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An arena deal and now this? Bettman says NHL will consider Seattle expansion bid

The iconic sloped roof of KeyArena is seen from above on Monday. The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a memorandum of understanding with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group in a $600 million privately financed project to renovate the facility, which could become home to an NHL team in 2020.
The iconic sloped roof of KeyArena is seen from above on Monday. The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a memorandum of understanding with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group in a $600 million privately financed project to renovate the facility, which could become home to an NHL team in 2020. AP

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league’s board of governors agreed to consider an expansion application from Seattle.

Bettman said the expansion fee has been set at $650 million for Seattle, which would become the league’s 32nd team, if approved. He made the announcement Thursday after the first day of the board of governors meeting.

“We’ve agreed as a league to take and consider an expansion application, and to let them run in the next few months, a season-ticket drive,” Bettman said. “This is a process that we go through.”

Bill Foley paid a $500 million expansion fee for the Vegas Golden Knights. They began play this season.

Seattle plans to have a new arena ready by 2020 with the intent of luring NHL and NBA teams as anchor tenants.

Bettman says Seattle is the only city being considered for expansion at the moment, which means an NHL team likely won’t be playing in Quebec City’s 18,259-seat Videotron Centre in the foreseeable future.

“Obviously, there a lot of differences between Seattle and Quebec City, not the least of which is our conference alignment,” Bettman said. “Our plan is just to look at Seattle at this point.”

Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan said she spoke with Tim Leiweke, part of the Oak View Group that got approval on Monday to renovate KeyArena, and that they “couldn’t be more thrilled.” She hopes to meet with potential owner David Bonderman soon.

“I think we'll see the launch after the first of the year because it’s not the time right now to be launching that kind of campaign. But I think there is a lot of pent up appetite in Seattle for this,” Durkan said.

“I think we'll meet the benchmarks we need to meet and in the mean time we'll be negotiating the side agreements, doing the environmental work and moving forward so we can open when the NHL wants to come.”

OVG would privately finance a $600 million remodel of the aging arena. The deal includes $20 million in cash and in-kind contributions to nonprofit organizations and $40 million for traffic improvements. Durkan says the deal protects taxpayers and is good for the city. She says it does not block other possible arena projects.

KeyArena opened its doors in 1962 and was last renovated in 1995. It is currently home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and hosts dozens of concerts and other events. It had about 570,000 visitors last year. It was home to the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics from 1967-78, 1985-94 and 1995-2008 prior to their relocation to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

Their preliminary ticket drive could be similar to the one conducted by the Vegas Golden Knights before they were awarded an expansion team that began play this season.

Although Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Seattle Metropolitans, who played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-24, won the Stanley Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in a best-of-5 series.

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