say that Silver wouldn’t bet against Leiweke getting something done. “He’s always delivered in all of my business dealings with him.”

Knowing that time is of the essence, OVG’s construction schedule will result in the new building opening in October of 2020.  And OVG’s rebuild would produce a facility capable of attracting the NBA when a franchise becomes available.

Why Seattle Center?

Seattle Center is a cherished historic showcase for our city. A new arena on the campus would fit the broader revitalization that city leaders have envisioned for many years. Along with Seattle Storm basketball, an NHL and NBA team will complement the vibrant music, theater, and performing arts events at Seattle Center, expanding the versatile spectrum of activity that reflects Seattle’s diverse community and lively culture. The OVG project has the support of surrounding communities and local government.  After years of conflict with potential arena neighbors it is exciting to see neighborhoods including Uptown, SLU, Queen Anne, and Belltown engaged in a thoughtful process aimed at building the community’s support and expectations into the revitalization of Seattle Center campus.

Why OVG?

 OVG is a world leader in the arena, sports and entertainment industries. Few people in the world possess the deep relationships across the NHL, the NBA, and the music industry that Tim Leiweke and his team bring to the table.  OVG’s point person in Seattle is Lance Lopes who has been in leadership roles with the Seahawks, Sounders and Huskies since 2001.  Lopes is a great leader for this effort who knows the Seattle sports landscape as well as anyone.

OVG has demonstrated the ability to deliver a world-class arena that will be successful for decades to come. Perhaps most importantly, OVG has proactively reached out to community members to build collaborative relationships. The OVG team in Seattle has hosted and attended several public events to hear input and concerns of neighborhoods, Seattle Center tenants, labor unions, local businesses, fans, and other stakeholders.

Over the last decade, we have seen that building a world-class arena capable of bringing back the NBA and attracting the NHL is an incredibly difficult and complex task.  OVG has the expertise and business savvy required to work with the City’s multiple constituencies and address the specific needs of major sports leagues.

The OVG team is ready to take the first step toward restoring Seattle’s place among the ranks of great American sports towns. Fans of pro basketball and hockey should recognize this great opportunity and look forward to many nights of professional basketball and hockey in the years ahead.

-Brian Robinson and John Barr

An open letter to Chris Hansen: Please openly endorse the Seattle Center Arena Plan

Dear Mr. Hansen,

I’ve been attending your rallies, participating at City and County Council meetings, and supporting your efforts online for the better part of the last 6 years. I was at the unfortunate Occidental Street vacation vote. And, like a lot of Sonics and hockey fans in the area, I was devastated by the outcome.  

Tuesday night, I could not make it to the City Council meeting. I was in Las Vegas attending the first ever Las Vegas Golden Knights home opener game and it was an amazing experience. I had goose bumps from the second they took the ice. It was also very emotional for all the locals as they looked to hockey to help them heal. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the announcer named the first responders accompanied by the Golden Knight players. I’ve been to a lot of great sporting events in my life including a Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Playoff game, but none that compared to that game. It reminded me how powerful sports can be in bringing people together.

Your priority is the Sonics and mine is bringing an NHL team to Seattle. I have no issues with our differences in priorities, which made it so refreshing to hear you say that you are open to two arenas. Which is why I am asking you to openly endorse the Seattle Center Arena Plan by OVG and not request any further postponements by the City Council.  

As you may not know, I am on the city’s Arena Community Advisory group for the Seattle Center Arena Plan I am familiar with the process and OVG’s MOU.  In addition to suggesting a delay in the City Council vote on the OVG MOU, some of the comments made by you during your Seattle visit earlier in the week are not correct.  Namely, your statement about OVG’s proposal including a “fair amount of public financing.”

