Construction of a proposed basketball and hockey arena won't start until NBA and NHL teams are found to play in Seattle — and that's far from guaranteed.
If they build it, who will come?
That’s the biggest question left by Thursday’s announcement regarding the plan to build an arena in the Sodo District.
While the idea of a shiny new arena in Seattle might be nice, it won’t amount to much without tenants from the NBA and NHL. In fact, it wouldn’t amount to anything. Mayor Mike McGinn said construction cannot start until NBA and NHL franchises have been secured.
So which teams might that be? Could the Sacramento Kings really wind up playing basketball here as soon as next fall, as some have speculated? How about the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, who are in their third year of being owned and operated by the league?
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While fans in Seattle might be talking about all the possibilities and permutations, the NBA itself opted for the sound of crickets chirping.
An NBA league spokesman said Thursday there would be no comment from the commissioner or league officials on the arena developments in Seattle. Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett, head of the league’s seven-owner relocation committee, was not available for an interview.
As for the NHL?
“There’s probably good potential for Seattle as a hockey market,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Chicago on Thursday. “But we are not looking to relocate and we’re not looking to expand.”
A prospective owner for an NHL franchise in Seattle has not been identified. Chris Hansen, the Bay Area money manager who proposed the new arena development, has said he is looking to acquire an NBA team but doesn’t want to own the hockey team. He just wants to recruit an NHL team to play here.
Don Levin, a Chicago-area businessman who has expressed interest in bringing an NHL franchise to the Seattle area, was traveling Thursday and did not return messages.
Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, said that none of the league’s discussions with Levin involved the Phoenix Coyotes, a franchise the league hopes to sell to owners who will keep the team in Arizona.
“We have had conversations with Don Levin over the period of the last several years at the potential interest of owning an NHL franchise,” Daly said. “None of those discussions occurred recently — probably not within the last calendar year, and none have involved the Phoenix Coyotes.”
But Carl Hirsh, an arena consultant contracted by the city of Seattle, said other options existed. He told The Seattle Times’ editorial board Thursday afternoon that there were multiple NHL teams that could be available.
The NBA scenario is also far from certain.
The city of Sacramento has until March 1 to submit to the NBA an arena proposal aimed at keeping the Kings in town. If the team doesn’t accept that financing package, the NBA could allow it to move.
However, even if the team were to seek relocation, the Maloof family, which owns the team, has not publicly stated any intention to sell the franchise.
The NBA generally has a deadline of March 1 for teams to apply to move to a new city. However, the league granted an extension for that deadline last year when the Kings were considering a move to Anaheim. And it also extended the deadline in 2001 when the Grizzlies relocated from Vancouver, B.C., to Memphis.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.