Oak View Group

New arena plans in Seattle remain on schedule

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SEATTLE (AP) — The aggressive timeline for the renovation of Seattle’s KeyArena remains on schedule with the hope of breaking ground on construction by the end of the year.

Steve Mattson, director of operations for Oak View Group, said Monday that the goal remains to have approval to take control of the arena at Seattle Center by late fall and begin the construction process before the end of 2018.

”Every day we move them along a little bit and we feel really good about where we’re at right now,” Mattson said.

Oak View Group released new renderings of the remodeled arena on Monday, beginning a busy week for the group that is looking to bring the NHL to Seattle for the 2020 season. The group has formally filed for an expansion franchise with the NHL and is kicking off its season-ticket campaign on Thursday.

The new renderings focus largely on the south side of the current building where a new glass-enclosed atrium will serve as the main entrance for the building. The new atrium will be the biggest addition to the arena, but the facility will be gutted and rebuilt seemingly from the top down. It’s all part of a $660 million project that if completed will finally solve Seattle’s longtime arena problem.

Redeveloping the building isn’t easy because of the historical landmark status of the arena’s roofline. That limited what Oak View and architectural design firm Populous could do in creating a big enough footprint for a modern facility without being able to expand outward on three of the four sides of the building.

That’s why the atrium addition is so important to the design. It will be the primary entrance for the building and bring spectators in at the top of the arena. The arena will feature four levels and Populous associate principle Geoff Cheong said the design attempts to embrace the history of the building.

”We’ve talked about the arena maintaining its cherished, humble character within the neighborhood, within Seattle Center … but this is a remarkable, new identity, this south atrium. Its contemporary nature is very transparent and very inviting and a great first impression for residents and visitors to Seattle Center to embrace.”

MGM in early talks to attract NHL team to Las Vegas

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There have been plenty of rumors about people trying to lure an NHL team – expansion or otherwise – to Las Vegas. The latest story came Thursday, as an exec from MGM Resorts acknowledged “preliminary talks” with a group hoping to accomplish just that, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Fox 5 Vegas reported.

“We would be supportive of an NHL team coming to our arena,” MGM Resorts International Dan D’Arrigo said. “We’re highly interested and we have been in discussions with a group.”

D’Arrigo didn’t speculate about whether such a scenario would involve relocating a current team or gaining an expansion franchise.

Here’s an interesting tidbit, though: MGM is teaming up with AEG (owner of the Los Angeles Kings) to bring a $350 million arena to Las Vegas. This post’s main image is an artist’s rendering of what such an arena might look like, while the Las Vegas Review-Journal shared this video from the groundbreaking in May:

“It’s a big day for Las Vegas. It’s a big day for Nevada. It’s a big day for entertainment,” MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren said. “We need to create the experience tourists are so yearning for. They want to be wowed.”

Again, this is far from the first time Vegas moguls have been tied to NHL expansion/relocation rumors, yet it’s interesting to see executives publicly acknowledging such interest.

One week ago, billionaire William Foley’s name was being thrown around, possibly in a potential deal to relocate the Arizona Coyotes. The NHL fired such talk down and has repeatedly denied expansion rumors in general, yet commissioner Gary Bettman admitted back in June that the league would look at Las Vegas “more closely” if expansion does become a reality.

(Click here for more Bettman on Vegas from May.)

There hasn’t been a specific response to this specific situation, which isn’t surprising since MGM hasn’t named the potentially interested group and seems to merely be dipping its toes in the water.

In the odd chance this situation comes to fruition and an NHL team ends up calling that MGM/AEG-owned arena its home, here’s a request on behalf of beat reporters repeatedly beleaguered by the Columbus Blue Jackets cannon: play the sound of slot machines pouring out coins after a home-team goal instead of the MGM lion growl:

Related

NBC’s Dan Patrick says Las Vegas will have an NHL team by 2016

NHL-to-Vegas talks gained steam in August

Vegas talk from back in 2013

The Kings haven’t been shy about playing in Sin City

The market was hyped as a good spot for hockey even back in 2011

Seattle makes a lot of sense for the Coyotes

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As of Sunday, the NHL has been permitted to start negotiating with other markets regarding a potential move of the Phoenix Coyotes. The good news for fans in Phoenix is that the league has repeatedly stated that they’re preference is to keep the team in Phoenix Glendale. The league hasn’t started contacting other potential owners in other potential markets yet; so things could be worse.

The incomparable Elliotte Friedman wrote a detailed article today breaking down various scenarios for the league and the Coyotes future (you should check out the entire article). He breaks it down to where Seattle and Quebec City make the most sense for the league in the short-term. More importantly, he breaks it down from a financial standpoint for the other 29 owners. Sooner or later, it always comes back to money.

Instead of choosing between Seattle and Quebec City, Friedman explains that the league could be interested in both—and another Toronto area team as well. Why? Is it for better competitive balance? To even the new realigned divisions that go into effect next season? No. Because there’s a lot of money to be made this way.

He explains the Coyotes could fetch around $170 in relocation, etc. fees for the 29 owners. Here’s where it gets interesting. If the Coyotes move to Seattle, that still leaves the starving hockey market in Quebec City available for the league to pursue.