Because OVG has been able to identify NHL owners and because the Seattle Center Arena Plan is under serious consideration because it’s a strong proposal, Seattle is so very close to gaining the interest of the NHL to expand a team here. By openly endorsing the Seattle Center Arena Plan and not delaying voting, you will build some goodwill with the City Council and it could buy you some time to address the outstanding issues with your SoDo Project. A Seattle Center Arena could also provide an opportunity with a shorter runway of time to bringing the Sonics back should a team become available. Isn’t that what you have said your primary goal is – to bring back the Sonics? Additionally, by supporting Seattle hockey fans by helping them bring a team to town you will surely win their support in your continued efforts to bring the Sonics back.

Please don’t hinder Seattle’s chances of getting an NHL franchise. The league will eventually look for other options, if we fail to start building an arena. I love the Seahawks, Storm, Sounders, Reign, and Mariners, but the NHL is my passion. I am not alone. Please give NHL fans in the area the sense of community that sports provide.

If you are truly open to two arenas, as you mentioned, then I encourage you to send a letter to the City Council in immediate support of the Seattle Center Arena Plan.


John Barr


Bigger than Hockey. #vegasstrong

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SoDo is Dead

I know there are a lot of folks that wanted to see the SoDo site be the location of Seattle’s arena to host NHL and NBA teams, but the door seems to have been closed indefinitely as the City of Seattle shared that they will not be re-voting on the Occidental Street Vacation that the Hansen would need to build their arena in SoDo.SeattleArena

I have said SoDo is dead before and nothing has really changed my mind since I originally posted in May of 2016. That post was before KeyArena was brought up as an option. It was clear to me that the current City Council decided that SoDo is not where they wanted another sports facility to be built. Since that post, nothing has materially changed. Hansen offered to forego his $130M in public financing for the street vacation, but that was much ado about nothing. It didn’t go over well, but I chalked this up as “no news” news. The financing has always been tied to Hansen procuring an NBA team and since the NBA has made it clear that they were not expanding before the MOU was set to expire, the financing was a non-issue.

The reasons for the unwillingness for the city to revisit the street vacation could be any combination of the following reasons:

  1. No money. When Ballmer left the group that eliminated Hansen’s majority owner/partner. Hansen could have addressed this, but, for whatever reason, hasn’t added any investors to his group. Now it is relatively impossible to replace a significant partner, like Ballmer, with over a billion in net worth. As far as I can tell, the City doesn’t grant street vacation on speculation that a company, organization or individual can attract more investors. The city expects to see all the financing in order before a street is vacated.
  2. No NHL partner. It’s no secret that the NHL is ready to expand before the NBA. Many sources have made that clear. Over a year ago, Hansen’s partner, Wally Walker confirmed that the Hansen group has continued to talk to prospective NHL owners but in 6+ years, they have not been able to bring any of them on board.
  3. Politics. Yep, flat out politics. It is easy to blame the Port of Seattle, since they were the most vocal opponent over the last 5 years. The Mariners & Seahawks were also quiet opponents of the SoDo arena plans. Those are 3 powerful groups that are difficult to overcome.
  4. Relationship with the NBA. For years there have been rumors & reports that Hansen’s relationship with the NBA has some challenges. The city has acknowledged that they have been in communication with both the NBA and NHL during the KeyArena RFP process to make sure it is viable. If this relationship issue did exist, it is certainly conceivable that the NBA would have confirmed it to the City of Seattle during these conversations.
  5. KeyArena has become viable. At the time of the Occidental Street Vacation vote, KeyArena was not really talked about as a viable option to host the NBA and NHL. outsideSince then, the City issued an RFP and got two responses to redevelop KeyArena from two power houses in the industry that have deep ties to the NBA and NHL, AEG and OVG. Both RFP responses confirmed that KeyArena could be redeveloped into a building to support NHL and NBA. The city confirmed that the Mayor’s Office were in communication with both leagues on the viability of the proposals.

