An update on the NHL expansion rumors

In February, Seattle Time’s columnist and investigative reporter Geoff Baker wrote several articles that kicked off a runaway hype train about expansion to Seattle, Washington. It’s a train that I gleefully hoped on board with several articles about what the expansion rumors meant for the SODO Arena, that expansion was coming by June, and what other city might be added with Seattle.

But that expansion train slowed when it was announced that the City Council wasn’t really on board with the idea of building the SODO Arena with a NHL first option…and then the bigger hammer blow to those hopes came on Thursday night when Baker reported that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had confirmed the NHL was looking for Seattle to get the arena built BEFORE an expansion team would be considered.

Or in other words, Baker was wrong again. But unfortunately he is the only one heavily covering/breaking the news regarding the potential for the NHL in the Emerald City, so we have to use his articles to discuss it.

No one should be terribly surprised that the NHL wants the building to be “further along” in the process before the league gives a serious look at expansion. After all, the hockey rink set-up at the Key Arena is terrible and severely limits the number of seats that are available to be sold…and that limits the team’s ability to pull in cash thanks to the fact that the NHL is still ticket revenue dependent. So it makes sense that the NHL is waiting to see a shovel in the ground before getting themselves excited about a market that’s been teasing them for the last 40 years.

The slow down in the EIS also probably has the NHL nervous about Seattle’s ability to get the arena built. After all, it clearly has potential NHL franchise owner (and the lead man to land a team) Ray Bartoszek nervous about getting an arena done, because he has started the process of examining renovation options for the Key Arena — according to Baker.

Before you start to think of renovating the Key Arena again, one thing that needs to be made perfectly clear is that the building was already renovated once in 1995 with the alleged goal of preventing an NHL team from ever playing it home games there. And that the ’95 renovation came in at a whooping $100 million (around $155 million in today’s dollars) and that was without increasing the square footage of the building…I don’t know how they plan on fixing the horrible hockey rink situation, while keeping the suites.

Now the biggest question about any Key Arena renovation, the question of who is going to pay for the renovation comes to mind…and you have to keep in mind that any renovation for the Key Arena is more than likely a band-aid solution because of the fact that making the building’s footprint big enough to financially support a franchise is going to eat into a lot of the historic World’s Fair site around the arena.

Now it is important to note, that Baker has been repeatedly proven wrong throughout this process…so I don’t know how realistic anything he’s posted is. But there you have it, an update on the NHL expansion rumors.

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