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?

Bettman talks a little expansion in NYC presser

bettman_gary640I caught a bunch of comments on twitter from Gary Bettman’s press conference this morning in NYC. He talked quite a bit about Expansion and Seattle so I wanted to share for the folks that might not be on twitter or may have missed it. There could be some follow up articles on some of these points but for now I am going to embed some of the tweets of the coverage and give some commentary where necessary.

Expansion and Vegas

Nothing really new other than Bettman confirming what we heard from Scott Burnside earlier this week. If you want to take the Seattle optimist view, you can hope that Seattle is part of the “pursue it” conversation since Bettman has said that a ticket drive was not necessary in Seattle or Quebec.

Seattle Specifics

This is the most direct comment I have ever read or heard from Bettman on the opportunity for NHL in Seattle. We have known the NHL has wanted to be here but Bettman usually phrases things with “There is some interest…” or “we haven’t studied the market”.  It might not seem like much but this is progress.

Very consistent with what we have heard from Geoff Baker, Chris Daniels, the Mayor and the limited comments we have heard from the NHL. Hearing it all wrapped up together from the NHL is dare I say, encouraging. There are a couple things that can fall into place over the next 2 months. The Final Environmental Impact Study of the SoDo Arena due on May 7th. If Victor Coleman is still the NHL front man in that deal, we should expect to some of those details to emerge on getting the financing for an NHL first scenario. Additionally, the Tukwila (or Bellevue) plan could emerge to compete with the SoDo plan. SoDo still has some hurdles so whether it is a competing plan or a backup plan, I am all for it.

Get ready for a wild 60 days.

Potential Seattle NHL Ownership Groups Revealed

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times backed up his article last week on the arena locations with this piece on potential NHL ownership groups in Seattle. Long story short, there appears to be 3 potential groups roughly aligned to the 3 sites.

I created this handy dandy diagram to make sense of it all. Tod Leiweke and Thomas Tull were mentioned in the article as being part of the ownership groups but that seemed more speculative in nature which is why I did not include them in the diagram.

Ownership LandscapeOne last shameless plug, I am trying to get 100 people to donate $10 to the RMHC of Seattle just so I can donate $1500. Please consider donating. I am up to $410.

 

Breaking down the 3 arena options

In case you missed it, Gary Bettman mentioned Tukwila and Bellevue as potential sites for an NHL arena in the Seattle Area on a radio interview in Vancouver. Stick tap goes to Paul Rogers, from SonicsRising.com, for covering the news ahead of our more traditional media outlets. Geoff Baker from the Seattle Times then published this article with a lot more detail on the specific locations. As much as I love the SoDo location, it is great to see that Seattle’s dreams of landing an NHL team are not tied to any one plan. I breakdown the 3 locations by population, income, and driving distance.

Population

Puget Sound Population Map3

Seattle has ~ 6 times the population base of Bellevue. It is worth pointing out that Seattle’s area (142 Sq Miles) is much larger than Bellevue’s (36 Sq Miles). For this reason, to get a fair comparison you could include Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish. If you combine those populations, the Bellevue area has ~325K compared to Seattle’s ~650K. The closest comparable NHL market could be Minneapolis-St. Paul. The city of Tukwila is much, much smaller, but based on the location of the reported site, it is literally on the southern border of the Seattle city limits.

Side note: I received over 15 times more responses from people living in Seattle vs people living in Bellevue when I launched my original survey.

Income

We have already established that the NHL fans have the highest income levels of the big 4 Professional Sports Leagues. For income comparisons, I used IRS adjustable income reporting data from 2012 by zip code that I then consolidated into city. I filtered on how many IRS tax returns had an adjustable income of over 75K by city. This is not to say that the only people going to NHL games will be individuals/households that make over 75K a year but a large amount of Season Ticket holders will come from this income bracket.

Puget Sound IRS returns Map

Similar to the population levels, Seattle has a significant amount of households with tax return Adjustable Income over $75K when comparing to Bellevue. However, when you add Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, Issaquah and Newcastle, the number is much closer than the population number: Seattle has ~117,000 households to Eastside collective around ~100,000 households.

Distance

Seattle arena map

From a distance perspective, Bellevue and SoDo are somewhat of a wash. Yes, traffic won’t be great regardless of the route, but 10 Miles seems like a reasonable distance to travel to a game for either side of the lake. Certainly, there are more people working in downtown Seattle during the week, but there are obviously quite a few companies located on the Eastside, as well (Microsoft, T-Mobile, Costco, etc…). From downtown Seattle, Tukwila seems like a reasonable distance, even closer than Bellevue.

In a perfect world, a potential owner could obtain some data from a few NHL teams that show the distance traveled from season ticket holders & single game ticket purchases to analyze the viability of the three locations. If I had my pick, I would analyze San Jose, Colorado & Minnesota ticket sales by zip code.

Side note: 35% of respondents to one of my surveys over the summer, sited “Inconvenient Location” as the reason why they did not watch more WHL hockey game.

