December 4, 2017 | 8:40PM ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
SEATTLE TAKES NEXT STEP TOWARDS JOINING NHL
TORONTO, ON -- The city of Seattle took a big step forward in its attempts to house an NHL franchise today after city council voted 7-1 in favor of a $660 million package to renovate KeyArena.
The Oak View Group, led by former AEG President and CEO and former MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke, agreed to privately finance the $600 million building, with additional funds being spent on transportation and local community upgrades.
OVG partnered with billionaire investment banker David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer to attract an NHL franchise to Seattle, a topic of discussion that will undoubtedly be discussed, though not necessarily formally, at this week’s NHL Board of Governors meetings on Thursday and Friday.
“I’ve said consistently that I’m committed to bring back our Sonics, recruit an NHL team, and invest in our City,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “Under this plan, arena construction is 100% privately financed and will provide good family wage jobs for decades to come. Nothing in this MOU precludes other private investors from privately financing other arenas in Seattle, but it does establish a pathway to making Seattle Center vibrant for future generations.”
When the NHL started to seriously look at expansion, Seattle was atop the League’s list of prospective markets along with Las Vegas. On numerous occasions, I’ve written about the NHL’s desire to put a team in Seattle, and that may soon come to fruition.
The Vegas Golden Knights, led by majority owner Bill Foley, paid a $500 million expansion fee to join the NHL, and it is now believed the minimum purchase price will be $620 million for Seattle or any other acceptable market going forward.
Today’s vote most certainly brought smiles to some of the faces of many within the NHL’s brotherhood. They’ve long-wanted to put a team in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and make no mistake, they’ll be ready to move forward once Bonderman and Bruckheimer are ready.
Having an NHL franchise in Seattle is as sure a thing as the League wanting to put a team in Vegas – as long as there was a top-notch arena and an ownership group with deep pockets. That’s what they’ve now got in Seattle.
Providing they begin construction in early-to-mid 2018, OVG has claimed it can have its arena ready to be re-opened to the public by October 2020, which would coincide with the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
What does this mean for Quebec City or Houston? Well, nothing. Not right now, anyway. If everything is up to snub, the NHL’s 32nd franchise will call Seattle home, and the League will know it still has two other markets available should they decide to grow past 32 clubs or have an only-resort relocation scenario pop up.
For Bonderman and Bruckheimer, you can be sure they’ll want a similar expansion process to the one Vegas received. The newly designed Expansion Draft is appealing, especially with how well the Golden Knights continue to perform, and there’s no reason to believe the League won’t allow the same system to take fold in June 2020.
The ‘E’ word (expansion) will be another hot topic around hockey circles in the coming weeks and months. As of now, all signs point to Team 32 entering the NHL fraternity in the not-too-distant-future. That equates to at least $20 million in the pockets of each of the 31 current franchises and 30+ more jobs for NHL players.
Now, I wonder what this team will call itself.