Build the Seattle Hockey Pyramid

January 23, 2018

Now that the formality of the city and the Oak View Group agreeing to an MOU is in the books, we can wait to see if the former Washington State Pavilion can truly be renovated (again) in time for a potential NHL start date of October 2020.  Typically, given the usual city process, the answer is no.  However, the city so desperately wants this all to happen that one must be inclined to think it just may all come together in time.  Please ignore the process shortcuts the city will take to ensure the timely conclusion.

If the NHL grants an expansion franchise to the city (again…look up the provisional franchise granted in 1974 to begin play in 1976), how will the team be successful off the ice?  It’s about building the hockey pyramid, which should become a main community focus of the organization.

This means helping fund new indoor ice rinks throughout the region that youth leagues to adult rec leagues can benefit.  It means funding outdoor rinks in parks that can be used for street or roller hockey.  Or even actual ice hockey for the few times a year the area gets snow.  It’s sponsoring summer street or roller hockey tourneys in prominent outdoor locations.  From all this activity the hope would be that youth hockey enrollment increases (boys and girls), youth club hockey expands and maybe even some high schools take up the sport.

Next, ideally the new franchise would provide seed funding to help start division one hockey programs at a few of the universities in the Northwest.  Many of these schools already have club programs from which the jump to D1 would begin.  Programs at these schools would provide a further step up the hockey ladder for the youth players skilled enough to play at a higher level.  And provide fans another outlet to view the game in a different way, maybe in their school colors.

Additionally, the team would support whatever junior or minor league hockey exists after the NHL arrives, perhaps as an affiliate club or by keeping organizational linked players nearby.

Sitting atop the pyramid, the new team would have a lot of work to do to keep the foundation strong.  But there’s really no other choice for long term success.  The location of the Seattle Center Coliseum alone gives pause about the long term viability of the franchise if fans from outside downtown cannot easily access the arena.  That’s a lot of potential revenue from season ticket holders, club seat buyers and suite rentals left on the table.  Maybe the Hansen/Nordstrom group should keep that land in SoDo just in case it’s needed for a new arena in a decade…

None of this is new to Tod Leiweke.  When he soon leaves his post as NFL COO to run the hockey campaign here, local fans can know they’re getting a hockey fan who has already had much success in this market with the Seahawks and Sounders.  All of Leiweke’s experience will be needed to help ensure years of good fortune on our yet to be granted franchise.



New National Sports Network On In Seattle

October 30, 2017

If you find yourself needing more Mountain West Conference volleyball or West Coast Conference coaches shows, Stadium is for you.  Stadium is the joint effort of Sinclair Broadcasting, Campus Insiders and 120 Sports.  Available nation wide via its website, broadcasting on Twitter and distributed on over the top services, Stadium can also be seen on broadcast TV on digital subchannels throughout Sinclair’s network of properties.  Locally, Stadium appears on 51.3, which is actually a subchannel of Univision.

The multi-platform approach is a unique way to go for national reach.  At least compared to that of a network distributed via cable.  Along with college sports, 120 Sports’ relationships with the various major leagues means highlights and archived programming are also part of the network.  Studio programming provided by 120 Sports includes The Rally, which some refer to as a millennial version of SportsCenter.  Campus Insiders, meanwhile, brings its array of webcasts of collegiate sporting events.

It may be modest now, but over time we’ll see if the owners have grander plans for Stadium.  Given the network began televising in September to a non cable audience, it still has a relatively low profile.  But for those cable cutters and cable nevers, it’s another option to view and consume national sports news and content through linear TV and online.

Whither KJR-AM Parent iHeartMedia?

September 30, 2017

Sportsradio 950 KJR parent iHeartMedia may avoid declaring bankruptcy, with its biggest creditor considering revised terms.  New debt issued in mid August provides favorable terms for that creditor, Franklin Resources.  And now with the completion of 3Q, investors will soon get an update on the media behemoth’s financial condition, along with news regarding yet another debt restructuring.  Needless to say, its been an eventful run.  This all would seemingly be an improvement on the dubious spring announcement about the company as a “going concern” after discussions with Franklin hadn’t made progress.

iHeartMedia, formerly known as ClearChannel before being taken private in 2008, has yet to recover from the debt load placed on the company during that buyout.  It’s not obvious where KJR ranks amongst the company’s important, or profitable stations, but it’s fair to wonder whether the parent company’s financial position has prevented 950 from bidding on, or retaining (UW football/basketball), local sports rights.  Though KJR is far from the only sportsradio station in iHeart’s stable of programming, so any future changes would likely not be felt by 950 alone.  We may be a few weeks away from knowing whether those changes are for the better or worse.


