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Vegas Could be Model For Seattle Expansion NHL Franchise

KeyArena renovation Oak View Group hockey

If plans for a Seattle NHL expansion franchise move forward, the 2017-18 season of the Vegas Golden Knights will certainly provide a model for early success. 

With the Oak View Group expected to begin a major renovation to KeyArena later this year, a group has been working to bring an NHL expansion franchise to Seattle. The expansion application was submitted in February, and the push is on to gain approval for a Seattle franchise, which could begin play to coincide with the completion of the renovation in 2020.

While that it has not yet received formal approval, Seattle could become the latest NHL expansion franchise since the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights began play this year at T-Mobile Arena–which has been hailed as both a hockey arena and a venue for major events–and achieved success on the ice, as they are currently competing against Winnipeg in the Western Conference final.

Tim and Tod Leiweke concede that Vegas’ accomplishments on the ice will be difficult to match, but that the early successes of the Golden Knights and their arena are areas that the Seattle NHL expansion franchise would love to emulate. More from The Los Angeles Times:

“I don’t think that necessarily their success guarantees ours. I think their success comes from having really smart people,” said Tod Leiweke, whose resume includes being No. 2 in command at the NFL before he joined Seattle Hockey Partners to work with owners David Bonderman, a billionaire businessman, and TV/movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

“I think George McPhee is an absolutely fantastic general manager with a proven track record,” he said of Vegas’ general manager. “So I think the pressure is on us to replicate what they’ve done and to hire great people and then to make sure that they’ve got the structure around them and the support around them.”

Tim Leiweke, a former Kings and AEG executive, heads the Oak View Group, which plans to gut KeyArena — except its iconic roof — to build a bigger, grander version. He admires Vegas’ feats and played a role in their history: While with AEG he was involved in the vision and creation of the partnership between AEG and MGM Resorts International to build an arena before the team existed.

“I think AEG has been fantastic at the risk they took, the way they built it and the success they’ve had at selling it and booking it, and both they and MGM deserve the run they’re on,” Tim Leiweke said. “But I’d agree with Tod. I think George McPhee has done one of the great jobs in the history of the National Hockey League and that’s going to be very, very hard to replicate going forward.”

Oak View Group has been looking to begin work on the KeyArena renovation this October, and have it completed in time for the 2020-21 NHL season. The renovation will bring the venue to modern NBA and NHL standards, potentially allowing Seattle to land franchises in both leagues. However, the NHL is viewed as the more imminent possibility.

Rendering courtesy Oak View Group.

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