Arena deal brings hope to Seattle and others
Friday, January 05, 2018
Last month, the Seattle City Council voted 7-1 to approve a $660 million package to renovate Key Arena and upgrade the surrounding infrastructure. While I had previously written about plans for Key Arena to be up and running by 2020, this vote confirmed a bright future for the city.
With discussions of a 32nd NHL franchise in the works as well as a much-hoped-for return of the SuperSonics, the City of Seattle has not only reignited the dreams of their resident sports fans, but also of those across the nation. As two new Seattle franchises seem likely, development groups in Houston, Quebec and Mexico City are asking, "What about us?"
Seattle signs the deal
According to the Seattle Times, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the memorandum of understanding with hopes that the city will be able to attract both an NHL and NBA team. With the arena's completion date marking the start of both leagues' seasons in October 2020, it's possible that new franchises will be ready to move in immediately.
Durkan said she would "soon" be speaking with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility of adding a 32nd team to the league. A day later, NHL.com was reporting that Seattle could begin the NHL expansion process. As the only city being considered for league expansion, their odds seem quite favorable should no major issues with a season ticket drive or the arena itself arise.
Bettman admitted that Seattle is the only city currently being considered for expansion. The Vegas Golden Knights, who began play as the newest NHL franchise this season, paid a $500 million expansion fee, but the fee for the next expansion team has been raised to $650 million to account for inflation and the value of having a team in that market.
"From everything I know viscerally, I think [Seattle] will be a good market," Bettman told NHL.com.
More choices for the NHL
However, there are still a few other markets that the NHL may explore. Competition for another NHL franchise has been brewing for years, most recently in Quebec City and Houston. What's next, then?
Quebec City is already home to the NHL-sized Videotron Centre, which currently hosts concerts and special events, and serves as the home of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Seattle Times noted that if Quebec City had been applying for a franchise, their fee, converted to Canadian dollars, would total $850 million.
It's possible that Quebec City is being put on the backburner for now in order to accept a relocated team at a later date.
It wouldn't be the first time a Canadian market was the source of relocation. In the late 2000s, a campaign titled "Make it Seven" encouraged the NHL to explore bringing a seventh franchise to Canada. While the campaign did not work out for its founders, the dream still came true for fans. In 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers packed up and relocated the team to Winnipeg, becoming the Jets.
Are fans now eager to "make it eight," hoping for a team in a small market to relocate? It seems that way.
New markets such as Kansas City and Houston have been brought up in the media, including the fact that Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta recently met with Bettman to discuss bringing a team to Houston. However, Bettman noted that these talks were very general, and that "there is nothing going on right now with Houston."
The Scotiabank Saddledome, the home of the Calgary Flames, opened in 1983.
The Calgary conundrum
One final outlier worth mentioning, which I have discussed before, is Calgary. The city and the team have yet to agree on a new arena deal, with CBC News reporting that the team feels that the city's offer has fallen short of what they need.
There are a few factors at play, forcing both sides to reach a decision sooner rather than later. These include team president Brian Burke's threats (real or not) to leave Calgary, Bettman stating that "there would be consequences" for not reaching a deal, and the potential 2026 Winter Olympics bid.
A source claims that the team will not be contacting the city for a year, and the Calgary Stampede has taken to developing a new entertainment district — right on the proposed arena's lands. Mayor Naheed Nenshi has stated that he's intrigued by the private funding occurring in Seattle and welcomes further discussion on it, should a group be interested.
NBA comes to Seattle and?
With the NHL's future looking bright in Seattle, the NBA is likely to follow. According to Yahoo Sports, league commissioner Adam Silver told The Players Tribune last summer that "Seattle would be on the short list for an expansion franchise."
He did not have a timeline for future considerations, but both expansion and relocation will be explored when the time comes — which could be quite soon. One team executive shared that Silver is seeking to have the NBA in the "best, most viable markets."
As Seattle's mayor, Durkan would certainly welcome an NBA franchise back. She revealed a SuperSonics T-shirt under her jacket the day the memorandum was signed.
Aside from relocation, however, two cities are needed for expansion. Where does this leave the NBA? While Las Vegas is already home to one professional sports team — the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights — Yahoo claims the NBA is still "iffy" on the city, and that Mexico City is picking up steam.
Just last month, the Brooklyn Nets hosted two games in Mexico City against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. This wasn’t the NBA's first foray into Mexico — since 1997, the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets have played their first regular season game in Mexico City, and that was after five years of playing preseason games there.
Additionally, it has been reported that the NBA's G-League will be establishing a franchise in Mexico City as soon as next season.
The NBA is testing the waters for now, but recognizes the growing Mexican fan base, both in Mexico and the United States. Adam Silver has stated, "We have a lot more work to do before we can put a team (in Mexico)," but the current progress and growth is undeniable. The future is promising for Mexico City, should a Seattle franchise also come to fruition.
The next steps
It's easy for fans to get ahead of themselves, but all steps must be taken properly and accordingly. Most excitingly, we could find the next steps as soon as February. As the NHL gets closer to expansion in Seattle, more dominoes are likely to fall, and quickly.
2018 looks to be a year of excitement for Seattle sports fans and will give hope to those in the aforementioned markets. Your move, Seattle.
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