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May 22, 2012 | 7:25pm ET
Sleepless in... New York?
 The city of Seattle will be making a strong push for an NHL franchise.

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 America.

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 the market.

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 team.

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 the league.

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 again.

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.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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