Two key statements were made Wednesday by Seattle mayor Ed Murray regarding a potential NHL team in the Pacific Northwest.
First, Murray put a May 7 date of completion for the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) — which has been a lengthy, drawn-out procedure and often described as the most important roadblock for a new arena.
Second, Murray said he’d be willing to modify the current Memorandum of Understanding with Seattle city council that calls for an NBA team to prompt construction of the facility.
“Should folks in the NHL or potential owners come to us with a different financial plan that pencils out for the city and for our partners at the county, I would be willing to go back to the council and ask them to open that process,” Murray explained in an exclusive interview with Seattle’s King 5 News. “I believe there could be an adjustment for an NHL team first if there is a financial plan that pencils out for the city.”
Both developments are key. The arena proposal has been “languishing in delays” for the past three years because of the pending environmental review, per King 5, but now appears to be on track with a completion date. And talk of an “NHL-first” MOU modification is also important, as previous understandings were contingent upon the NBA returning to Seattle for the first time since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City following the 2007-08 campaign.
Murray has been outspoken in his desire to get an NHL team into Seattle. In late January, he met with Gary Bettman and described the commissioner as “very keen” on the idea.
More, from King 5:
“The NHL indicated a willingness to move here as soon as there is an Arena,” said Murray, who also spoke highly of potential NHL owner Victor Coleman.
Coleman met with Murray, along with Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly at City Hall last year. “He’s an absolute Seattle booster, who wants to bring hockey to the City of Seattle.”
The NHL declined comment today on the announcement.
Finally, Murray shot down the idea of the NHL going to places like Tukwila or Bellevue, which had been reported earlier this month.
“Whether it’s a site in Seattle or site somewhere else in King County, those sites would also have to go through a lengthy process to look at the environmental impacts and get the permits you would need to get a permit for to build a very significant structure,” he explained. “I think if done right and we actually got a team, it would be a benefit to this city, financially and culturally.”