A report citing three unnamed sources said that Victor Coleman, eager to land an NHL expansion franchise for Chris Hansen’s Sodo arena project, will not submit an application by Monday’s deadline imposed by the league for interested cities. But another source told Sportspress Northwest that a rival plan for an arena in Tukwila will be submitted.
According to KING5, Coleman, a Los Angeles businessman and Vancouver, B.C., native, hasn’t reached agreement with Hansen on the nature of a potential partnership that would have Coleman own the NHL team while sharing in the arena construction costs.
The roadblock may be that Hansen is reluctant to change the memorandum of understanding he has with the city and King County if it would increase the risk to him or the city, should the MOU be changed to allow hockey first ahead of the NBA, which shows no desire to return to Seattle.
In a May 27 interview with the Associated Press in Seattle, Hansen said regarding his discussion with Coleman: “We’ve taken a very simple approach: Don’t make it worse for us and don’t make it worse for the city and use your own creativity and just come back to us with something that is fair and we don’t have anything back yet.”
Hansen’s arena offer, agreed to in 2012, is generally considered the most city-friendly sports venue project in Seattle’s modern history. His principal ask is for $120 million via the city’s cheaper borrowing capacity, not a tax subsidy or a tax re-direction. The money would be repaid out of arena operating revenue.
Coleman has not spoken publicly about his problems with the potential partnership. The absence of a deal makes it plain no resolution is imminent, especially in view of the NHL’s demand for an application fee of $10 million, $2 million of which is nonrefundable. Coleman presumably doesn’t want to take the risk.
Ray Bartoszek, the Connecticut investment banker behind the Tukwila project, has no problem with government money, since his project is all privately funded. There’s been no indication yet whether he has individual partners or a development deal with a large company such as Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Both parties likely have been taken aback by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s insistence that an expansion fee of $500 million will be required. That makes an arena deal much harder to get to break-even.
Two cities with arenas under construction, Las Vegas and Quebec City, reportedly have submitted bids for what is likely to be a two-team expansion in time for the 2017-18 season.
But because the Monday deadline may be missed doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no hope. The NHL can table the bid process, and restart it later, or just call it Part Two.
The NHL will always need an empty market such as Seattle to extort municipalities with a relocation threat, as the NBA did last week in Milwaukee in order to get a deal from the Wisconsin legislature for $250 million in tax money.
But at some point, in the cases of franchises in Florida and Arizona, which have lost millions annually for years, the NHL may be forced to relocate them, by which time Seattle may have resolved its arena situation.