Here we go.
Tonight, Chris Hansen’s Sodo Arena Memorandum of Understanding expires after five years, though the agreement has become largely meaningless due to Hansen’s revised offer to privately fund the entire project.
Tomorrow we will learn the fate of OVG’s proposed makeover of KeyArena. The proposal is on the Seattle City Council’s agenda at 2pm, with a vote planned after public comment. You can watch the proceedings here.
KING5 Reporter Chris Daniels expects the Memorandum of Understanding to be approved.
The Seattle City Council on Monday is expected to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a $600 million, privately financed redevelopment of KeyArena. It's a move that's hoped will send a strong signal to the National Hockey League to bring a team to Seattle.
He also reports that this is about communicating with the NHL.
There is widespread belief among many people at City Hall that approval on Monday will send a strong signal to the National Hockey League about Seattle’s interest in housing a team in a new building on the Seattle Center campus. The NHL however, has remained mum on the possibilities. Two different franchises, in Calgary and Arizona, have current arena issues and the league has an uneven amount of teams in the West and East.
Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker also expects approval.
In a stunning blow, however, the council rejected Hansen’s plan by a 5-4 margin, effectively killing it. The results were as dramatic as it gets, with Lorena Gonzalez casting the decisive “No’’ vote as audible gasps rose from the packed chambers.
Might that happen again Monday?
Anything’s possible. But OVG did its homework to avoid some of the pitfalls that sank Hansen’s project.
Primarily, OVG built consensus ahead of time with both the council and the community at-large. It never encountered major opposition the way Hansen did with the Port of Seattle, various maritime unions and sports teams in Sodo.
Seattle Times columnist Matt Calkins believes it’s right for the council to approve the deal.
Delivering is in Leiweke’s best interest.
Some worry that OVG, which is partnered with music goliath LiveNation, would be content with a concert-only venue. That’s essentially how Sprint Center has been utilized, after all. But the capital AEG invested in that arena is couch-cushion money compared with the $650 million OVG would dump into KeyArena. You don’t throw that kind of cash down without hoping for a primary tenant — such as a team from the NHL, which salivates at the thought of Seattle as a new market. And given how Staples Center, Madison Square Garden and other arenas across the country have been able to house NBA and NHL teams while hosting world-class concerts, it stands to reason that someone could figure out the scheduling.
Seattle isn’t Kansas City. It’s one of the fastest-growing markets in America, and a place where some of the richest folks in America call home. Leiweke knows this is a different animal.
Meanwhile, Sportsnet believes that Seattle and expansion will be discussed at the NHL Board of Governor’s meeting later this week.
“Expansion is not formally on the agenda as owners gather Thursday and Friday in Florida, but there is a strong feeling that it will be discussed on some level,” Johnston said during Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines segment on Saturday. “We’ve talked about Houston, we’ve talked about Quebec City in recent weeks. There’s also a key vote in Seattle on Monday where the Oak View Group could have its $600-million arena proposal approved by council to get things going. That will obviously get the attention of NHL owners should it go through.
“And with how well things have gone in Vegas on the ice, off the ice, all this interest that they’re getting, the feeling is that the next franchise in the league is going to cost $600 million to $700 million.”
It really looks like this thing is going to pass. If it does, it really looks like Seattle will be in great position to land an NHL franchise in the near future, and an NBA franchise down the road. If it doesn’t, the Hansen proposal might have new life.
Huge decision either way.
UPDATE, 10:30am on 12/4
Mynorthwest.com reports that an approval today could help set the table for the NHL Board of Governors later this week.
It has been rumored that league Commissioner Gary Bettman recently has been in touch with OVG’s CEO Tim Leiweke about Seattle receiving the franchise if it can lock down a firm commitment from both an ownership group and the city. That appears to be closer than ever with billionaire David Bonderman and movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer interested in franchise ownership and the strong likelihood that OVG today will secure an arena deal.
Last July in an interview on NHL radio (3:50 mark), Bettman indicated that he expected a bid from Seattle if an arena deal is reached. In the months that followed, OVG reportedly wanted a firmer commitment from the league to help leverage the MOU negotiations but the league demurred, saying it will move the process along only when an arena deal is reached.
With the first major stage of that process complete, the question remains if the NHL this week will indicate that Seattle is the likely destination for the 32nd NHL franchise.