Hansen’s ‘Hail Mary’

Yesterday the Hansen Group threw up a ‘Hail Mary’ by sending a letter to the Seattle City Council on a possible redevelopment plan of their own for KeyArena. As I’ve said in KeyArena_SoDoGroupprevious posts, the three main challenges for SoDo is the lack of money, no NHL partner, and political support inside and outside city hall. His potential plan for KeyArena is interesting, but does nothing to address those challenges.

The proposal

The proposal would subdivide KeyArena into 3 separate venues: a 500-seat theater, 3000-seat covered amphitheater and 6200-seat indoor concert venue. If there wasn’t already a viable redevelopment plan to accommodate NHL and NBA team, i.e. OVG’s proposal, I think this would be an interesting proposal. The Hansen Group would not start this Amp_KeyArena_Hansenproject until after a SoDo arena would be completed. Based on the information posted on Hansen’s website, the SoDo arena would still not begin until an NBA or NHL team is procured. Based on a Steve Ballmer interview last spring, he estimates the NBA in Seattle is closer to 10 years away than 5. You add it all up and we would be looking at about 2027 for SoDo to be open at which time I would not expect the NHL to wait for Seattle. The Hansen Group has mentioned they would be willing to work with an NHL partner, but their track record so far tells a different story. Each of the known prospective NHL Seattle partners, Don Levin, Ray Bartozek, and Victor Coleman, have been unable to reach terms with the Hansen Group. By adding this KeyArena component, he just increased the cost of business for any prospective partners.

What does Hansen have to lose?

In short, nothing. Worst case for Hansen is that the situation remains status quo and the city rejects/ignores his proposal and continues to go down the path with an NHL/NBA arena in Seattle Center with OVG. Best case for him is that the city rejects the OVG NHL/NBA solution and gives Hansen 5 more years to wait for the NBA to either expand or relocate a team to Seattle. He will also need to acquire a whale of an NBA partner and if he can’t strike a deal with the economic proposal of both SoDo and KeyArena, he can go back to the City to request a more appealing deal to lure the NBA. By that time, the NHL will have probably expanded to 32 teams somewhere else.

Oak View Group round up and Bettman comments on Seattle

The Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke was in town and made a couple key stops to speak with sea_key_arena_entrthe Seattle Times and King5’s Chris Daniels. As you might recall, the Oak View Group is one of the two expected bidders on the KeyArena redevelopment RFP that could host both an NBA or NHL team. Before today, it was assumed that either AEG or OVG would be the operators of a remodeled KeyArena and not the owners of either an NHL or NBA franchise.

Seattle Times Article

The Seattle Times was definitely an enlightening read, filled will lots and lots of quotes from Leiweke himself. I urge you to read the entire article to make sure not to take my thoughts below out of context.

Here are some of the article’s highlights:

“We believe it’s going to take three or four years, preferably three,’’

My take: Seems pretty optimistic based on the snail’s pace that the SoDo project has gone. However, this is a project the city initiated vs a developer initiated project; the city might be a little more inclined to expedite the process to meet their timeline. There wasn’t a whole lot of urgency from Hansen after the Sacramento deal fell through. I honestly have no idea how long this will take. Seems like arenas can go up in a hurry, if the partners are motivated.

Leiweke said he’s in constant contact with Bettman and NBA commissioner Adam Silver and has been assured there is no imminent expansion or team relocation on the horizontimliewikeandgb for either league.

My take: Both Leiweke and AEG have strong relationships with both NHL & NBA and so I would expect both Oak View and AEG to be in lockstep with the leagues. I see this as a competitive advantage these guys have on bringing either an NHL or NBA team to Seattle over Hansen.

“I think that there are certain leaders in this community that finally took a step back and listened to Adam Silver when he said ‘There’s no expansion coming, and we’re not giving a team to Seattle right now because there’s no team moving.’ I don’t think that’s politics. I think that’s the reality of understanding the truth. And I personally believe you’ve been misled.”

My take: This isn’t really anything new. Other than an isolated report several months back reporting that expansion was happening, the league and owners have consistently said there will be no expansion anytime soon. Of course, we heard that for about 2 years leading up to the NHL’s expansion process, so it is within the realm of possibility that the league could do a 180 on this in one day. With no mention during Silver’s presser at the All-Star game and now this, it still feels NBA expansion is a ways out.