Here are a few distances for other NBA/NHL arenas:

Canadian Tire Center, home of the Ottawa Senators:

  • 16.6 Miles from downtown Ottawa

St. Paul MN, home of the Minnesota Wild:

  • 12.4 Miles from Minneapolis

The Palace at Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons:

  • 33 Miles from Detroit

Glendale AZ, home of the Arizona Coyotes:

  • 10 Miles from Phoenix
  • 21 Miles from Scottsdale
  • 27 Miles from Mesa

Sunrise FL, home of the Florida Panthers

  • Sunrise, FL is 31.2 Miles from Miami

 

On an unrelated note and a shameless plug, I am trying to get 100 people to donate $10 to the RMHC of Seattle just so I can donate $1500. Please consider donating

NY Post: Gretzky interested in NHL to Seattle. Agent: Not so fast.

Just when we expected to be go into the hockey news doldrums, the New York Post reports that none other than Wayne Gretzky is part of an ownership group that is trying to land an NHL team in Seattle.  2011 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award Presentation - Arrivals

Wayne Gretzky has joined a group of investors hoping to bring a National Hockey League team to Seattle, The Post has learned.

The Gretzky group is one of three looking to bring an NHL franchise to the home of Starbucks, sources said — but each faces an uphill battle in that league Commissioner Gary Bettman has not said the league is ready to expand

This would obviously be great news to have someone has high profile as Gretzky to help build a franchise here. But…

Gretzky’s Agent denies his involvement in a “bid”

Just 4 hours later, Sportsnet reported that Gretzky’s agent is saying this isn’t the case:

Darren Blake, Gretzky’s agent, told The Canadian Press in an email that the 53-year-old Hall of Famer isn’t involved in any bid.

“As you can imagine prospective team owners from various franchises call frequently to gauge his interest in coming on board. Seattle is no different,” said Blake.

Sportsnet is using the word “bid” which might be used carefully by Darren Blake. Both articles point out that one of the big hurdles is the arena, and until that is figured out, there really won’t be a bid. As I’ve previously shared, the NHL will need to be confident that a deal can be struck with Hansen and the City of Seattle before there will be a formal bid.

Which ownership group

If Gretzky is part of one of the groups, it is not clear which one. There should be no doubt that Gretzky can not be the lead investor on bringing the team. There has been no indication which group he could be part of should this move forward.

I have updated the NHL to Seattle diagram:

NHLtoSeattle20140705

 

10 day countdown to the NHL Board of Governors meeting

After an amazing playoff year, the NHL is still busy as ever. Here is a look at the NHL schedule over the next couple weeks.

  • June 16: Player buy outs start
  • June 22: Schedule for 2014-15 Season released
  • June 24: NHL Awards
  • June 25: Free Agent talks can begin
  • June 26: NHL Board of Governors Meeting
  • June 27/28: Draft Day
  • July 1: Free Agent Day

As you might be able to tell, the day that we should keep our eyes on is June 26th. If and it is a big if, the NHL plans to award a conditional expansion for a targeted 2016 season, July 26th will be the time they do it. Chris Daniels, tweeted this a while back and it is consistent with Geoff Baker’s narrative most of the spring.

Based on some of the recent comments by Bettman, the City and Hansen, I don’t think we should be expecting anything. My hope is we get more color on what needs to happen to making the NHL to Seattle a reality. We know the biggest blocker in landing a team is the Arena and that arena plan is complex. The only way we here anything positive is if the NHL is relatively confident that the MOU can be reworked, a deal with Hansen/NHL group and the EIS passes in the fall.

NHLtoSeattle-20140616

Making sense of the last 48 hours

We have received quite a bit of information in the last 48 hours and for those of us who hang on every word mentioned, it has given us plenty of material to over analyze. As a whole,

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

the recent news over the last 48 hours should be perceived as a very very good sign. In case you have been in the dark, the week started with the report that Bettman & Daly were in town last week to meet with King County Executive Dow Constantine & Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, then sometime in the afternoon yesterday, it was reported that the mayor told Bettman and Daly that the Seattle City Council would be uninterested in reopening the executed MOU to enable an NHL first scenario. If that was not enough news to digest, a potential ownership group was identified and that same group accompanied Bettman and Daly in these meetings. (head explodes)

Here is my suggested reading list as the source for the information:

There is a lot of info in there and plenty said between the lines and additional information shared that was shared on Radio interviews and twitter accounts of both Daniels and Baker. Here are my main takeaways.

  • The meeting with NHL Brass and Constantine & Murray is the “strongest sign yet” of the league’s interest in placing a team in Seattle.
  • The no changes to the MOU is not as negative as it appears.Murray can’t show all his cards and needs to watch his words carefully. It is premature to direct any negative commentary to Murray or anyone on the City Council until this thing has time to breath. It could be a timing situation as well or early negotiations. Geoff Baker tweeted that Murray did not shut the door on an NHL first scenario.
  • The Coleman group appears to be the lead candidate to be the potential owner of the NHL franchise in Seattle.
  • According to Baker, that group has been communicating with Hansen since last October. I think it is reasonable to conclude that both Hansen and Coleman group have a good understanding on what it will take to partner on the arena deal (Number 2 below).

This is my updated diagram on what needs to happen. The order is numbered but you should not think of it as purely linear. It is fairly obvious to me that the discussions are happening in parallel for the league to get a reasonable confidence level that all stages can be completed and issues resolved.

ArenaSituation20140516