Los Angeles businessman Victor Coleman, looking to buy an expansion team to play in a Sodo District arena built by entrepreneur Chris Hansen, has told those working on the deal he won’t file his $10 million application as previously planned.
At least two of three groups hoping to bring an NHL team to the Seattle area have decided not to bid for expansion franchises by Monday’s application deadline set by the league.
Los Angeles businessman Victor Coleman, looking to buy an expansion team to play in a Sodo District arena built by entrepreneur Chris Hansen, has told those working on the deal he won’t file his $10 million application as previously planned. A source with knowledge of the talks between Coleman and Hansen said Friday they’ve yet to reach an “NHL first” financing deal, and Coleman told the league they might apply later if one can get done.
Also, The Times has learned via a public-records request and interviews that talks on a Bellevue arena deal and bringing an expansion team there fell apart late last week. Meetings in Bellevue between top city planning officials, a company controlling the potential arena site and a longtime NHL “power broker” had centered around a possible Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) being reached ahead of the league’s application deadline.
But the company pushing for an arena deal, IntraVest Development of Arizona, and Colorado “power broker” Jac Sperling, representing a potential team ownership group, abandoned their plans and left town late last week after anticipated financing for the venue failed to materialize.
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Whether the NHL is open to extending its deadline beyond Monday remains a key question, with groups in Las Vegas, Quebec City and possibly Toronto expected to apply for expansion on time. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who did not respond to requests for comment Friday, has told Hansen his project needs more private money if he brings a hockey team here first and not an NBA franchise.
An MOU between Hansen, the city and King County provides up to $200 million in bond funding for an arena with an NBA team but lacks an NHL mechanism. Hansen and Coleman have tried to work out a financial agreement that would be profitable given the NHL’s expected $500 million expansion team pricetag on top of the $500 million arena cost.
NHL officials could not be reached on whether a missed deadline would harm expansion hopes.
The inability to secure enough financing for an arena and team together in time for the league’s deadline is what killed the Bellevue project.
Bellevue spokesperson Sonja Hanson confirmed Friday the city had not received an official proposal for an arena and was unaware of plans by any would-be owners to apply for expansion there by Monday.
But it wasn’t from a lack of trying, despite limited media coverage of the Bellevue effort.
Documents released to The Times show Bellevue’s city manager, top planning officials and legal counsel met multiple times in recent weeks with IntraVest, which controls the main land parcel envisioned for the arena. They discussed financing options, expectations of the city and the possibility of getting a quick MOU for an arena in the Wilburton district just east of Interstate 405.
Bellevue spokesperson Hanson also confirmed the source’s contention that “power broker” Sperling flew here for the most recent of those meetings July 1. Sperling is known as “The Deal Whisperer” in NHL circles for his decades stealthily brokering stadium and franchise deals — including bringing hockey expansion to Anaheim and Minnesota — beyond prying media eyes.
He was believed to represent a third-party group interested in securing an NHL expansion team to play in Bellevue had IntraVest completed an arena deal.
Hanson said Bellevue officials were never told the names of the people for whom Sperling was working. The source said Sperling attended a prior meeting with Bellevue officials in late June and met with Mayor Claudia Balducci and Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace.
Talks involving IntraVest, Sperling and Bellevue intensified after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced a formal league expansion process June 24, which includes Monday’s date for filing of application fees and an Aug. 10 deadline for forwarding financial and arena details.
On July 1, a week after the NHL expansion announcement, IntraVest representative Mason Cave and Sperling flew here for a meeting with Bellevue officials to further explore an MOU or some other arena commitment from the city that could beat the league’s deadline. Bellevue spokesman Hanson said mayor Balducci had met with Cave on other business matters but had left city manager Brad Miyake in charge of handling arena business on city council’s behalf.
Hanson could not say whether Balducci or Wallace had met directly with Sperling. Bellevue officials did not return phone calls, and Hanson said she was authorized to speak on the city’s behalf.
Sperling also did not respond to interview requests, nor did IntraVest representative Cave or the company’s managing partner Thomas Roskos.
Documents show Cave met with Bellevue planning officials June 5 and June 22, with Sperling said by the source to have attended the latter meeting. Before the June 22 meeting, Cave sent an e-mail to Bellevue planning and development director Chris Salamone asking whether the city could bring consultants “that might be able to help in discussion of different financing options.”
After that June 22 meeting, Sperling flew from Seattle to Las Vegas to for an NHL board of governors meeting June 24. Sperling is an acting governor for the Minnesota Wild and was present when Bettman and fellow governors finalized the current expansion process and announced it to the media that day.
Right after the NHL announcement, IntraVest representative Cave contacted Bellevue planning director Salamone to set up the July 1 meeting. Salamone then sent an e-mail shortly afterward to Bellevue assistant city attorney Monica Buck advising her the meeting would be to discuss an arena in light of the new NHL deadline.
In a separate e-mail that day to Bellevue city manager Miyake, Salamone advised him on what he should say to city council about the accelerated arena talks. “I think the message to Council, as you thought, should be: ‘To date, we have not received a proposal for consideration. Should we receive a valid proposal, we would welcome those discussions.’ ’’
Salamone added that Cave and his fellow IntraVest representatives “do not intend to talk to the press, if they can avoid it.’’
Cave and other IntraVest officials and Sperling flew back for the July 1 meeting in Bellevue.
Handwritten notes taken during the meeting by Bellevue deputy city manager Mary Kate Berens were obtained by The Times as part of the public-records request. There are references within the notes to an MOU, a feasibility study, the project’s long-term vision and the need for a “really committed” and “motivated” owner.
The notes also refer to discussions about amalgamating parcels of land needed for the arena. The project’s timeline in relation to the NHL’s expansion application process was also discussed, as was the net worth of any ownership group and whether it was local.
Sperling and IntraVest representatives remained in the Seattle area after that July 1 meeting, hoping to get financing squared away and return to Bellevue officials with that MOU proposal. But by the end of last week, their expected arena funding had fallen through.
And now, unless the NHL extends Monday’s application deadline for everyone, the region’s hockey hopes might rest with Tukwila.