SEA ISLAND, Ga. — The NHL is coming to Seattle.
League commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement on Tuesday at a press conference following the conclusion of the board of governors meetings.
The NHL’s 32nd team was unanimously approved in a vote and will begin play in 2021-22.
Seattle’s ownership group led by billionaire David Bonderman and a number of minority partners, including Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, will pay an expansion fee of US$650 million.
The Vegas Golden Knights paid $500 million when they joined the league in 2016.
Seattle will play in the Pacific Division, meaning the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division.
The new team gives the NHL an even 16 franchises in the Eastern and Western conferences and will provide the Vancouver Canucks a natural geographic rival for the first time.
Viewed as a slam dunk ahead of the vote, expansion to Seattle — the largest U.S. market without an NHL or NBA team prior to today’s announcement — required 75 per cent approval, in this case a thumbs up from 24 of 31 owners, to pass.
The $650-million expansion fee will be divided up between 30 NHL teams. Vegas does not get a cut of the money and is exempt from the expansion draft.
The board’s nine-member executive committee recommended proceeding with the expansion application back in October after a presentation that included Bonderman, Bruckheimer and Seattle Hockey Partners president and CEO Tod Leiweke.
KeyArena, which was home to the NBA’s SuperSonics before they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, is primed to undergo a massive $800-million renovation.
A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday in downtown Seattle.
After the NHL said it would consider the potential ownership group’s expansion application at this time last year, a season-ticket drive to gauge interest resulted in a jaw-dropping 32,000 deposits, including 10,000 purchased in the first 12 minutes.
There are also plans to build a $70-million practice facility.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An incorrect figure for the renovation price for KeyArena appeared in the previous version