Are we applying for expansion or not? If you aren't obsessing over that question like Q13 reporter Aaron Levine, you aren't doing it right. We are Seattle area sports fans. Worrying is our birthright.
It's been five days since the NHL announced a formal expansion process. For those looking on the bright side, the application window hasn't even officially opened yet. For those looking on the Eeyore side, that window closes on August 10. Eeyore might also point out that the winning expansion bids are expected to pay at least $500 million.
So what do the investment groups in the Seattle region need to accomplish to be able to apply before the deadline? I tend to agree with the take of Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker:
The league would take any Seattle-area applications knowing that no group would have its arena plans approved until next year. But the NHL also would clearly expect any formal application to already have financial arrangements worked out.
In other words, the NHL isn't necessarily looking for an FEIS or MUP, but a vetted financial plan for a hockey arena needs to be in place.
For Chris Hansen's SoDo arena proposal, this would mean an NHL-first modification to the MOU. Baker reports that there was no evidence of any progress on that front as of June 24.
Viet Shelton, a spokesman for Murray, said Wednesday the mayor has yet to receive a new proposal from Hansen. But Shelton added: "The NHL news today, I think, creates an opportunity for folks eager to bring an NHL team to Seattle to see what can be done on that (financial) front.''
Once again, it should be noted that it's on the NHL investors to come forward with a proposal to Hansen and the councils. It would then be on those parties to negotiate in good faith. Can these parties come to a deal prior to August 10? We shall see.
Nothing had come to the surface about arena efforts on the east side before the NHL announcement and nothing has come forth since. According to Baker:
Longtime NHL and NBA "power broker" Jac Sperling had been trying to put a group together for a Bellevue bid, but there is no word on whether he managed to do so.
This doesn't mean nothing is happening, of course. It just means we haven't heard anything publicly, but the clock is ticking.
The day of the announcement, Ray Bartoszek released the following statement about potential expansion to Tukwila, where he has proposed a privately funded arena that could be built for the NBA or NHL:
We are pleased the National Hockey League has decided to take the next step in growing its great sport new markets. Should the opportunity present itself, we would welcome any dialogue with the NHL with regards to the expansion process.
As evidence of that progress, the city has released a document defining the scope of the EIS.
The City of Tukwila issued a Determination of Significance (DS) for the proposed Northwest Arena Project on May 22, 2015, indicating that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be prepared to address potential impacts from project construction and operation. The 21-day scoping comment period closed on June 12, 2015. Comments were received from 34 individuals, two cities, one transit agency, a railroad, and a utility provider. After review of the comments, Tukwila has determined that the scope of the EIS will include analysis of air quality; land use; height, bulk, scale, and aesthetics; recreation; and transportation. Preparation of the EIS is now underway.
We know there is arena progress in Tukwila, but we don't know if Bartoszek has lined up enough investment capital. We don't know if any of the NHL guys are trying to negotiate with Hansen, and we have no idea what's going on in Bellevue.
So, are we applying for expansion or not? I have no inside information for you, but my gut tells me we will have at least two Seattle area applications submitted to the NHL.
Chris Daniels tweeted out some new info about the SoDo project.
The call was initiated by Murray's camp, in relation to the announcement, that the #NHL would start soliciting expansion bids.— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) June 29, 2015
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Arena update: not really "news" just getting on record. Ray Bartozsek will apply to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHL?src=hash">#NHL</a> for expansion team in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tukwila?src=hash">#Tukwila</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLtoSeattle?src=hash">#NHLtoSeattle</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Arena?src=hash">#Arena</a></p>— Geoff Baker (@GeoffBakerTIMES) <a href="https://twitter.com/GeoffBakerTIMES/status/615921160732016640">June 30, 2015</a></blockquote>
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There you go. Mr. Bartoszek will get his homework done on time.