Promoters of a failed NHL effort in Bellevue had pitched city officials on creating a sports and entertainment district adjacent to a proposed new arena for the city’s Wilburton district, according to newly released documents.

Share story

Promoters of a failed NHL effort in Bellevue had pitched city officials on creating a sports and entertainment district adjacent to a proposed new arena for the city’s Wilburton district, according to newly released documents.

Handwritten notes taken at a June 22 meeting between Bellevue planning officials and those pushing for an arena and NHL team show they discussed the merits of similar sports and entertainment projects surrounding Staples Center in Los Angeles, Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., and an ongoing $1 billion development outside Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

They also mentioned two key consultants working alongside longtime NHL and NBA power broker Jac Sperling on the Tampa Bay project, bankrolled by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik: Boston-based city planner Jeff Speck and New York development firm Delos Living.

The notes, taken by assistant city attorney Monica Buck and released to The Seattle Times in response to a public-records request, show Sperling attended the Bellevue meeting as did Mason Cave, who represents an Arizona company controlling part of the envisioned arena land east of Interstate 405.

Sperling and Cave pitched the Bellevue officials — including city manager Brad Miyake and planning director Chris Salamone — on the merits of the “L.A. Live” district. They discussed how Staples Center involved “no public investment” but that developers did receive infrastructure “incentives” from local government, with one example being a parking garage.

Speck, working as the “design lead” for the Tampa Bay venture, said in a telephone interview Friday he’d never been approached about a Bellevue project but understands how his name and that of Delos Living could come up in a meeting attended by Sperling.

“My guess, totally speculating, is they probably want to bring the same team to that project that they were bringing to Tampa,” he said. “That surely would interest me. However, my relationship with Jac has been in Tampa Bay. We have a very good working relationship, so my expectation is, if they were to acquire other properties, it would be very good to get involved.”

Delos CEO Paul Scialla could not be reached. Sperling and Cave have not returned phone calls since the Bellevue group abandoned NHL expansion plans about two weeks ago.

Two days after the Bellevue meeting, the NHL announced its expansion process and set a July 20 deadline for submitting application fees of $10 million. The Bellevue group and groups in the Sodo District and Tukwila all requested application packets from the league and began preparing to apply.

But all three groups balked at submitting their applications by last Monday’s deadline.

Sources close to the discussions have indicated that major financial backers pulled out of the Bellevue and Tukwila projects earlier this month, while the Sodo project’s NHL partner, Los Angeles businessman Victor Coleman, changed his mind about applying late last week.

There’s been speculation some of those groups might have felt they could land a relocated team at a cheaper cost than the $500 million price for an expansion franchise. But the most likely of those candidates, the Arizona Coyotes, on Friday announced a reworked two-year lease with the city of Glendale — ending litigation between them and shelving any relocation possibility until 2017.

Also on Friday, former Seahawks president Tod Leiweke resigned as chairman of the Tampa Bay Lightning to become chief operations officer of the NFL. Leiweke had been working closely with Sperling on the development project in Tampa Bay.

There had been talk, denied by both men in interviews last February, that Leiweke would return here to head an NHL expansion franchise in Bellevue as a CEO and minority owner had Sperling’s efforts proved successful. Leiweke still has family living here and in late 2013 paid $3 million for the Mercer Island home once owned by former Seahawks coach Mike Holm­gren, which Leiweke regularly uses as a second residence.

It wasn’t known as of Friday whether the Bellevue group plans to continue seeking an arena.

The public records released to The Seattle Times show the Bellevue group seemed well aware that a hockey bid would cost their all-private venture more than $1 billion. Nevertheless, they pressed on undeterred, meeting with Bellevue officials July 1 to discuss parameters for obtaining a Memorandum of Understanding with the city on an arena.

The group was expected to get back to the city with a formal MOU request, but never did. Within a week, a source said, anticipated financing fell through and the expansion plans were abandoned.

At the June 22 meeting, the notes show, they also discussed whether King County might transfer bond money currently earmarked for the Sodo project over to Bellevue instead.

King County has currently pledged up to $80 million to the Sodo project run by Chris Hansen if Hansen can land an NBA and NHL team. But the project needs an NBA team at minimum for any money to be released, and those at the Bellevue meeting expressed doubts that will happen — citing upcoming NBA talks that could delay any league expansion by several years.