Report: Seattle building a new arena to lure hockey team?

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There is a report out of Seattle that Chicago businessman Don Levin has plans to build an arena on the Eastside of Seattle to house a potential NHL team. The business group has not decided on a specific location, nor have they identified a potential NHL franchise—but they have a few prospective locations in the greater Seattle area.  The same report states that Levin is headed to Seattle to check out a few of the possible sites for himself.

Don Levin is a name that may sound familiar to sports fans in the Chicagoland area since he’s currently the owner of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Unfortunately, the last time we heard about a Chicago businessman getting involved with the NHL, it ended with a frustrated Matthew Hulsizer withdrawing from the Coyotes’ ownership nightmare. Everyone hopes this is a better situation.

KIRO7 in Seattle has the scoop:

“KIRO 7 has confirmed, from various highly placed government and community sources, that discussions are in the works to build an arena on the Eastside that would house a potential NHL team, with the ability to transform the venue into a basketball arena, and bring NBA basketball back to the greater Seattle area.

KIRO 7 sources indicate that Chicago businessman Don Levin has been in town recently meeting with various stakeholders about the new arena.

By looking to build a new arena in a hockey-less market, the scavengers will start looking at struggling NHL franchise around North America. Obviously, the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation is still in flux with no owners, nor resolution in sight. The Dallas Stars are desperately looking for an owner, but the metroplex has proven to be a viable hockey market ever since they landed in Texas in 1993. The same goes for the Blues ownership situation and the St. Louis market. Both areas have proven to have rabid fanbases when their team has a fighting chance on the ice.

In ways, this situation sounds strikingly similar to the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Anschutz Entertainment Group built the Sprint Center in hopes of luring the Penguins (or later the Islanders) to Missouri when they broke ground in 2005. They’ve been looking for a permanent NHL or NBA tenant since they officially opened the doors in 2007.

For people who want Seattle to become a viable contender for a relocating/expansion franchise, a new arena is the first step towards hope. The Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League used to call Key Arena home, but just because it was acceptable for a WHL team doesn’t mean it would work for an NHL team. The NBA made a strong statement about Key Arena when the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City—due in large part to concerns about the arena.

People can debate whether Seattle would be a viable market for a future NHL team, but there’s no question that the market is certainly in the discussion. Right now, the two biggest problems facing the arena are: they don’t have a suitable arena and there isn’t an available team. If Levin follows through with a state-of-the-art arena on the Eastside, he’ll provide a solution to the first part of that equation.

As for luring an NHL team? That part isn’t quite as easy. Just ask Jim Balsillie.