After nearly derailing just a few short months ago, Seattle’s roller coaster ride toward obtaining an NHL franchise appears to be back on track. Reportedly, a local heavyweight investor is now on the scene.
Less than two weeks ago, Chris Daniels of KING 5 News reported that real estate investor Victor Coleman had entered into a ‘non-binding’ agreement with Seattle native and Bay area hedge fund manager Chris Hansen to help advance the stalled Seattle project. The proposed arena — a state-of-the-art facility that would seat approximately 18,000 — was approved by the City of Seattle and King County in 2012. Both entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hansen’s investment group at that time, and agreed to contribute a combined $200 million in public money toward the project.The binding agreement has a shelf life of just five years, meaning time is drawing shorter and shorter.
Investor Victor Coleman is from the area
Originally hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Coleman is a significant investor in the Los Angeles real estate market. However, he retains roots in the Pacific Northwest, and in fact just purchased real estate in nearby Pioneer Square. Reportedly, his investment group also includes hedge fund manager Jonathan Glaser.
Coleman sees the demographics, along with a potential rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, as key to the success of a new Seattle franchise.
“I think the demographic base (in Seattle) and the desire of the NHL in that marketplace is the perfect match right now. The expansion of the NHL into the Pacific Northwest, with Vancouver and the presiding area, makes it a perfect fit.”
Coleman has been called the ‘real deal’ by league execs
As a substantial investor in both Canada and the U.S., Coleman clearly has the type of deep pockets that the NHL wants from a prospective owner. Daniels described the NHL’s alleged perception of the Vancouver real estate investor as follows:
It’s clear Coleman has the support of the NHL. One league executive describes him as “the real deal,” and he was flanked by the NHL’s top leaders during a clandestine meeting in Seattle back in May.
Daniels further reported that Coleman views both the proposed SoDo location for a new arena, along with the city of Seattle itself, as ideal:
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) August 13, 2014
The new plan would go forward under the assumption that the NHL would be the initial anchor tenant. Although local political leaders have been consulted during the process, the MOU’s requirement that an NBA franchise be obtained first remains a major potential hurdle to overcome. Reportedly, the respective city councils are lukewarm to the prospects of amending the existing agreement.
“We have a clear path”
No matter what happens over the ensuing months, there is little doubt that the process will continue to grind along slowly. Between stubborn area politicians and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, a major breakthrough is unlikely to occur anytime soon.
Despite the obstacles, Coleman has stated that between discussions with his fellow investors, political officials, and the NHL, there is a “clear path” toward achieving the goal of an NHL franchise in Seattle. While the specifics of that path were not revealed, Coleman expressed optimism in the following quote:
“There is obviously a deal in place that can get done,” said Coleman. “The semantics by which it gets done, and the priorities by which it gets done, are going to depend on city officials, the county, and the Hansen group.”
In case you’re interested, the entire Chris Daniels report can be seen here:
So, what do you think? With all the talk that’s gone on over the past two years — yet little tangible progress, outside of an approved arena plan — should Seattle still be at the top of the list for NHL expansion? Is the new investor the real deal?
Feel free to post in this thread, or send a message on Twitter to @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.