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.

 

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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.