Sleepless in... New York?
The city of Seattle will be making a strong push for an NHL
CHICAGO, IL -- Seattle is making a major play for the NHL to bring a
team to the Emerald City, and their recent moves have strengthened
their bid to have another hockey team in the northwest.
In 2010, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman delivered his State of the
League address before the Stanley Cup Finals, the hot topic of the day
was the relocation of both the Phoenix Coyotes and the then-Atlanta
Thrashers. At that time, Bettman indicated that there are three
primary criteria for getting -- and keeping -- an NHL franchise:
ownership, a building, and fans (read: income).
On May 16, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow
Constantine and hedge fund investor Chris Hansen made their intent to
make Seattle a destination for both the NHL and NBA official with a
formal proposal for a new $490 million multi-purpose arena.
ArenaCo, the group led by Hansen, reached an agreement with both the
city and county for the arena in the Stadium District in the SoDo
neighborhood of Seattle.
The aggressive move by Seattle includes a commitment of upwards of
$800 million in private capital, according to the mayor's office,
which is one of the largest dollar amounts for such a project in North
ArenaCo's proposal would have the new arena ready within two years and
would carry a 17,500 hockey capacity.
Perhaps most importantly, the agreement between the private equity
group and local governments carries provisions that include no new
taxes, and would carry a non-relocation agreement for any NBA or NHL
franchise that would move into the space.
Consider those figures compared to the most recent NHL relocation that
moved the Thrashers to Winnipeg.
The total cost to True North Sports & Entertainment was $230 million
($170 million to Atlanta Spirit for the franchise and another $60
million relocation fee to the league). The Jets play their home games
at the MTS Centre, which has a 15,015 hockey capacity; they averaged
15,004 filled seats in their first season in Winnipeg.
ArenaCo is coming to the table with a plan for a substantially larger
facility, and plenty of capital to bring both an NHL and NBA team into
Seattle is an intriguing market for the NHL on a number of levels. The
geographic rivalry between a team in Seattle and the Vancouver Canucks
would provide interest, and the market itself has been desperately
bidding for a professional sports team since the NBA's SuperSonics
left for Oklahoma City.
The city of Seattle itself is comparable to other markets already home
to NHL teams. Based on the 2009 Census, Seattle had a bigger metro
population than Denver, Nashville, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, St.
Louis, Pittsburgh and Anaheim. They have enjoyed strong population
growth over the last decade, as well; their nine percent growth
between 2000 and 2009 is comparable to Boston, Dallas and Denver.
Also of note, Seattle is a relatively affluent city with an average
household income of over $60,000 US. By comparison, the median
household income in Dallas was under $40,000 US at the same time.
Certainly, there is competition for Seattle. Kansas City already has
an arena in place and has been vying for a franchise since they opened
the Sprint Center in 2007. And recent arena-related news out of Quebec
City and Markham (outside Toronto) put a few strong contenders on the
map for Bettman to consider if/when the NHL looks to move another
The one catch for potential relocation to Seattle would be the
non-relocation agreement Seattle is seeking from any NBA and NHL
franchise. The 30-year commitment expectation may raise red flags for
However, what could help Seattle's case for hockey is their ability to
add an NBA team soon. The Sacramento Kings have been at odds with the
city over an arena upgrade for some time, and may look to replace the
Sonics as soon as this summer. If Seattle can attract a professional
basketball team and shows the ability to not only fill seats, but
makes the bottom line of that franchise positive quickly, there will
be a case study for the NHL to use moving forward.
The NHL bought itself some time before needing to make another
relocation decision when they announced a tentative agreement on May 7
to sell the Coyotes to a group led by former Sharks CEO Greg Jamison.
Jamison still needs to complete lease negotiations with Glendale and
the deal needs approval by the league's Board of Governor... and both
sides of the agreement will have to deal with the Goldwater Institute
If the watchdog group throws a similar wrench into these plans as they
did when Matthew Hulsizer's group petitioned to buy the team in 2011,
or if Jamison's group fails to reach an agreement with Glendale,
relocation may become the best -- and only -- option for the Coyotes.
And Seattle is taking steps to be ready if the NHL is looking for a
new home for one of their franchises.