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.


The Arena Plans Are In

April 30, 2017

Both AEG and OVG submitted their Key Arena proposals earlier in the month.  With each willing to build before a tenant is guaranteed, they take substantial risk.  And because of the returns their projects must generate for their proposals to operate profitability, that theoretically leads to less revenue and profit available for whomever may partner with them to own the team(s) in the building.

In the NFL, the recent proposal to keep the Raiders in Oakland, along with AEG’s Farmers Field project in Los Angeles a handful of years back, were frowned upon by the league because they didn’t want another party (the proposed stadium developers) standing between the ownership groups and the building revenues.  I haven’t heard either the NHL nor NBA voice such concerns outright for arenas, or these Seattle proposals, in their leagues.

But it stands to reason that future NHL or NBA ownership groups in a remodeled arena will not benefit from the full profitable potential of the building because AEG or OVG will have rights to certain revenue streams.  This may not matter to owners who just want to own a franchise.  And it might appeal to some owners who may not have the wherewithal to finance both an arena and team themselves.  Because of this, it’s quite possible that an ownership group operating out of a remodeled arena may not have as great a revenue potential as the Puget Sound market might suggest.  Whether that hampers the competitiveness of the team(s) may be determined by the willingness of the owners to reach into their own pockets on occasion.


First & Goal Hospitality Launched

March 11, 2017

First & Goal Inc. announced the creation of First & Goal Hospitality (FGH), which took over the management and operations of all concessions at CenturyLink Field and related venues as of March 1st.  FGH takes over from Delaware North, a big, long time player in the hospitality business.

It makes sense for Paul Allen’s F&G to do this as a way to increase incremental revenue at a facility the group already operates.  FGH is also believed to be the first locally team owned organization to break into the hospitality sector.  It’s a competitive sector nationally, from Delware North to Yankees and Cowboys’ owned Legends Hospitality to Centerplate (Safeco Field, Tacoma Dome), to Levy Restaurants (KeyArena, Moda Center), to the big heavyweight, Aramark (UW facilities), with over $14B a year in revenue and a market cap of $9B, dwarfing any sports franchise multiple times over.  And these groups have long branched out from concessions, ranging from marketing and sponsorships to ticketing and consulting.

The local venues noted above serviced by the national players make obvious targets should FGH look to expand.  None more so than Allen owned Moda Center in Portland.  And just as the more established hospitality businesses broadened their product offerings, it wouldn’t be surprising to see FGH eventually go that route as well.  So Seahawks and Sounders fans can look forward to new concession offerings this year, knowing that the genesis for those options are indeed, created close to home.

 


Why The Arena Decision May Slide To 2018

February 27, 2017

The KeyArena RFP calls for proposals by mid April, with a city decision by the end of June.  Concurrently, the MOU with Chris Hansen’s SoDo project expires at the end of November.  Though with Hansen offering to essentially scrap the MOU by privately funding the arena, that date isn’t as significant.  However, the city says the new proposal triggers a new review, estimated to be completed in late summer or early fall.  This despite the only major change being the financing.

With a mayoral election this November, along with two city council seats, one held by retiring pro SoDo Burgess and the other by anti SoDo Gonzalez, it’s quite possible that any second look at the SoDo proposal gets pushed to next year.  That could even be the fate of the winning RFP bid, favored to be current KeyArena operator AEG.  Because while a decision by early summer may be preferred, action on that bid may be delayed as the city “process” grinds on, taking every and all possible KeyArena constituents into account.  That’s why some have estimated the winning bid may not see completion of the project until 5-7 years out.  Entertainment and sports facilities understandably don’t rank high on elected officials’ agendas, though there is something to be said for acting within a reasonable time frame on private offers that other cities would elevate immediately.

And while SoDo naysayers such as the Seattle Times believe this whole process is rushed, with no prospective NBA or NHL teams on the horizon, those with an understanding of the situation know that such claims are ridiculous.  Right now, NHL clubs in Brooklyn, Raleigh and Phoenix are actively looking for arena or ownership solutions in their home markets, for now.  Just over the past few years, NBA or NHL teams experienced sudden ownership turmoil that led to the sale of teams in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Atlanta (to Winnipeg).  Stuff happens.  It’s imperative for a region that wishes to host teams to be prepared for such situations, to say nothing of the cleaner expansion possibilities.

But Seattle, under current elected officials, is not such a city.  That’s why the process has dragged along.  And it’s why the likely winning bid to renovate KeyArena will be focused around turning the old, temporary, 1962World’s Fair building into a midsized concert venue.  If the NBA or NHL and prospective owners don’t like that, well, that’s not the city’s problem.

So we wait, and wait and wait.  After having over 10 years to consider KeyArena’s future, the city is forced to react only when a legitimate proposal emerges in SoDo.  Given the city’s intent on slowing or stopping the SoDo plans, barring a miracle, sports fans are left hoping a serious arena proposal emerges outside the city limits.  That would be a miracle in itself, likely on par with city politicos giving Hansen’s plan the green light any time soon.


Times Red Cards the Sounders Beat

January 22, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, The Seattle Times Sounders beat reporter Matt Pentz announced that his position had been eliminated as part of wider cuts at the Times.  This followed on the heels of a similar situation last summer for Don Ruiz at the Tacoma News Tribune.  So just like the that, the two major daily papers in the region eliminated the position of Sounders beat reporter within a handful of months.

It’s not a great look for the papers, who are struggling to survive.  Nor for the Sounders or MLS, who appear to be not important enough to have beat reporters covering their defending champion.  As Seth Vertelney of GOAL.com notes, it’s part of a wider trend in the league:

There is an air of legitimacy that daily newspaper coverage still provides to an MLS team. When MLS news is pushed off the pages of major metropolitan periodicals and onto websites with more niche followings, it sends a message to those casual fans: MLS isn’t big-time quite yet.

That’s the message the Seattle Times is sending, whether it’s intended or not. In Seattle, the Sounders are big-time though, so a larger swath of the readership suffers there when Pentz and Ruiz leave the beat.

Just as he relates, the loss of newspaper reporters is in some cases being picked up by coverage from blogs, local websites and team sites.  And this is happening in other sports as well.  It’s a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going to reverse itself anytime soon.

It’ll create some new opportunities, though undoubtedly the casual fan who depends on the local daily will lose out.  Certainly this will be the case in Seattle, where local sports talk radio, another avenue of casual fans, mostly neglects the club.  And a less informed fan, or potential fan, is a loss for the team and league as well.