Speaking about Hansen’s attempt to buy and move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, Leiweke said. “I don’t think that was a good day for Seattle, and I’m speaking just as a (Toronto Raptors) member of the board of governors at the time and watching that. … You don’t threaten (then-NBA commissioner) David Stern. And I’ll leave it at that.”

My take: Hmmm…there is some smoke there, but hard to know what Leiweke was talking about. Sounds like there might still be some fence mending that still needs to happen between Chris Hansen and the NBA. I’ve heard the NBA is still reluctant to deal with Hansen, but I never could substantiate that theory, so I’ve largely dismissed it. This does not validate it either. But there is something going on here between the NBA and Chris Hansen.

King 5 Piece

Later in the day, Chris Daniels from King5 published this article. The story line was similar to the Times piece with a couple added thoughts. (full interview posted here.)

Speaking about the traffic conditions down there, Oak View Group’s Lance Lopes said, “Frankly, a lot of it is based on misperceptions.  A great example: Mercer mess. If you go to Mercer at six o’clock at night and look at what the westbound traffic looks like, it actually flows quite well. Eastbound is difficult, we’re actually not going eastbound, we’re having people coming in to that area.”

My take: I travel westbound on Mercer a couple times a week between 4 and 6 from I5 to 99 and it does flow relatively well. How it will perform when there are high capacity events at KeyArena could be a different story. Then again, traffic in Sodo also increases dramatically for events at Safeco and Century link field.

“(Bettman) is fully dedicated to finding a solution in Phoenix. We cannot and we will not ultimately go prey on trying to move franchises. That was a major mistake and we will not make that mistake.”

My take: I know there has been some speculation that the Coyotes might move here, but I’ve remained pretty consistent that this will not happen. The NHL has proven that they will do everything they can to keep the team somewhere in the greater Phoenix designated market area (DMA).

Bettman in Vancouver

Coincidentally, Gary Bettman was in Vancouver last night and was asked about Seattle. Bettman says “We aren’t paying a lot of attention to it because there is no building.” He then proceeds to name all the players trying to get an arena deal done….but he’s not paying attention. This is as good as it will get from the Commissioner. I would love to hear a statement from both leagues saying that they are in regular communication with AEG or Oak View Group to ensure that the RFP responses can work as a long term home for both the NHL and NBA, but we will never get that from a commissioner until the opening faceoff or tipoff.

The arrival of Leiweke and AEG on the scene can only help the situation. Getting some honest and candid comments from any of the arena players is refreshing and I anticipate we will continue to hear more and more from AEG, Hansen, and maybe some potential NHL team owner one day.

Let’s view this as a significant progress report that people are talking to the leagues and working though some of the unique challenges with a redevelopment of Key Arena.

Impasse in SoDo leaves Prospective NHL Owner looking for other options

As you might have heard by now there were was a lot of news about the NHL coming to Seattle over the weekend which stem from two articles by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The first article stated that the NHL has no plans to expand to Seattle right now due to the lack of an Arena plan and the second article states that that prospective Seattle NHL Franchise owner Ray Bartoszek is looking at revamped Key Arena as a potential site for a future NHL team. Both articles are worth the read because there will be several good details I will leave out.

Long story short, neither Bartoszek or any other group has been able to work out a deal with Chris Hansen to build the Arena. As I wrote on SonicsRising over the weekend, this should not surprise anyone due to the complexity of the deal/transaction. With the recent statements by Adam Silver on (lack of) expansion in the NBA, Hansen will need some assurances or additional $ to build the arena. Without the guarantee of a NBA team, the asking contribution price must be huge. Not everyone has the 21st richest man in america as their investment partner and Bartoszek/Lanza might be wealthy but not that wealthy. (Someone else at SonicsRising but this excellent piece together on why the impasse)

Key Arena

As the original Geoff Baker piece states, Ray Bartoszek is looking at other options which includes a KeyArena remodel. It is great to see Bartoszek looking at other options, instead of waiting for the NBA. By the looks of it, the NBA won’t be expanding in the next 5 years so it only makes sense to explore alternatives. I do not know if the Key is an option but I don’t think Ray knows either but we will never know unless someone looks into it.

