So all of a sudden, Seattle is a hockey town? Seriously?
I must admit, I'm shocked. Deposits for season tickets for a potential NHL expansion team were taken for the first time Thursday at 10 a.m. online and in just 12 minutes 10,000 commitments -- at either $1,000 or $500 -- were recorded. That crashed the system, but within an hour, it's been said that 25,000 commitments were received.
It took the latest NHL expansion franchise, in Las Vegas, about six weeks to sell 10,000 season tickets. Of course, ultimately the tickets are going to cost a whole lot more than those deposits and refunds will be given to those who aren't serious buyers or who aren't satisifed with ticket locations. And of course, there won't actually be 25,000 season tickets available. The renovated Key Arena won't be that big. To an extent, this was more a test of hockey interest in Seattle than it was an actual ticket sale. And to a greater degree, it was a publicity stunt.
I'm hearing it was done to help the team acquire a list of possible ticket buyers because the expansion team is going to be granted to Seattle as soon as next week. We shall see.
All I know is what I've heard from my friends in and around the NHL -- league commissioner Gary Bettman is nuts about getting a team in Seattle, even though Portland has been a better hockey town than Seattle for only about the last 50 years. You can talk about the professional WHL and the Buckaroos vs. the Totems or the junior WHL with the Winterhawks vs. the Thunderbirds.
In fact, I think I've figured out how all those ticket deposits came in so fast.
About half of them probably came from Portland.
A private group based in Los Angeles seems to have a plan to renovate Seattle's Key Arena, with the idea of finally making it suitable for hockey and, of course, eventually land an NBA franchise for the city.
The group, Oak View Group, is headed by Tim Leiweke, who has been involved in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, as well as other sports ventures. Dynamic super-manager/promoter Irving Azoff serves on the board of Oak View.
Leiweke has virtually guaranteed that if the arena project is completed, Seattle will get "a team:"
"We're going to get you a team," OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told reporters following the winning bid. "Mark it right here. I promise you … we're going to get you at least one team."
That team quite obviously is in the NHL, which now features an odd number of teams and needs another franchise in its Western Conference. I have two things to say about this announcement:
- First, it means Portland's immediate chance of landing an expansion team in the NHL are likely zero. That league has seemed totally sold on Seattle over Portland for a while now and this pretty much locks it up. The chance of moving an existing struggling franchise to Portland still exists, however -- although I have heard nothing about such a thing in a while.
- I've never been all-in on the idea of renovating an existing arena or stadium. It's been done before at Key Arena and didn't have much of an impact. At the cost of this renovation ($600 million) it seems like a very big project. But it's a fixer-upper, just the same. I've seen cities do this in an effort to save inadequate arenas and stadiums and they usually end up not working. Better to just find a plot of land and build something new. I've seen Portland's stadium go through so many iterations to get to the point of being Providence Park and it's still a stadium with charm -- but inadequate concourses, rest rooms, concession stands and sightlines. For all the money spent on it over the years it would have been better to build something updated and more comfortable. I'd say the same for Portland's Memorial Coliseum -- the only renovation that would work there is to just level it and start anew. In Seattle, they better have a great plan because these remodels are often tied to an inadequate structural support system. And that's enough money to come very close to constructing a new arena. Politics, though, have made that almost impossible in Seattle.
I always try to keep track of our state-of-Oregon connections who move on to the top level of pro sports. And Sunday was big for three of them, who won games for their teams. Check it out:
Great job, guys.