By now you have probably heard about the news that Geoff Baker reported in the Seattle Times last night. There is no way to spin it; this is a blow to our hopes to land a franchise for the 2015-16 Season. Yet, we should not be surprised. This is a massively complex financial deal between 4 huge entities: NHL, an NHL Ownership Group, Hansen/Ballmer and the City of Seattle.
The Hansen group owns over 60 million dollars worth of land in SoDo, plus the group would need to fund the construction of the Arena. Without the assurances of landing an NBA team, Hansen would need the NHL ownership group to step up substantially which may not be reasonable. There is a reason the SoDo Arena would be considered the 3rd biggest privately funded arena, and that is because Ballmer & Hansen have the means to put up large portions of cash for the Stadium to be built. Very very few people in North America could do the same. We cannot expect the NHL owners to be able to put up that kind of money for the arena, the Expansion Fee and the operating cost for the first couple years of the franchise at Key Arena.
All is not lost
Gary Bettman clearly looks at Seattle as a good market for an NHL team. The NHL is not going to expand for expansion sake. They are going to do it right and are waiting for the stars to align to assure stability is a great move. Additionally, we know that Ray Bartoszek is still very interested in bringing an NHL team to Seattle. There are also some folks poking around Bellevue to evaluate options over there. Bettman also implied that the conference imbalance could sway how they expand.
No longer just about Milwaukee
Without naming the teams, Adam Silver said there were eight NBA teams that have some financial distress right now and stabilizing those franchises are the priority. That sure hurts our hopes for expansion, but I am sure we could come up with a way to stabilize one of those franchises. This is not the way we want to land an NBA franchise but sometimes businesses need to move or close to stay afloat. The NBA is not immune to poor economics.
As much as we want this to happen, you cannot blame any of the current players involved. This is super complex and if nothing else, it appears that all parties continue to talk. The hope of landing a team to start the 2015 season is fading but don’t lose hope. Seattle will make a great NHL market someday. I guarantee it.