A tweet by a sports business reporter Tuesday said Seattle, Las Vegas, Quebec City and Toronto would be granted expansion franchises by 2017, for expansion fees that could raise $1.4 billion to be shared by the existing 30 franchises and not with the players.Howard Bloom of Sports Business News posted no story nor cited sources, but on the same day, news broke in Vancouver’s Province newspaper that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is beginning to shift away from his previous no-expansion-is-foreseeable position.
The story said that an expansion plan for Las Vegas is a done deal, which would make the NHL the first major sports league to venture into the gambling mecca. Expansion usually, but not necessarily, occurs in tandems, and thr NHL has 16 teams in the East and 14 teams in the West.
NHL expansion – four teams added by 2017, Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, and Las Vegas $1.4b in expansion fees
— Howard Bloom (@SportsBizNews) August 27, 2014
Bettman was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying, “There’s a lot of interest. We’re hearing from multiple groups in Seattle and in Vegas and Kansas City and Quebec City,
“We have not decided to engage in a formal expansion process but we listen to expressions of interest. It’s not something we’ve seriously considered yet.”
That’s a poorly disguised come-hither pitch from a commissioner who has resisted expansion for 15 years, but has some labor peace and is now gathering greater TV revenues.
Little has changed in Seattle regarding the prospects for a basketball/hockey arena, but developer and Seattle native Chris Hansen has talked with prospective NHL owner Victor Coleman about an arena partnership. To make an NHL team come first, the memorandum of understanding between Hansen, the city and King County must be rewritten because is predicated on basketball first.
Neither the council nor Mayor Ed Murray has expressed any desire for a rewrite. But without a commitment from a league to relocate a team or expand, Hansen has no incentive to visit the issue.
If Hansen gets a partner who assumes some equity risk in the arena construction, and agrees to own the NHL team, he would have a case to present — but only after a final environmental impact statement on the SoDo site is released and approved by the city council. Approval would come only after settlements of almost inevitable litigation threatened by those opposed to the SoDo site. The final EIS may be released by November.
Hansen’s MOU was signed in 2012 and runs to 2017, which fits with the Bloom report.
Coleman is a Vancouver native with significant real estate holdings in Seattle and Los Angeles. He told KING5 recently that Seattle is an ideal market for the NHL
“I think the demographic base (in Seattle) and the desire of the NHL in that marketplace is the perfect match right now,” he said. “The expansion of the NHL into the Pacific Northwest, with Vancouver and the presiding area, makes it a perfect fit. There are built-n synergies. That’s a ‘Day 1’ rivalry.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL’s highest grossing team and would have to share a market with a second team. Quebec City is scheduled to open its new arena in 2015, even though no NHL team is committed.