KING 5’s Chris Daniels is reporting that Sonics Arena investor, and former Sonics forward, Wally Walker met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly some time Tuesday at the league offices in New York.
The meeting, which was not the first between Walker and the league, was said to be an update on the Sodo arena’s progress. It was described by Daniels’ sources as “a warm, friendly discussion on the project, and the league’s future plans.”
The meeting took place in between Stanley Cup Finals games and one day before Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group was named as the developer of a KeyArena renovation and subsequently announced their NHL ownership group of David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer.
It’s great that the Sodo group remains in contact with the league (or leagues? We haven’t heard any updates about the group’s conversations with the NBA), however a more powerful message would be to announce their own NHL ownership group. It’s unlikely that Walker would have the means to be an owner. Former Chris Hansen partner-in-waiting Victor Coleman is available again after his Seattle Partners group rescinded their offer to renovate KeyArena.
Since the project has gone fully private, there should be nothing holding back an NHL partner from stepping forward. The project is capable of being NHL first at this point and, if comments from the NBA, Mayor Murray, and Leiweke are to be believed, certainly would need to be. The original MOU made construction of the building contingent on having an NBA team, but given that the Sonics Arena team has offered to tear up that MOU in order to privately fund the project, that should be no issue.
The Sodo project is clearly, ahem, still here and still working. However, there is still much more work to be done. Much to-do was made of OVG’s ownership partnership with Bonderman and Bruckheimer, and Sonics Arena would do well to fight fire with fire, or an ownership group with an ownership group.
This certainly looks like the beginning of the end for this long and winding road, but there’s still a ways to go until we find out where the final destination lies. Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell told Daniels that he expects SDOT to forward the street vacation application to the Council this summer. A vote is tentatively scheduled for some time in September. They will then vote on KeyArena in December.