Howard Bloom of Sports Business news is reporting that the NHL is going to be expanding to Seattle, Quebec City, Las Vegas, and Toronto by 2017. According to Bloom, the expansion fee for all four franchises would total $1.4 billion — an average of $350 million per franchise.
The fact that Las Vegas and Quebec City in this list isn’t surprising because both cities have arenas already under construction; the fact that Toronto and Seattle on this list are surprising, but for two different reasons:
- Seattle’s arena is still under environmental review, and will only be built if investor Chris Hansen has acquired a NBA franchise
- Toronto already has the Maple Leafs, and up until this report the proposed second arena and team were thought to be dead
While this report is surprising to many, it makes sense. The NHL has been rumored to be interested to expanding to all four cities over the last couple of years but roadblocks have appeared to keep the league from expanding (i.e., the Phoenix Coyotes lease and financial issues). Apparently the league is satisfied with the state of its current member franchises if it is looking to expand, especially if it is looking to expand by four teams.
The league also has to feel pretty confident that the proposed SODO Arena in Seattle, Wa. is going to be completed by the expansion date. If the league is that confident it means that one of two things are happening with the arena:
- Hansen will have acquired an NBA team, and the MOU between the City of Seattle has kicked in.; and that the City agrees to the non-binding financial agreement between Hansen and prospective NHL owner Victor Coleman.
- Coleman has managed to negotiate a NHL first option for the SODO Arena.
Option No. 2 seems unlikely because of the City’s current political climate with regards to public bonds — a.k.a public funding — being used to aide sports franchises in constructing arenas/stadiums. That means that the NBA expansion rumor mill should be starting up soon…unless of course Coleman has broken the Seattle process and ramrodded a secret NHL first option through the City Council.
Toronto’s inclusion on this list of expansion cities is also surprising given the fact that the second arena, in the metro area, was considered dead about a year ago. It’ll be interesting to see what news breaks on this front in the next couple of days.