A new arena proposal was announced by the City of Seattle, in conjunction with King County, yesterday. There has been much discussion about the Phoenix Coyotes' ownership situation, and if they might end up moving. Seattle has been on that list of potential cities for the Coyotes to move to. With a new building potentially in the works, it's been said that Seattle moves to the top of the city relocation list.
The only real issue with moving an NHL team to Seattle has been the lack of a suitable building. There are people who are interested in buying a team and relocating it to that city, but Key Arena is woefully unsuitable for the long term. It will likely be used in the short term, however.
That arena issue may be over now. Christopher Hansen, a hedge fund manager who grew up in the Seattle area but now lives in San Francisco, has pitched a deal to build an arena in order to bring back the SuperSonics. While bringing back the NBA is definitely the priority, he's also said that he wants the area to host an NHL team as well.
That isn't to say that there aren't hockey fans in the Seattle metro area. They do have two major junior teams there, after all - the Seattle Thunderbirds (who are now playing in Kent) and the Everett Silvertips. Both teams are doing just fine, too. And the current arenas have always done well selling tickets whenever an NHL preseason game has come to the area.
The location of this new arena is pretty ideal, as these things go. It'll be located in the SoDo (South of Downtown) District, just south of the Safeco Field south parking garage - so there's ready-made parking already waiting for them, if the Mariners allow them to use it. And since both Safeco Field (home of the MLB Mariners) and CenturyLink Field (home of the NFL Seahawks and the MLS Sounders FC) are just north of this location, people already know what to expect in regards to traffic, parking, and transit options when they go to a game there.
Best of all is that it'll be privately funded. The City of Seattle, King County, nor Washington State taxpayers will have to pay a dime for building it. Unless they attend an even there, of course. The added bonus is that the man who is fronting all of this is originally from the Seattle area, and he wants to invest his money and his group's money into the community by building an arena that will eventually revert to city ownership.
That may sound familiar to Tampa Bay Lightning fans. Hedge fund manager, arena building/renovation with his own money, wanting to invest in the community.... Jeff Vinik's example makes me feel pretty positive about this whole deal.
The catch is that Hansen's group has to own at least one team before they even consider breaking ground for a building. Hansen will be going to the NBA's Board of Governor's meetings in April to discuss team purchasing options. Don Levin, an owner of the AHL Chicago Wolves, wants to own an NHL team, and is also interested in these developments in Seattle. He wants to see the NHL in Seattle, and has expressed interest in working with Hansen to do that.
So, in theory, Seattle could end up with two relocated sports franchises - an NHL team and an NBA team - by this fall, joining their NFL, MLB, and MLS teams. Followed by a new arena being built, if it all goes according to plan. It's all still pretty speculative right now, but it looks very promising.
The NHL and Seattle have a history
Seattle was awarded an NHL expansion franchise - the Totems - in June of 1974. They'd had a minor league team from 1945 until 1975, and for most of that time they were named the Totems. The NHL team of that same name was expected to start playing in the fall of 1976. But due to the potential expansion owner missing NHL deadlines, the NHL jerked the application and the team never came to be.
In 1990, the NHL came calling once again. Seattle put a bid in for a 1992 expansion team, and then Sonics owner Barry Ackerley was interested in building a new arena - where Safeco Field now sits, actually. But Ackerley couldn't get anyone to help pay for a new arena, and so the arena deal fell through. As did the NHL expansion bid.
A wrong may finally be righted in the Emerald City
The NBA SuperSonics and the WNBA Storm were sold by Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz and bought by a group of investors from Oklahoma City in 2006. By 2007, the new owners had made it clear that they wanted to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City - after promising everyone that they wouldn't move anybody when they bought the team. They'd demanded $500 million for a new arena that there was no way they were going to get, and therefore had their ‘reason' to move the team.
They sold the Storm to an ownership group in Seattle in early 2008, and then they took the Sonics to Oklahoma City after that NBA season was over. The City of Seattle retained the team name and colors of the Sonics, however. In the aftermath, it was revealed through emails that this group from Oklahoma City had planned to buy the Sonics in order to move them all along.
While Seattle has never particularly been a basketball town - it's really a football town, when you get right down to it - the injustice of the situation rankled even non-NBA fans. And that's truly what this arena deal is about. They want back what was stolen from them.
That doesn't mean the NHL can't take advantage of that, though.
Cassie McClellan, a native of the Greater Seattle Metropolitan Area, will be periodically contributing her hockey expertise to SB Nation Seattle as Seattle continues to look for an NHL team.