A group trying to bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle led by Chris Hansen reached a “major milestone” on Thursday with the release of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Hansen called it “a green light for us to continue moving forward,” but his goal of building an arena in the SoDo neighborhood might still face some significant roadblocks. Notably, it sounds like the city might not go forward with its earlier pledge to provide $125 million in bonds to help fund the arena.
“This deal’s just not doable, at least as it’s constructed today,” said Tim Burgess, the president of the Seattle City Council, according to the Seattle Times. “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. But we are not going to go ahead with this arena without substantial changes. And there are no plans right now for those.”
The problem is that when the city agreed to partially fund the arena, it was with the idea of drawing in an NBA team. However, because there are no NBA expansion plans right now, the focus has shifted to trying to lure an NHL team first. Seattle mayor Ed Murray has already said that he’s willing to listen to reconsider the memorandum of understanding if an NHL-first proposal comes forward, but Burgess seems less optimistic about the City Council agreeing to such a change.
“We specifically wrote the idea of a hockey-only or hockey-first arena out of the agreement three years ago,” Burgess said. “We did that because it’s very weak financially. It’s just too risky for the city.”
He added, “If we’re going to do hockey, there would have to be a substantial lowering, if not elimination, of the public investment.”
The fact that there’s now a competing project in nearby Tukwila might also be a factor. That arena would reportedly be constructed using only private funds, so it might be seen as a more favorable option to some on the City Council for that reason.
Calling it a “major milestone in our journey to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle,” the group trying to build an arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood trumpeted today’s release of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The group, led by investor Chris Hansen, considers the document “a green light for us to continue moving forward to finish the remaining work needed for the final construction permits.”
And while it had everyone’s attention, Hansen’s group also took “the opportunity to reiterate that we remain 100% supportive of the NHL returning to Seattle and playing in the Arena — and are completely open to the prospect of that occurring prior to the NBA. In light of recent speculation, we would just like to clarify that we have sought to be as accommodating as possible in our negotiations with potential NHL partners, with our only major requirements being that such a deal does not jeopardize the process or put the City, County, Taxpayers or us in a worse financial position.”
For Seattle mayor Ed Murray, a supporter of the arena project, the challenge now will be to broker a deal between Hansen’s group and an NHL partner. Remember that there is a competing arena project in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, so time is of the essence.
Said Murray last month: “As I’ve said before, I stand by the [memorandum of understanding] that the city signed which requires the NBA to commit to Seattle before an arena can be built. But given what we’ve heard from the NBA, I’m open to the idea of NHL coming to Seattle first. I am ready to listen and would be willing to reconsider the MOU if there is an NHL-first proposal that pencils out for the City.”
Hansen, who’s only interested in owning an NBA team, has been working with businessman Victor Coleman to land an NHL tenant for the planned arena.
“My priority is to figure out a way to make a deal on the SoDo site,” Coleman said recently. “If for some reason that doesn’t happen, it is not going to detract us from looking at an alternative site that we have looked at and will continue to pursue if the [SoDo] site is not available…”
“My priority is to figure out a way to make a deal on the SoDo site,” Coleman told Puget Sound Business Journal. “If for some reason that doesn’t happen, it is not going to detract us from looking at an alternative site that we have looked at and will continue to pursue if the [SoDo] site is not available…”
Coleman declined to say where his alternative site was located.
The reported plan, nascent as it may be, to build an arena in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila has put Seattle mayor Ed Murray under increasing pressure to get his stalled arena project in the city’s Sodo neighborhood back on track.
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to get an NBA and NHL team here in Seattle,” Murray said, per King 5. “And Seattle is absolutely the only place for an NHL and NBA team here in our region.
“As I’ve said before, I stand by the [memorandum of understanding] that the city signed which requires the NBA to commit to Seattle before an arena can be built. But given what we’ve heard from the NBA, I’m open to the idea of NHL coming to Seattle first. I am ready to listen and would be willing to reconsider the MOU if there is an NHL-first proposal that pencils out for the City.”
Putting even more pressure on Murray to do whatever needs to be done to start construction is Tukwila’s reputation for, well, doing the things that need to be done, and doing them quickly.
“Unlike some councils in the area, Tukwila has a very harmonious group,” a source told the Seattle Times. “There aren’t too many disagreements on anything amongst the councilors, and it leads to things getting done very quickly.”
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Florida Panthers forward Brandon Pirri scored twice in Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pirri now has 16 goals in 22 games. However, he may have lost his lucky stick. During the third period Leafs forward Richard Panik flipped Pirri’s stick over the glass (see video below). Panik received a misconduct on the play. A lucky fan five rows up received a nice souvenir as a result.
“That was a weird play,” chuckled Pirri post-game. “It got pretty deep in the crowd.”
Richard Panik wasn't happy about 10-minute misconduct but says "at least the kid got a stick."
Want to have former New York Yankee Derek Jeter as a neighbor? Buy Vincent Lecavalier’s house. Lecavalier’s Florida home, which is a few doors down from Jeter, is currently on the market. (Tampa Bay Times)
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A young Boston Bruins fan received a hockey card Thursday night. Liam Fitzgerald, who was born with Down syndrome and beat a leukemia diagnosis, received the card from Upper Deck.
Connor McDavid had quite an impact on attendance in the Ontario Hockey League this season. Teams entertaining McDavid saw a 20 percent increase in attendance when the Erie Otters were in town. (NHLtoSeattle.com)
Darren Helm’s girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s daughter on a Michigan highway this week. (Detroit Red Wings)
Actor Matthew Perry was on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week and discussed his friendship with L.A. Kings’ forward Anze Kopitar.
Ken Campbell writes the Arizona Coyotes need to win the NHL Draft lottery more than the Buffalo Sabres. (The Hockey News)