Seattle needs to drop NBA fantasy for NHL reality: Columnist

The Space Needle is lit in blue and green colors of the Seattle Seahawks, and topped with a "12th Man" flag that honors fans Friday evening, Jan. 30, 2015, in Seattle. The Seahawks play the New England Patriots in the NFL Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

There’s no question that Seattle is going to be in the mix for NHL expansion, and there’s no question the NHL has been desirous to put a team there.

The obstacle, as we’ve detailed before, is that the city currently has a deal for a SoDo district arena for an NBA-first facility; meaning that the return of pro basketball to the area would trigger the funds to build it, and then an NHL tenant could be in the mix.

Meanwhile, New York investment banker Ray Bartoszek wants to build an arena for hockey in Tukwila.

Increasingly, there’s been a call for the city to revise the deal for an NHL-first arena, and we can add Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times to that list. After the Wisconsin State Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, he writes that it’s time for Seattle to face reality, end the NBA dream for now and focus on the NHL.

From Baker, addressing would-be arena financer Chris Hansen:

It’s time for Hansen and would-be NHL partner Victor Coleman to reach a “hockey-first” financial arrangement for a Sodo District arena. Coleman was already expected to make a $10 million NHL expansion application — $2 million of which is non-refundable — by Monday’s league-imposed deadline even before the Bucks vote ended our immediate NBA chances. But applying is only the first step. The NHL will want detailed financial plans from Hansen and Coleman by a final Aug. 10 deadline.

Tukwila arena builder [Ray] Bartoszek will also apply and concluded a while ago that “NHL first” is the only option. Bartoszek’s privately funded arena plan means he doesn’t have to shift gears depending on which sport is coming. It’s different with Hansen, who has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Seattle and King County for up to $200 million in funding if he lands an NBA team. But that deal has no “NHL-first’’ provision, and [Mayor Ed] Murray has told Hansen he needs more private funds if only hockey is coming for now.

Baker notes that the city council is going to be a tough sell, even if Hansen gets more private money. But it all starts with Hansen and Coleman working a deal, and then allowing the mayor to try and make this happen behind the scenes.

As the options dwindle for Seattle in acquiring an NBA franchise – expansion doesn’t seem likely – perhaps that’s what ultimately pushes through an NHL arena deal. And let’s hope it does, because that’s as close to a can’t-miss market in the U.S. as the NHL can find.

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