KeyArena or Bust

The demise of SoDo leaves only one option for an NHL/NBA arena, a revamped KeyArena. NBA aside and focusing on the NHL, with the addition of Vegas this year, the NHL is set at 31 teams with 15 teams in the west and 16 in the east. This would imply 1 additional opening for an expansion franchise. The league will not wait for Seattle forever, especially with interest starting to percolate in Houston and Kansas City, both of which could plug and play fairly easily in the western conference and already have existing arenas. With no other options in the Seattle area, it looks like KeyArena is our only hope to see the NHL here anytime soon. There are certainly other scenarios that could play out, but it feels like our window of opportunity is now, otherwise we might be waiting a long time for an NHL team.


A couple podcasts and YouTube video

Just a quick note that I made appearances on a couple podcast over the last two weeks to talk hockey and arenas. If you are like me and itching for any and all hockey news out of Seattle, this might help fill the void because things are pretty quiet right now.

Hockey talk in Seattle

The first podcast was on Chris Cashman and Chris Daniels “The Next Best Podcast”.

The second podcast was segment of a longer podcast on the Seattle Growth Podcast.

If you like local podcasts, you should definitely subscribe to both of them.

Hockey history in Seattle

A friend sent me this video that has a lot of archived footage and information on the history of pro hockey in Seattle. Very cool and gets me pretty pumped up to see the NHL come here.

Seattle Partners pull out of KeyArena bid process

Seattle Partners, a partnership between AEG and Hudson Pacific, announced in a formal letter to the City of Seattle that they would be pulling out of the KeyArena remodel process. On the surface, it appeared to be a surprise, but to those of us that have been following the story for a while know that AEG was on the cusp of losing the bid anyway. They could have bowed out gracefully, but they decided to take a scorched earth approach to announcing their exit.

The mayor responded to the letter with a statement of his own:

Ed Murray

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

“It is unfortunate Seattle Partners chose to pull their proposal. As recently as May 19th, Seattle Partners stated in a mass email: ‘We applaud the City for executing a thoughtful public process. Engaging with teams from the City and the public has strengthened our proposal and crystallized our approach.’ We hope to continue our current relationship with AEG and look forward to addressing our path forward on KeyArena, as well as our commitment to engage the community, in the coming days.”


And then there was one…at KeyArena

That leaves OVG as the remaining bidder on the KeyArena remodel. It has been rumored that we were going to hear an announcement as early as this week. John Shannon from Sportsnet tweeted that OVG would be in town on Monday (the 5th).

Sodo and KeyArena

Assuming OVG can strike a deal with the City, this will now set the stage for a SoDo/KeyArena showdown that should really be interesting. There are so many differentoutside dynamics at play here; it is impossible to predict. Ultimately, I believe it will come down to the following questions:

Who has the money to build the arena? As part of the KeyArena RFP process, OVG needed to demonstrate the financial means to deliver on the project. Meanwhile, the Hansen group has not revealed how they are financially structured since Ballmer left the group.

Which arena group has support of the leagues? There has been a lot of speculation that Hansen does not have the support of the NBA, but that has never been confirmed by the NBA. Time heals all wounds, so if this really is an issue, it could be fixed. OVG’s CEO, Tim Leiweke has deep ties to both the NBA and NHL, so his relationships seem solid. That said, I expect the City of Seattle to be in contact with both leagues to confirm either or both potential arena partners have the support from both leagues.

Who has a potential NHL ownership group? Both groups have acknowledged that they are talking to potential NHL ownership groups and for all we know, they could be talking to the same groups. Maybe a bigger question is how much this needs to be solidified to decide SoDo vs. KeyArena.SeattleArena

Has Hansen done enough to alter the vote on a street vacation? Since the street vacation vote was denied by the city council last year, Hansen has announced his intent to pull the need for public financing. In my eyes, that is a moot point since the public financing was always tied to procuring an NBA franchise, which was not going to happen before the MOU expires in December.

How this all plays out is anyone’s guess, but it certainly feels like we are closer to getting a viable arena plan that can support an NBA and NHL team. Take that last sentence with a grain of salt, since I’ve said that before.