Seattle Arena Plans Turned Upside Down,NHL Timeline Shift to 2017-18 Comes Into Focus

Hello hockey fans, welcome to the blog! As always, thank you for taking time out to stop by. We appreciate all the support and feedback we have received, and look forward to more of the same! On tap for this post is what we believe to be the NHL timeline for expansion, and why the shift a few weeks back from a 2016-17 start up for Las Vegas to a 2017-18 date, allegedly.
NHL Expansion into the west has been rumored for a while now, with most now believing that the two front runners in the west are Seattle and Las Vegas. It’s kind of the worst kept secret since, well, Area 51. Everyone knew it was there, but the government said nope, nothing to see here. The same thing has been going on with the NHL. It wasn’t until As recently as April 21st that Comissioner Bettman acknowledged that he would report on the ticket drive results to the Board of Goveners. His comments here via CBC.Ca :

“What I’m hearing is that the season-ticket drive has gone and is going extraordinarily well,” Bettman said. “When we get to the [board of governors] meeting in June I will report to the board as to where things stand based on the expressions of interest and we’ll figure out then what, if anything, we want to do.”

Meanwhile in the Pacific Northwest, there is a decidedly different tone from the Commissioner, his comments here come from associated press reports:

“We believe there are substantial people interested in owning a franchise there, and I’m not surprised because I think it would be a great market for NHL hockey,” Bettman said. “But there’s a threshold issue which relates to the arena. … Somebody’s got to be in a position to execute. And as of this point, Seattle isn’t there yet. Obviously, if it gets to that point, and the interest from potential ownership continues, it will catch our attention.”

Also the Seattle Mayor believes the Commissioner is excited about the possibilities of a team in Seattle. Comments from King5.com.

As far as the NHL, Murray reiterated what he said through a press release earlier in the day, that the NHL and Bettman made it known to him that it would like to put a team in Seattle. That’s if the city had a NHL ready building to play in.

Seems like a decidedly different tone from Comissioner Bettman when discussing the two markets. Almost like he can’t believe how great things are going in Las Vegas and how hard Seattle is having to fight to get out of the ground. The “what, if anything” comment strikes us as almost intentionally designed to discourage.

What is now becoming obvious is that Las Vegas is leading the pack among suitors for an NHL franchise, and the league is struggling to find a dance partner for her.  What seemed like a good result for Seattle  when the EIS was submitted on May 7th has now seen the whole SODO MOA deal start to unravel, as reported by the Seattle Times:

“This deal’s just not doable, at least as it’s constructed today,” says Tim Burgess, the president of the Seattle City Council. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those.”

As things have progressed so well in Las Vegas, shockingly so to some, as expected by those who actually live here, the NHL appeared ready to expand into both markets for the 2016-17 season. So much so that Hockey Vision Las Vegas hinged their refund policy on the season tickets being sold to a franchise starting play in  the 2016 season. 

But, back on April 19th the air was let out of the balloon, somewhat. This report by ESPN.com writer Scott Burnside said the expansion process timeline could stretch to the 2017-18 season.

While there remains widespread belief within the hockey community that the NHL will become the first major professional sports league to put down stakes in the gambling mecca, it is now believed that the earliest a team would begin play is the 2017-18 season.

While previous reports had speculated the expansion announcement would come this June at the Board of Goveners meeting, the now expected timeline is an update on the ticket drive during the June meetings, followed by a vote in September, reported by Alan Snel from the Las Vegas Review Journal. 

… so the 2017-18 season is likely the earliest a prospective team in Las Vegas would start play in light of the NHL Board of Governors possibly voting on a Las Vegas franchise in September.

Curiously, on April 28th, just ten days prior to when the EIS study was due in Seattle, the reports coming out of the Northwest began of a new, privately funded arena project in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, like this report on King5.com

On Monday, the City acknowledged that Ray Bartoszek, through a holding company, had expressed interest in building a privately financed arena in the area.The new documents reveal that Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, back on November 14th, expressing the city’s interest in bringing the league’s to the City. In it, he referenced the group, led by Brown and Lee, that also includes NBA Legend Bill Russell:

So, with the Vegas timeline reportedly being pushed back a year becoming public just ten days prior to the Tukwila Arena plan being released, and that just ten days before the EIS report was due on the SODO site, the implications become clear. Especially when the new timeline for the Tukwila project is revealed. The expected completion date of that project if it goes forward? You guessed it, Fall 2017. 

This morning, ESPN’s Craig Custance reported that Ray Bartoszek is, as we suspected, the man behind the push to build a multi-purpose arena in Tukwila. Bartoszek, via his company RLB Holdings Sports and Entertainment, filed a code interpretation request with the city and is expected to file a SEPA application this Friday. The target date to open the arena is the fall of 2017.

The above quote comes from the Blog Sonics Rising. Since the newly public group has been quietly working with the City of Tukwila since at least May 2014, and the timing of the press reports, it’s not hard to speculate that there are at least some handshake deals in place with the Las Vegas and Tukwila groups. Especially with a billion dollars in franchise fees and a couple billion dollars in real estate development on the line. 

With today’s news that Chris Hansen’s SODO Plan is dead to the Seattle City Council in a hockey first scenario, and the Ray Bartoszek group apparently gaining traction in Tukwila, the shift from a 2016-17 start to a 2017-18 plan now seems to make sense. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, it seems. But we look at it from the perspective that getting a major league franchise in Las Vegas is long over due, and if we wait an extra year, that just gives Mr.Foley more time to make things better when they finally drop the puck.

As always, thanks for stopping by to share some time with us. You can follow us on Twitter or catch our show on ITunes. We are always ready to talk some hockey so drop in and say hi!

Mark Warner

VegasHockeyPodcast



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