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Seattle is NHL ready

Seattle Hockey Partners president Tod Leiweke shares thoughts on a successful presentation to the NHL

Tod Leiweke stressed that he and all involved in the NHL Seattle effort are not taking anything for granted. But he admitted they had a “big day,” a “fantastic day” yesterday.

“Seattle is NHL ready.”

That’s the message a select group presented to the NHL’s executive committee in New York on Tuesday. That group included Leiweke, his Seattle Hockey Partners bosses David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer, Bonderman business associate (and new minority team investor) Len Potter, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, and his brother Tim with arena investor Oak View Group.

Speaking on Sports Radio KJR’s Tuesdays with Tod, Leiweke said they got to tell Seattle’s story.

“That is a story of a lot of great things. It’s a story of a building that is historic but is going to be modern. It’s the story of fans placing deposits in record numbers. It’s a lot of great things.”

He mentioned that he had hoped to have this meeting back in June, as originally planned, but that ultimately he was grateful they had the extra time to prepare.

David Bonderman opened and closed the presentation, which lasted about an hour and a half once they finally got in the room. But it’s Mayor Durkan who everyone is referring to as “the closer.”

Geoff Baker with the Seattle Times details Durkan’s role in the presentation, what Leiweke and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman both praised as “enthusiastic” about the city and the NHL. She was able to sway a group that “had become wary of [Seattle] over the years for an agonizingly slow bureaucracy” that the city was capable of getting the arena done in time for 2020.

Following Bonderman, Tod spoke about the extraordinary situation the city and market presents to the league. Durkan followed him, and she was chased by a six-minute video the group produced to sell the sports scene and NHL Seattle as a whole.

Tim Leiweke spoke on the arena, the agreements with the city, and the timeline. Potter detailed the business plan. Tod returned to offer information on their planned training facility. And finally, the one-two punch of Bruckheimer and Bonderman summarized their group and presentation.

On the reaction to the presentation, Leiweke said:

“Today was a really, really extraordinary, positive step forward. And what was so important about it, it wasn’t just the vote, it was the reaction of the owners. And how excited they are that Seattle is going to be a part, potentially, of the National Hockey League.”

The NHL committee was impressed by the local ownership that had come on-board and what they represent to Seattle. Prospective minority owner David Wright also attended the meeting. They reacted well to the arena progress and the proposed timeline. They were excited about the training facility options and asked after Seattle’s potential AHL minor league hockey affiliate.

Asked what’s next for the group to do, Leiweke says the arena is what they have the most control over for a 2020 launch. He mentioned Tim was on the phone with construction partner Skanska Hunt immediately following the presentation.

Durkan told the Times that the Seattle City Council would have to waive a requirement in the arena agreement to begin demolition and arena construction before an expansion team is formally awarded.

“It’s written very specifically, so there are things they’d need to see from the league in order to make that happen.”

The group also has some final documents they have to finish up ahead of the final presentation in December, Leiweke says. They “knew it was going to be a two-part process.”

To sum up where they are now, he offered:

“I’ll use a phrase from my former life: We are in the red zone. All we have to do is execute here.”