This coming Monday, the Seattle City Council is slated to vote on vacating a stretch of Occidental Avenue South to entrepreneur Chris Hansen for the purpose of constructing his proposed 18,000+ seat arena, paving the way for issuance of a Master Use Permit. Assuming an NBA team is secured (or more likely, the agreement between Hansen’s group and the City and county is amended to allow the NHL to come first), construction can then begin.
According to a report by KING5-TV’s Chris Daniel, the council vote is “widely considered to be the final step for the project in the lengthy Seattle process.” Could the endgame of the years-long saga finally be at hand?
Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders Reach Scheduling Deal
The odds of the project finally coming to life improved after a deal was announced Thursday between Hansen’s group and the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders to avoid scheduling conflicts with respect to their respective franchises. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times described the agreement as follows:
The deal, reached Wednesday night, sets a three-hour minimum between the projected end of one game and the start of another on the same day and prohibits arena events that overlap with major CenturyLink and Safeco Field crowds. It also prevents any arena events from starting between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weeknights and requires an NBA team to try to avoid scheduling any games that overlap with Mariners and Sounders contests.
The fact that the Seattle Mariners signed on is a bit surprising, given that they have been one of the most outspoken critics of the project. Has there been a thaw in their opposition? According to new Mariners CEO John Stanton, not really.
If you own a house and somebody wants to build a big, ugly house right at the end of your driveway — that frankly, blocks your driveway — you’ve got a right to express an opinion. And I think it’s fair to express that opinion.
Despite their criticism of the arena’s location, the Mariners recognized the inevitability of approval, swallowed hard, and signed off on the deal. However, other opponents are waiting in the weeds.
Two Lawsuits Will Likely Be Filed
The Port of Seattle has been another loud voice against the proposed arena. Assuming the council votes in favor of vacating Occidental, speculation is that the Port will file a lawsuit alleging that the city improperly handled an environmental-impact study of the Sodo arena project. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is expected to file a lawsuit as well.
In all probability, the lawsuits are white noise headed nowhere. The longshore worker’s union filed a lawsuit to stop the project back in 2013, only to see it dismissed after oral arguments were made. it isn’t likely they will significantly alter the timing of the project, either, as per the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, Hansen’s group must still find a team to serve as anchor tenant in order to break ground.
The NHL Wants to Be in Seattle
The NHL has made it abundantly clear that it plans to expand and that Seattle is at the top of its list of target cities. Although no group from Seattle submitted an application by the deadline and the league has made statements asserting that Seattle’s opportunity had passed, recent reports indicate that the process is going slowly and due to the weak Canadian dollar, Quebec City will not make the cut, at least right now.
If so, and assuming the MOU is quickly reworked so that the NHL can come first (there is virtually no chance the NBA will place a team in Seattle before the agreement expires in 2017), the door would then be wide open for an expansion team. After all, adding two Western Conference teams would balance the league nicely, and with Las Vegas a lock, Seattle would make for an ideal second expansion franchise. Secondly, the Pacific Northwest is badly underrepresented with respect to the NHL, and not only does Seattle tap that market, but becomes an instant rival for the Vancouver Canucks. Lastly, the shift back to Seattle would buy time for the Canadian dollar to heal so that Quebec City and another franchise can be added in a second round of expansion down the road.
How are Seattle fans reacting to the upcoming vote?
@reedgilbert11 @AGruett32 Here's how the NHL expansion is going to work in my mind: 1. Vegas gets team. 2. NHL waits on Seattle's arena, —
— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) April 25, 2016
Reading the comments on the latest update about the SODO arena and there are more "NHL TO SEATTLE!!" than "bringbackoursonics" 😳
— Ashley Raney (@Ash_Bash4411) April 28, 2016
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.