Bellevue

Meanwhile there appears to be a completely separate group poking around Bellevue at the viability of an arena over there. As you might recall, Don Levin was looking over there about 3 years ago but called off the hounds when it appeared Hansen grabbed the momentum with his SoDo site. It is not clear if Levin is part of this group looking at Bellevue. This should be another good sign there are people interested in this area for a team.

I will never forget the Don Levin quote that the “Seattle market is like San Jose on steroids.” The NHL and prospective owners know there is something special about this market and it almost seems like they are waiting for us before expanding. Stay Positive.

Here is an updated visual on where we are at for landing a team. Lots of unknown on the Bellevue and KeyArena/Seattle Center Scenarios:

42814update

 

Potential Gate Revenues in KeyArena

Let me first say that I’ve always felt analyzing Arena Revenues on the success of a franchise is just part of the financial picture & can be shortsighted. Arena Revs are important and it is largely reported that NHL relies on their Arena Gate revenue much more than other professional sports leagues. My point about the Gate Revenues is that it takes time and generations to develop a fan base that creates excess demand to allow for owners to increase prices. So when you hear of crazy cheap prices and promotions in other cities, this should be considered a good thing and part of the process in developing a fan base. Besides, isn’t cheap tickets a good thing to make hockey more accessible to people of all income levels?

Additionally, the NHL should be doing things to diversify their dependence on Gate Revenues. My analysis of the Forbes NHL Valuations from last year showed that 50% of Canadian Team revenues comes from Gate Revenue where most of the other teams are somewhere closer to 33%. With roughly 50% of NHL franchises selling out every game this year, higher prices and therefore higher gate revenues are surely coming. The unfortunate thing here is that teams don’t have much of a choice but to raise the prices because they will be sold on the secondary market for higher prices should they try to keep prices low.

Ok…thank you for letting me get that out of my system

Seattle revenues at KeyArena

I’ve seen a lot of banter over the last few days on the limited capacity in the KeyArena and the impacts to Arena Gate Revenue. There is a lot of concern that because of the small arena, it isn’t suitable for the NHL, even temporarily.

So I decided to look at the price points of the various I apologize for stating the obvious here but there are two elements to Arena Revenue: attendance and ticket prices. Again with the obvious, in order to make up for lost capacity, one can raise the price of tickets. With the added scarcity of tickets this shouldn’t be too hard to do.

I looked at the average attendance per game in 2013 and the average ticket price per team to get at a “projected gate revenue per game” for each team. For the most part, you can assume that the lower the ticket price, the lower the attendance. The loan exception is Tampa Bay who has the 2nd lowest average ticket price but the 8th highest average attendance per game. Ottawa is another anomaly with the 6th lowest ticket price per game but the 6th highest average attendance per game. Even with that high attendance, they rank the 6th and 7th lowest in gate revenue per game. Here is a graph of what the Seattle NHL Team would need to charge to raise the equivalent in Gate Revenues for each team.

Ticket Prices

Note there are two figures that are being compared against the team averages. One price point at 11,000 people and one at 13,000. The 11K figure is popularly reported but Chris Daniels for Channel 5 in Seattle had done some investigating and noted that the figure is around 13K. Important to note that this assumes that all games sell out in KeyArena, regardless of capacity. I don’t recall how some other markets did when playing in a temp facility but it might be a little naïve to think that they could sell out every game.

Here are my findings:

  • Assuming a sellout of 13K, the Seattle NHL Franchise would need to charge an average of $43.18 to bring in the same gate revenues that Phoenix is brining in at $40 per ticket. 43.18 would be the 6th cheapest ticket in the league.
  • Conversely they would need to charge $186.33/seat to bring in what the Toronto MapleLeafs bring in at the gate per night. (I know not realistic but kind of fun to look at.)
  • If the Seattle team charged the league average of $61 per seat they would make more than 6 teams do today at the gate.
  • At $50 a seat, they would be charging the 12th lowest ticket price in the league and still generate more than 4 other teams.

Those are just some fun stats and thoughts to look when it relates to gate revenue. There are things like variable pricing per game where the team could charge a premium: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Detroit, & Chicago draw extremely well on the road.

Let me know if you have other scenarios and I will run them against my model.