As with any project of this magnitude, there are a million moving pieces and, unless you carry a microscope with you at all times, it can be difficult to evaluate exactly what is happening. There is so much speculation within the process that it’s easy to get overexcited as good news breaks or hit the panic button at the first sign of trouble. I’ll be the first to admit that I fall victim to this almost daily — whether I tweet/write about it or not.
On September 5th I released some comments from a conversation I had with the NHL in which I was told they would not award a conditional expansion to Seattle and any vote would require the full Board of Governors. The Seattle group will still present their case to the league on October 2nd, but we shouldn’t expect an announcement to be made until the first week of December.
Although a decision in December versus October isn't as fun, it doesn’t shift the overall timeline.
The next day, Emily Kaplan of ESPN released some comments from her conversation with Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner and chief legal officer of the NHL.
Here is full Bill Daly quote re: potential entry date for Seattle NHL team. Really sounds like it will be 2021-22 season, not 2020-21 as originally outlined. Makes sense, esp considering the time crunch for Key Arena renovations. (As VGK showed, need to get it right in year one) pic.twitter.com/hWnTrQZ86F— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) September 6, 2018
So maybe there is a potential shift to the timeline. But where is this all coming from?
It turns out that there was a substantial change to the Development Agreement between the city of Seattle and Seattle Arena Company, LLC which lists the conditions that must be met before demolition can begin on KeyArena.
“The NHL Board of Governors shall have approved the application for and awarded the thirty-second (32nd) NHL expansion franchise to Seattle Hockey Partners LLC to be located in the City of Seattle, and delivered notice of same to the City, and Seattle Hockey Partners LLC and the NHL shall have executed the expansion franchise agreement.” - 10.1.13
So demolition can’t begin until the league officially grants expansion. An announcement projected for December means the already tight construction timeline would be pushed beyond the possibility of a 2020 inaugural season.
Financial security and a major tenant are extremely important to the health of this project so it is easy to understand why such a clause exists.
If you scroll up through the document you will come across a note which states that certain conditions can be waived by the city.
”In addition to the Turnover Conditions set forth in Section 2.3 above, Tenant shall not commence any demolition or construction activities on any portion of the Development Premises until satisfaction or waiver in writing by the City of all of the following conditions precedent”
A waiver by the city would allow demolition to begin on time and increase our chances of watching a team take the ice in 2020.
It was originally believed that the complete Board of Governors would not meet until December — a full two months after OVG and the mayor present their case to the nine-member executive committee. It turns out that isn't true.
Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated posted an article today that featured a discussion between him and Daly concerning the expansion.
According to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, however, the league’s board of governors does not plan on voting to approve Seattle when it convenes later that day.
The Board of Governors will meet on October 2nd to hear from the executive committee. Although Daly has stated that a vote will not be conducted at the time, that can change and its up to the Seattle group to put pressure on them to do so.
Even if they don’t, a successful recommendation by the committee could be their ticket to a waiver.
If we stop to observe our surroundings we will notice something. There is mutual pressure among the city, league, and OVG, but beyond speculation, there is still nothing saying 2020 is out of reach. Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL have ALWAYS been very conservative and hesitant when it comes to big ticket events such as this and we won’t know what they are thinking until the day they take action. The city is doing their due diligence and the group trying to bring the NHL - and the NBA - to Seattle is working to meet their requirements.
Until an official announcement is made, I’m going to slide my big red panic button back into its drawer.