No news on the search for a hockey team to play in new Seattle arena
Construction on a new arena in the Sodo District can begin with just an NBA team. But Chris Hansen's ownership group is hoping to bring in an NHL team to play in the arena.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Chris Hansen appears well on his way to securing one of the major tenants for a proposed new Sodo arena, with Monday's announcement of an agreement to buy the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
But the acquisition of an NHL team — which Hansen has said throughout the process he would also like to have in Seattle — remains uncertain.
Don Levin, a Chicago businessman and minor-league hockey team owner who has said he would be interested in helping bring the NHL to Seattle, said Monday he is not currently involved in any efforts to procure a team to play in the new arena, or anywhere else.
Levin said he had been in contact with potential developers of an arena in Bellevue but said Monday, "Bellevue has bailed. What we thought was a deal didn't happen. So I am nowhere."
Levin said he was informed of that news in an email last week.
He said he would remain interested in helping Hansen get a team, but said, "I have had no (recent) contact with Chris. He has probably worked with some other people."
Hansen has said he would not want to own an NHL team but would help facilitate efforts to bring one to Seattle.
"When I spoke to him at some point in the past, he said there were other people interested, so I'm sure he is (pursuing a team with other owners)," Levin said.
Hansen has said he hopes an NHL team can be found for Seattle to maximize revenue generated by the arena. Under the terms of the arena proposal, $200 million of the $490-million cost will be paid for in revenue generated from the arena. (Technically, the city and county will sell $200 million in bonds backed by future revenue from the arena — Hansen's group will pay the other $290 million).
But while an NBA team was a prerequisite to begin construction, that is not true of an NHL team.
King County executive Dow Constantine noted as much when the arena deal was restructured to require Hansen to cover any shortfalls in revenue before it ultimately was approved last fall.
"We structured the whole thing so it can go forward without having an NHL franchise in place, and the investment is structured so there is no additional risk if there is only one franchise rather than two, and that's by the owners covering that risk if revenues are less than projected," Constantine said Monday.
Levin, who co-owns the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, said he is still interested in helping bring the NHL to Seattle. But at the moment, he said, "there's no team."
Levin noted that the team considered most available for sale and relocation, the Phoenix Coyotes, is in the process of being sold to a local owner who will keep the team there.
No other team, he said, appears immediately available.
"And I have asked," he said.
The new Sodo arena, however, would not open until 2015, so finding an NHL team is not as urgent.
Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said he thinks much could change between now and when the arena would open, especially with the NHL having recently come to terms on a labor agreement that will go through the 2021-22 season.
He said the NHL "is excited" about the prospect of a team playing in a new arena in Seattle and that there are some franchises that could be at risk of relocation if they don't show signs of success in their current markets.
"I don't think the league will expand," Swangard said, "But there are certainly a couple of markets that are still questionable with the new deal whether they can survive and be competitive."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.