With Stadium Project Approval Secured, Seattle Close to Landing an NHL Franchise


The Seattle city council unanimously approved a $700 million renovation to KeyArena, paving the way for an NHL expansion franchise to call the Emerald City home. With approval for the arena’s redevelopment secured, the David Bonderman/Jerry Bruckheimer Group will present their bid for the league’s 32nd franchise, to its executive committee, next week (10.2.18); approval is expected, though a formal vote won’t occur before December. The Bonderman/Bruckheimer group, which would like to begin construction within 60 days, is targeting ’20-’21 as the club’s inaugural season; though ’21-’22 may be more realistic, with a player lockout pending in ‘20.

Howie Long-Short: KeyArena was the home of the Seattle SuperSonics. It was Howard Schultz’s inability to secure $220 million in tax-payer funded upgrades for the building, that led to the team’s sale (to Clay Bennett) and ultimately its relocation to Oklahoma City.

The Seattle Center arena renovation project will be privately financed and developed by the Oak View Group, which isn’t content with placing an NHL franchise in the building; they plan to bring the NBA back to Seattle too (Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw said she expects the city to have an NBA franchise by 2020). The reigning WNBA champions (Storm), who also call KeyArena home, will play at the University of Washington while the building is being revamped.

Led by Tim Lieweke, Oak View Group (an entertainment & sports facilities company) is backed by Azoff MSG Entertainment; a JV between Irving Azoff’s management firm and MSG. Earlier this year, the company received a $100 million cash infusion from the P.E. firm Silver Lake for an undisclosed stake in the company; capital Oak View Group is using to fund its “massive growth spurt”.

There are 2 other ways to play the Seattle Center arena project, Skanska (a Swedish multinational construction/development co.) and AECOM Hunt (an American multinational engineering/design/construction firm) have been hired to oversee the project. Skanska trades on the Copenhagen Stock exchange under the symbol (CPH: SKA B) or OTC under the symbol SKSBF. AECOM Hunt (a subsidiary of AECOM, component of S&P 400) trades on the NYSE under the symbol ACM.

Fan Marino: It’s been more than 10 years since the Sonics played their last home game at KeyArena and while Seattle sports fans remain starved for an NBA franchise, they’re more than prepared to support hockey in the Pacific NW; the Bonderman/Bruckheimer Group received more than 33,000 deposits (at $500 or $1,000) for season ticket packages the day they went on sale.

While on the topic of Seattle sporting venues, it’s been announced that the town’s baseball team will remain in Safeco Field for another couple of decades (their initial 20-year lease was set to expire at the end of this season). Back in May, the Mariners reached a deal with the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District on a new 25-year lease, with two 3-year options, that could keep the club in stadium through the 2049 season. The M’s will invest +/- $650 million into the ballpark and public facilities district over the course of the lease agreement (see: rent, stadium improvements, maintenance/operations, taxes, revenue sharing and a neighborhood improvement fund).

Fun Fact: Did you know that Seattle is currently the largest U.S. market without a winter pro sports franchise?

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