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Is the NHL expansion fee the NHL-first holdup?

Geoff Baker suggests the NHL expansion fee may be holding up a Seattle arena and NHL first agreement.

Geoff Baker
Geoff Baker
Geoff Baker

Can we just change the stupid MOU, please?

I find myself muttering that question several times a week these days, and I know I'm not the only one who wants to give hockey a more prominent place in the SoDo arena proposal. I'm also not the only one who worries that the failure to do so could be a nail in the coffin.

But those of us who get frustrated with the process of changing the Holy Writ should read the column that Geoff Baker just wrote for the Seattle Times. It serves to remind us of the frequently forgotten.

Acquiring professional sports franchises and building homes for them is a complex puzzle, for which every piece has to fall in exactly the right place, and these aren't the kind of pieces that can be forced in.

The issue that Baker raises is the impact of a potential $500 million expansion fee on NHL-first efforts in SoDo and Tukwila.

And whether it's an arena in Sodo District of Seattle or in Tukwila, paying $500 million for NHL complicates matters.

It's one reason Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has yet to receive an "NHL first" plan from Sodo builder Chris Hansen that "pencils out" financially. Also, it's why skeptical eyes are now on Tukwila arena builder Ray Bartoszek, wondering where his money will come from.

It's also another reason to avoid playing the blame game when it comes to negotiations like this. We are talking about huge dollar amounts and complex real estate deals and the hefty egos of league commissioners, league owners, potential franchise owners, land owners, arena developers, and politicians.

It's important to note that Baker isn't saying that this will kill the process. It's just a challenge to overcome.

Sounds bleak, huh? Well, not really.

You don't see many pro sports owners going broke when they control arena or stadium revenues. Tax breaks, not to mention additional revenue from adding hotels, restaurants and other entertainment nearby still makes sports a goldmine if done right.

It just isn't foolproof. The Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers are ongoing NHL evidence of that.

So, while it's fine to be a little concerned, it's also fine to keep our heads up. Geoff Baker is doing both. Why can't we?


In case you missed it, the Seattle Sin Bin now has it's own page within Sonics Rising. You can get there directly through This allows us to significantly expand our hockey coverage without taking Sonics Rising too far away from its primary topic of professional basketball.

We have NHL previews published for both the Eastern Conference Finals and the Western Conference Finals. In addition, we are doing game threads for every game remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

In addition to our expanded NHL coverage, you can count on content next season for the US Division of the WHL, which includes the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Everett Silvertips, the Spokane Chiefs, the Tri-City Americans, and the Portland Winterhawks.