The NBA and the NHL have denied that both leagues are looking into placing expansion franchises in Seattle, but that hasn’t stopped rumors about expansion from being published. Those expansion rumors are coming from both leagues, and now is a good time to update you guys on these rumors. We will start with the NHL rumors and then take a look at the NBA.
NHL Expansion Rumors
It appears that the NHL would like to expand to the Seattle market, as it sounds like Gerry Bettman is attempting to convince the Board of Governors to award an expansion franchise to Seattle:
“I had a ‘birdie’ tell me in July that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was pushing the Board of Governors in June to award an expansion franchise to Seattle at a cost of $275 million.
Again, I was on vacation at the time. Mitch Levy of KJR had since tweeted about this.
I’ve since heard the $275 figure may be a bit high.
The NHL is, officially, in full denial about this.” –Chris Daniels Blog
As noted in that article I just linked to, KJR’s Mitch Levy has been tweeting about this news throughout this past summer — the reason I’ve cited Daniels is that it is easier to find an article on the blog than it is to find a series of tweets from several months ago.
This news doesn’t surprise me, there is a large hockey fan base out here that has eagerly supported the Silvertips and Thunderbirds throughout their seasons in the Seattle area.
Daniels’ blog also talks about how the NHL wants to get into the Seattle market before the NBA returns. That means that a new NHL team would have to spend a lot of seasons in the Key Arena until the new Seattle Arena is built — which is probably unacceptable to the league; the other option is to amend the Memorandum of Understanding to allow for the arena to be built if a NHL franchise is acquired before an NBA franchise.
The idea of amending the MOU presents several immediate problems; one of the biggest being that renegotiating the MOU means that Mayor-elect Ed Murray have to make a firm decision on where he stands regarding the arena plan…and use that stance to either help along or cripple the renegotiation. The other problem is that the NHL isn’t nearly as profitable as the NBA, and that could lead to some concerns among the council that the current repayment structure for the bonds might not be able to pay off the arena in time — that assumption would be wrong, but that is a post for another day.
NBA Expansion Rumors
Throughout the Kings/Sonics drama, Mark Cuban was pretty clear that he opposed expanding the number of teams in the NBA. Now he says that expansion is more likely to happen than the relocation of one of the league’s current franchises. From the Dallas Morning News:
“I just think the price of the expansion fee has to be so high that the NBA owners think, ‘OK, we’re crazy not to do it,’ “ Cuban said. “What that number is, I don’t know. But I’m open to it. It just depends on the price. If it’s the price of the last one, no. I thought that was a huge mistake and I voted against it. It just depends on the price.’
When the Charlotte Bobcats entered the league in 2004-05, the expansion fee was $300.”-Dallas Morning News
So what does this mean for the return of the Sonics?
This means that Hansen and Ballmer are going to have to shell out a lot of money to just buy the rights to an expansion franchise. In fact, they are probably going to end up exceeding the $997 million estimate that I made after the MOU was agreed to last September — it should be noted that my estimate included a massive relocation fee, not an even larger expansion fee.
The other thing that is good to come out of this, is the fact that Mark Cuban is now saying that he would vote for expansion…if the price was right. Cuban is one of the more vocal members of the NBA’s Board of Governors and to hear the fact that he has changed his opinion from earlier this year is very promising.
It makes me feel pretty confident that the Seattle Supersonics could be reborn sometime in the near future.