Tag: Key Arena


Seattle lawmaker has a Nashville-like plan to build new arena to draw NHL to city


Quebec City and Kansas City aren’t the only places trying to draw attention from the NHL to their neighborhood. Seattle has been talked about before as a place that has interest in drawing the league to their city, but like the issues in Quebec City, Seattle doesn’t have an arena in town that’s NHL-ready (Quebec City will have one by 2015).

One Seattle lawmaker is trying to change that around, however, as he’d like to replace the city’s outdated and beat up Key Arena with a sparkling new facility that he thinks will be good enough to draw the NHL as well as the NBA into the U.S. Pacific northwest.

Coincidentally enough, this lawmaker is named Mike Hope and his plan to help fund the new arena is one that takes a nod from the tax codes in Nashville, Tennessee to help make it happen.

The proposed legislation would require local and visiting professional athletes in the NBA, NFL and MLB to pay a fee for every game they play in Seattle. He says a lot of other cities already have similar laws built into their tax revenue. Hope says it would levy $140 million towards a new sports arena. He’s also proposing specialty license plates for Sonics fans, generating another $10 million for bonds.

According to Hope, now is the time for the arena because construction costs are lower than they were in 2006, the last time the idea of building a new arena was floated.

Hope is optimistic the bill will pass because he believes it will gain bi-partisan support. He will be begin lobbying fellow lawmakers soon and officially introduce the bill in January during the regular session.

The idea is nice in thought, but making pro athletes pay up to play in that town is one that already doesn’t sit well with players and agents alike in the NHL. In Tennessee, the tax is known as the “Professional Privilege Tax for Professional Athletes” and is enforced on on pro athletes at the cost of $2,500 per game for up to three games played (PDF). Taking as much as $7,500 from pro athletes is a drop in the bucket for multi-millionaires, but for the kids out of the AHL or on a minimum contract, it’s a punch in the wallet.

With Seattle looking to do something similar to help get their arena built is a noble way to get the job done without a primary investor there willing to put down their own money or without having to ask the tax payers of Seattle to pay for it all themselves. After all, looking to build a new arena on a lark to try and attract one or two new tenants is a lot different than doing it for a team or teams that already call it home.

Seattle has been without a winter sports team since the Sonics were ripped out of the city and moved to Oklahoma City. Getting an NHL team in there to fill the void is an idea that’s been kicked around on the blogosphere since 2008 when the Sonics played their last game in the city. Getting a new arena built without mostly public money is a good thing. Doing it at the expense of the athletes you’re hoping to bring to town to fill the place up, however, seems a bit harsh.

(h/t RedditHockey on Twitter)

The pros and cons of bringing an NHL team to Seattle, Washington

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets - Game Three

Yes, it’s foolish to read too much into a report that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly admitted that at least one group has discussed the possibility of bringing a team to Seattle. Daly was quick to say that the unnamed group wouldn’t be ready to make a move before the 2010-11 season starts, for one thing. It’s also true that the NHL has flirted with other markets without results so far, with Quebec City and Kansas City coming to mind.

So while it’s fun to imagine a marriage of grunge, over-priced coffee and hockey, it’s important to realize that it’s far from an impending reality. If nothing else, it’s a pretty interesting concept to consider, though. For the sake of fun, here are a few of the reasons why a Seattle team could work and some of the obstacles along the way.

Why a Seattle team could work

Canucks overflow?: The NHL has been reluctant to add another team in Toronto’s general area partially out of fear of how such a move would hurt the Buffalo Sabres franchise. Many hockey-starved fans will make the trip to the U.S. to catch Sabres games since Maple Leafs tickets are so tough to come by.

It’s likely that a Seattle-based franchise would enjoy a similar relationship. (While different Web sites provide a variety of results on the driving distance between the cities, it seems safe to say that the drive is less than 200 miles.)

A solid market in its own right: Seattle’s metropolitan area is the 15th-largest in the United States, while its 560K+ population would rank it right behind the Washington Capitals according to this table. We can quibble about the exact numbers from the 2010 Census, but the market seems to be showing promising signs of growth and already ranks as a nice home for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners.

Washington’s decent history with hockey: It’s important to factor a market’s history with the sport, too. Chris Daniels provides a quick summary of the sport’s history in the state of Washington.

Seattle has long been discussed in NHL circles. The Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917. The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds have been successful at the Western Hockey League level.

Seattle’s biggest obstacle

One cannot discuss a possible NHL team in Seattle without referencing the ugly departure of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics, though. While there are a variety of factors that made that situation a little more complicated than a failed market, the one legitimate concern was the viability of Key Arena.

The arena’s capacity for basketball games is a little more than 17,000, but that total would probably be a bit lower for an NHL game. Hockey teams generate much of their revenue from the box office, so that might be a considerable turn-off.

Daly discussed some perceived problems with the seats themselves.

But Daly says he still has concerns about a possible venue for an NHL Franchise.

“Key Arena is a difficult arena for hockey. How many of those seats would be obstructed view seats?” he said.

There might be some other problems with adding a Seattle team, but Key Arena would probably be the key stumbling block.


There are some significant reasons why a team would and would not work in Seattle, but it seems like an enticing possibility overall. While the city seemed unwilling to build an entirely new arena to keep the Sonics, there were signs that people were willing to renovate Key Arena to make it work. Maybe a renovated Key Arena wouldn’t be an ideal fit for a new or relocated team, but there’s a lot to like about the idea of an NHL team coming to Seattle anyway.