Seattle arena developer expects NHL team before NBA

Puck Daddy

Chris Hansen – the Seattle arena developer, not the Dateline NBC reporter asking about those wine coolers and that rope – spoke with the media on Thursday to update them on his efforts to construct a state-of-the-art building in the SoDo district.

A building he expects would house an NHL team before it sees the return of the NBA to Seattle.

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He told King 5 that his group is continuing discussions with potential NHL team owners because there is “a probability that will happen first.”

And what’s expected of potential NHL owners? From the Associated Press:

Hansen said his group, which currently has five public members including Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, will have an equity stake in the arena and a possible NBA franchise. 

He also reiterated the group has held discussions with parties interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle, but any group interested in hockey must be willing to pay the cost of the franchise and also have contribute a financial stake in the arena. “We haven’t attempted to bid on an NHL team. Bidding on an NHL team is their own responsibility,” Hansen said.

The cost of a franchise, and pay for a chunk of the building. It’s not an outlandish request, per se, but that’s the entry fee if they want to be in the SoDo arena.

Please recall that no ownership group from Seattle stepped up with a bid for an NHL expansion team last year, which carried a $10 million fee with $2 million non-refundable. Connecticut-based investment banker Ray Bartoszek couldn’t get his ducks in a row for an arena in Tukwila. An arena deal in Bellevue fell apart in the weeks leading up to the expansion deadline. And Victor Coleman, the real estate maven attached to Hansen’s arena project, obviously didn’t have a solid handle on if the arena would even exist by the time the bids were due.

So what’s up with the arena? We reported last year that Hansen intends to take the funding of the arena private in order to leap over the remaining political hurdles towards its construction.

But NHL In Seattle was wary about that:

The 100% private finance offer to the City is much ado about nothing. The MOU already called for public financing on a condition that an NBA team is acquired. Since the NBA has been fairly clear that an NBA team is not coming to Seattle anytime soon, the project would have already needed to be 100% private. Wilson could help the PR efforts, but it seems a little foolish that a quarterback in the NFL could influence the City Council to approve the street more so than the residents.

As for a refurbishment of Key Arena as an NBA or NHL venue, Hansen has his doubts. From King 5:

He also raised a question of whether the two interested groups in KeyArena, AEG and the Oak View Group, could make it more difficult for an NBA or NHL team to call Seattle home.  Both are precluded from owning teams, because they have stakes in other franchises.

“It is more difficult than if you own a building as an NHL or NBA team and control your own destiny,” he said. “There is a reason why the majority of building in the NBA or NHL arenas are (controlled by owner). Doesn’t mean it can’t work, but in brings additional layers to complexity in negotiations. Their primary goal could be bringing concerts to Seattle, and (we want to bring the best venue) for NBA and NHL team.”

Look, Seattle is still a place the NHL wants to go, but it’s not a slam dunk. Beyond the arena and ownership issues is a market that certainly has heavy competition for sports and entertainment dollars, and that’s before Hansen achieves his ultimate goal of getting an NBA team back there, too.

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But if there’s a building and a viable owner, it’s hard not to imagine the NHL bringing an eventual expansion team to Seattle.

Although Portland may like a word before that decision is made …

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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