NHL commissioner Gary Bettmanw as interviewed by TSN 1040 in Vancouver, B.C. about the health of the league. Eventually the conversation turned to the league’s attempts to expand into Seattle and questions about the future of Chris Hansen’s Sonics Arena.
Bettman was asked about potential expansion to Seattle at the 4:20 mark in the interview linked to above. It starts off with his normal platitudes about not going to expansion yet, but that the league is more than willing to accept “expressions of interest” from potential ownership groups interested in acquiring an expansion franchise. And then he drops this bombshell.
We’ve also gotten interest from people who think maybe they should build the building in Bellevue and we’ve also heard from people who think that they should build the building in Tukwila, which until all this started I never heard of, but I understand is a very interesting, exciting place with the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest.”
Bellevue makes a lot of sense, and isn’t really that surprising considering that there have been discussions of putting an arena in the city since the Sonics left. But Tukwila is completely out of the blue and doesn’t make a ton of sense initially…at least until you remember the City has spent a ton of time and money stimulating its growth. Currently, Tukwila is working on getting a train station built that would help make it a stop for many of the large passenger trains that come through the area.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear, in an interview with YahooSports, that the NHL is not happy with how Chris Hansen is handling his arena and the NHL portion of it.
Hansen’s MOU runs out in 2017. Is this now a waiting game for the NHL until a new one can be submitted? “Not necessarily,” said Daly. “There are a couple of variations that are interesting in the Seattle mix. I just don’t know how it’ll play out at this point.”
Daly’s statement confirms what Bettman said above, about the league receiving interest from other potential NHL owners in the area, and that they have their own arena plans. This is an interesting, but not surprising, development because of how valuable professional (mainly major sports) franchises are becoming.
While these recent developments are interesting, it is important to remember that Hansen’s arena plan is the only one going through the FEIS process. It is also the only arena plan that currently has the backing of the King County Council, and has the land already purchased for the building. Therefore it is likely Bettman’s statements are designed to put pressure on the Seattle Department of Planning to get the FEIS done, and the Seattle City Counil to be open to the idea of adjusting the MOU for an NHL first option.