“And you’d have to think that if Quebec City gets an expansion team, the fee will be higher than the purchase price of the Coyotes, especially if the NHL can create some kind of bidding war for the right to own the team there,” Friedman explains in his article. “What does Seattle relocation + Quebec City expansion + Toronto expansion equal? A billion dollars. And that might be conservative.”

A billion dollars can make a pretty convincing argument to the owners who are in the business of making a profit. Of course, the league still insists that they want to keep the team in Arizona for the long-term. Friedman talked to some of the powers-that-be at the Pebble Beach meetings last month and heard that the chances of the Coyotes staying are about 50/50 at this point.

50/50 isn’t that bad when everything else is considered at this point, is it?

Southern Ontario might get an NHL-ready arena (even if NHL isn’t ready)

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Most cities/regions don’t build a professional sports-friendly arena for the sake of bringing in more concerts, the circus and Disney on Ice. Yet TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that two wealthy Canadians are spearheading a move to bring a 19,500-seat building to southern Ontario under the supposed plan that it wouldn’t need an NHL team to succeed.

Maybe that’s true, but McKenzie reports that Markham, Ontario hopes to develop the type of complex that would resemble the area around the Staples Center in Los Angeles, so it’s hard to believe that getting an NHL team isn’t part of the plan.

Even with the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars getting ownership situations straightened out, the league has its fair share of struggling franchises, so the dream of getting a team in Markham doesn’t sound all that crazy. They’ll just have to keep their boldest thoughts to themselves, for now.

Assessing the fortunes of the Ducks, Panthers and Stars since NHL’s 1993 expansion

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It’s easy to cast a wide net of criticism on the NHL’s expansion to “non-traditional” markets. Looking at the struggles of teams such as the defunct Atlanta Thrashers and the struggling Phoenix Coyotes, one might make a generalization that the game cannot translate to these warmer climates.

That doesn’t mean that every experiment has been a failure, however. Too Many Men on the Site’s Jenna Barley took an interesting look at the fortunes of three franchises that cropped up in unusual markets in 1993: the Anaheim (formerly Mighty) Ducks, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. Naturally, it’s important to note that the Stars had a leg up on the expansion Ducks and Panthers because they inherited the Minnesota North Stars’ roster, but it’s still interesting to take a big picture view of some of the NHL’s biggest steps into atypical hockey markets.

Barley found that the three clubs have had some interesting ups and downs since being introduced almost 20 years ago. PHT will expand on her commentary with some notes and insights of our own.

Anaheim Ducks

No doubt about it, the Ducks grew mightier once they cut ties with their Disney movie past. As the Mighty Ducks, they made the playoffs just four out of 12 seasons, though they made spirited runs in two of their last three campaigns. Trading for Chris Pronger surely made a bigger difference than changing the team name, but it is interesting that they won their only Stanley Cup during their first season (06-07) as the plain new Ducks. The sans-Mighty Ducks managed to make the postseason if four of five seasons, bringing the franchise’s grand total to eight in 17 seasons – not awful for a team that many considered a joke even when Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya were tearing things up.

Dallas Stars

Again, Dallas inherited plenty of talent from the Minnesota North Stars days, particularly in the form of franchise player Mike Modano. It seems like the team picked the right time to peak when they won the Stanley Cup in 1998-99 as other local teams such as the Cowboys and Mavericks weren’t having much success. The Stars made the playoffs in 11 of their first 13 seasons, but things have been rocky lately – they’ve gone three straight seasons without making a postseason appearance.

Next season should prove pivotal for a franchise that many cite as a shiny example of successful “Sun Belt” expansion, as the team hopes to get a new owner in place and turn things around with new head coach Glen Gulutzan. Overall, the teams’ been a success but they need to find their way in the post-Modano days.

Florida Panthers

Barley points out that the Panthers were competitive out of the gate, which is pretty impressive since expansion teams are built from scratch.

The Florida Panthers had a very successful first four seasons in the NHL.  They were only one point away from a playoff spot in both the inaugural and second seasons of 1993-1994 and 1994-1995.  In their 3rd season (1995-1996), the Panthers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to be swept by the Colorado Avalanche.  They again made the playoffs in 1996-1997, but never made it past the first round.

The Panthers had their highest point season in 1999-2000 with 98 points (43-33-6-6).  They also made the playoffs again that year, with a strong Pavel Bure leading the way.  However, they were swept in the first round by the New Jersey Devils and have never made the playoffs since.  The Panthers have gone through 8 coaches since then and 11 since the team inception, but the Panther’s hope that with Kevin Dineen this upcoming season, they can break their 11 year playoff drought.

It’s easy to critique new GM Dale Tallon’s frantic series of moves during his second summer running the team, but the hope is that the Panthers can find two things they haven’t seen much of since Ed Jovanovski was a much younger “Jovocop”: stability and focus. From different coaches to general managers, the team has had too many cooks in the kitchen over the last decade; if that trend stops, the Panthers flailing ways might come to end as well.

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The Ducks, Stars and Panthers have had their ups and downs, but even Florida can point to moments in which they played on hockey’s biggest stage. Each teams have reasons for optimism but also plenty of reasons for concern, which means that it’s still too early to be certain if these teams will ultimately be seen as successes or failures.