Needless to say, the past week has not been kind to Seattle sports fans. And that's without even bringing up the Seattle Mariners.
Last Thursday, the Milwaukee Senate approved a deal to provide $250 million in public funding to a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. This ended the long-gestating "BucksWatch," which had officially been kicked into high gear by that team's president, Peter Feigin, when he invoked the name of Seattle, saying the team would relocate either to our beloved city or to Las Vegas if the city did not provide them with the necessary funds to build their new home. The Bucks ultimately caved in on a ticket surcharge fee, and a deal was struck to keep the team in the only home it has ever known.
Then yesterday, it was announced that there were no applications submitted for NHL expansion from the Seattle area, despite as many as five applications reportedly being sent out to our region alone. Victor Coleman was reportedly set to make a formal bid, despite still not having an agreement with Chris Hansen and the Seattle City Council on an amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding to allow financing towards an NHL-first arena. One could surmise that Coleman's intention to file an application could have been contingent on Hansen acquiring the Bucks and moving them to Seattle, therefore negating the need for any MOU modification, but that's circumstantial at best. Ray Bartoszek previously said through a spokesperson that filing an application would be "a formality," yet no application came. Multiple reports cited the high price tag for the team - $500 million was the number being bandied about - as the reason. Bartoszek is reportedly still working on his Tukwila arena project.
So what do we do now? Where do we go from here? For Hansen and Bartoszek, the focus shifts back to relocation, and getting their respective arenas ready should that opportunity arise. For Hansen, a Seattle Design Commission meeting is scheduled for August 6th at 9:00 am to determine the public benefit of vacating a stretch of Occidental Ave. This will be the final vote for the SDC, who will then make a recommendation to the Seattle Department of Transportation, who will prepare a presentation for the Seattle City Council to make the final determination.
Bartoszek's Tukwila project continues to churn through their Environmental Impact Study, which is currently slated to be done by December at the earliest, and June 2016 at the latest. Late last month, the EIS's scope was narrowed to include air quality, land use, aesthetics, and transportation. The EIS will focus on these issues, as well as bike and pedestrian use of the Interurban Trail, for both commuting and recreation.
While the past week has been disheartening, it is not the death knell for winter sports in the Pacific Northwest. There are still two arena plans moving forward, and the arena has always been the biggest issue in acquiring a team in either league. One could argue that we were trying to skip the line. For now, we're back on the roller coaster and it's ready to chug up another hill, and this could be a long one. But those hills always have the funnest dip afterwards. And then us and our horse can ride all day long.