Friday, February 17, 2012
Teamless in Seattle
While the buzz about yesterday's announcement of the new arena being build in Seattle and how it could be a new relocation destination for struggling NHL teams, the fact remains that this deal may not fully go as planned for more the Pacific Northwestern faithful. There's still some red tape and issues that need to be cleared up in order to make this into a reality situation-- but it's hope for a city that didn't have much of a chance with an old arena.
First, the positives-- it's a solid market with an already ingrained rival with the Vancouver Canucks up the road. That would help both sides go back and forth and should people in Vancouver not be able to get tickets to see some teams they might want to see-- they can just shoot down to Seattle to check them out. It's something that will create jobs for the Seattle area and bring another spectacle to the Seattle area when it comes to new stadiums-- SafeCo Field and CenturyLink Field being relatively new stadiums as well.
Yet, there's still some concern when it comes to the funding, as Seattle residences are still paying for the KingDome, which has been long imploded, but still needed to be paid for. The City owns the KeyArena, which will be an issue because they wouldn't want to lose money on that if they decide to build the new arena. Not only that, but it seems that in order for the arena to start being build, the new relocated team has to be owned by someone and already moved into the KeyArena to play for a year or two because ground will be broken on the new arena. That in itself could scare away potential relocating teams, as the KeyArena is 50 years old this year and only gets some renovations here and there-- as you can bet nothing big will happen to the KeyArena for a team only staying there for the short term. For hockey alone, the building only holds 11,000-- 9,000 of them are unobstructed.
Another issue would be the 30-year bond-lease that the teams would have to sign onto, which is what got the Coyotes into their mess and may create another mess if the team doesn't get the attendance they thought they would from the on-set of this project.
That said, when you look at what the Phoenix Coyotes have been averaging-- 11,655-- and the league being frustrated with not having an owner still; they may put up with the low attendance for a season just to get them off their hands and have that debacle over with. Depending on how fast the crews can build an arena-- it'll be a short-term deal in the old barn before the new arena is set-up.
Not only that-- what will it do to effect the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. While the team plays in Kent, Washington-- 30 minutes away from Seattle's downtown, it could take away from the team's attendance, which was just over 4,000 last season for the year in their 6,500-seat facility in the ShoWare Center. While Junior Hockey has a presence there, will the area be enough to hold two prominent franchises or could it be a death-blow for the junior hockey team in Seattle?? Time will tell, but you have to wonder what's going on with the Thunderbirds owners at this point with this news.
While the $500-millon dollar arena project hasn't give much details, the investment group who is making this deal and their lead man in this, Washington native Chris Hansen (not that one), are keen to have a new arena. That said-- Hansen is a guy who grew up with the NBA's Supersonics and you can imagine that getting basketball back will be his top option. Many hockey fans may get excited about it, but if it's not the right terms for the team or the city-- it won't happen. While hockey has a rich heritage in Seattle-- including the first US team to win the Stanley Cup-- basketball will always be the full winter sport people will remember most about.
Positivity is that there's enough people in the PacNorthwest to garner the attention and grab a pretty critical market for the NHL, one that would be a little bit more attractive than the Quebec City option, which is another city without a new arena. Whatever the outcome, the fact that there could be another option, one that the NHL would probably LOVE to have over Quebec City and Kansas City--is always good for the league and struggling owners who may want to unload their team.