Though plenty of work is needed to make it a reality, the prospect of a Seattle NHL expansion franchise intrigues executives from several existing clubs.
There has been some momentum over the last few months in the effort to bring an NHL team to Seattle. In December, the Seattle City Council voted to approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Oak View Group on a $600-million renovation to KeyArena. Shortly thereafter, the NHL announced that it would consider a pitch for a Seattle expansion franchise.
Led by David Bonderman and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the Seattle expansion effort will come with a $650 million expansion fee–$150 million higher than the fee that what was paid for the league’s most recent expansion club, the Vegas Golden Knights. An expansion application is expected to be submitted soon, and some executives from NHL teams are explaining why they believe Seattle has potential. King 5 discovered that sentiment from several team executives recently, including Golden Knights president and alternate governor Kerry Bubolz, who believes Seattle would be a good fit for the NHL:
“Absolutely. Obviously, you’re talking about one of the top markets in the country. Two other major teams that do incredibly well, the Sounders on the soccer side. You guys understand what professional sports does. I think it’s the perfect fit. With the Sonics gone for a decade now, it’s the perfect time. With a great new development with the changes they’re going to make a KeyArena and the investments they are going to make,” said Bubolz in an interview with KING 5.
He also laid out a strategy for success. His first-year franchise has been a phenomenon, leading the Western Conference in points at the All-Star break.
“We gotta build the game,” he said, referring that USA Hockey had noted how Nevada had low participation numbers. “We knew we had to build the game, a $30 million investment to put two sheets of ice in our market. That’s our beginning phase. Dallas, Tampa, San Jose or LA that are nontraditional markets, they made investments,” said Bubolz. “It’s an important part of what we’ve done.”
Bubolz noted the season-ticket deposits were also key for the NHL commitment, totaling more than 10,000. That’s likely a barometer for Seattle too.
A Seattle NHL franchise could begin play as early as 2020, as the KeyArena renovation is expected to be finished that year. Seattle will have several steps to go through before the NHL franchise becomes a reality, and the team’s backers are expected to undertake a season ticket holder drive.
The renovation to KeyArena will raise the venue to NBA and NHL standards, and efforts will likely take place to eventually land teams in both leagues. However, an NHL team appears to be the more imminent possibility.
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