The Sounders Seek Revenue Opportunities

August 29, 2017

Not exactly a gripping headline when stating the obvious.  But this month the Sounders announced they’re seeking a new naming rights partner, perhaps most prominently for the jersey.  The current deal with Microsoft, extended multiple times since the inaugural MLS season in 2009, expires at the end of the 2018 season.  Adrian Hanauer acknowledged in media reports covering the story that the team doesn’t earn much revenue from its TV deal (currently with Q13 FOX).  One can infer the radio deal (97.3 KIRO-FM) doesn’t bring in much either.

So this upcoming naming rights negotiation represents a big opportunity for the club to grow its revenues.  Maybe better media deals will follow.  All will only further boost a team value that Forbes pegs at $295M, good for second in the league.

Notably, the Mariners are currently looking for a new stadium naming rights partner, while OVG reportedly is already seeking corporate sponsors for its proposed KeyArena remodel.  We’ll see how the final deals shake out in terms of value compared to league peers and whether the teams stay local when finding their partners.  There’s no better time than now to explore opportunities in the thriving Puget Sound region.  And for the defending MLS Cup champs, seemingly a lot of runway to grow the business.

Will Houston Ice Seattle’s NHL Hopes?

July 26, 2017

With the Houston Rockets now for sale, the possibility arises that the NHL could again look at that market.  The Rockets owner remained unwilling to consider sharing the arena on any terms that would have been acceptable to NHL partners throughout his ownership of the franchise (though minor league hockey was played there).  And during his ownership reign, the NHL continued its sun belt market focused strategy.  It’s fair to conclude that given Houston’s size, wealth and location, the city would have appeared near the top of the list with a more welcoming arena partner.

Houston’s strengths as a market still apply, which could impact Seattle’s NHL hopes.  The Toyota Center is NHL ready, a franchise there could be placed in either conference, or allow another Central time zone club to switch conferences.  That lessens the need for Seattle as an addition to the shorthanded Western Conference.  It probably also helps to have a ready made rival nearby in the Dallas Stars.  And Houston has a surprisingly robust hockey history, ranging from the WHL to various minor league teams.

This all goes to show that those who claim to want a modern arena developed within Seattle, along with their involvement in the excruciatingly slow process, best get moving.  Events far from here, and outside local politicos reach, can have just as much impact in determining whether the city gets to suit up in the NHL or NBA (again) in the future.

It Remains the CLink to You

June 17, 2017

CenturyLink extended its naming rights deal for the stadium shared by the Sounders and Seahawks for another 15 years at roughly $10M/yr, reportedly doubling the previous agreement.  The value reflects a stadium in a growing, upper medium sized market that houses teams that consistently make the playoffs in their leagues.

The CLink is one of three facilities that serve as permanent homes for NFL/MLS teams in their markets, along with Gillette (New England) and Mercedes Benz (Atlanta).  The Atlanta stadium’s opening has been delayed multiple times and now is expected to open in August.  With both of these other stadiums being in larger markets, one can expect those naming rights deals to be larger, especially the new Atlanta stadium.  But the newness of the stadium is just one of many factors considered when such agreements are signed, as the linked article notes.

This season, the Chargers will join the Galaxy at StubHub Center for a three season stay until the new NFL facility in Inglewood is completed.  Additionally, Vancouver and Toronto both have MLS/CFL stadium sharing agreements.  So the economics behind the naming rights deals for shared football stadiums will continue to be focused on the long term nature of the setups in Seattle, Atlanta and New England (Foxboro) for the foreseeable future.  And in the case of Seattle, the agreement is more valuable than expected if based on market size alone.

Your turn, Mariners.

Sinclair/Tribune Deal Impact On Seattle Sports Fans

May 8, 2017

The proposed Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Tribune Media may have an impact for local sports fans.  Sinclair owns KOMO TV, an ABC affiliate, which shows some programming from its Disney sister channel, ESPN.  Locally, this means some Pac-12 football games and, well…the NBA.

Tribune owns KCPQ, also known as Q13 Fox, being a Fox affiliate.  Because of that relationship, Q13 Fox broadcasts most of the Seahawks’ games.  Additionally, they are the team’s preseason home.  The station also holds the local rights for the Sounders and Storm.  And similar to KOMO, Q13 Fox broadcasts Pac-12 football and basketball due to Fox Sports contract with the conference.

Sinclair is also trying to make a go of it with the American Sports Network.  It’s billed as a multi-platform network, albeit one with secondary conferences and games.  Perhaps the proposed merger is a way for Sinclair to boost distribution of ASN while also acquiring more sports rights to potentially feed its way.

So what changes for fans if the merger is approved?  Probably not much, at least initially, but it bears watching.  Sinclair would own stations that are affiliates of two of the four major broadcast networks, both of which show sports relevant to local fans.  And, Sinclair would be the rights holders for the Sounders, Storm and preseason Seahawks games.  Even mergers in far off places can work their way back to the local level.