If the NHL decides on adding an expansion team anytime soon, Seattle is actively trying to land that team. The Pacific Northwestern city improved its chances to get a hockey team after the Seattle City Council approved a memorandum of understanding for the privately financed, $660 million redevelopment of the KeyArena with a 7-1 vote.
The KeyArena first opened in 1962 as the home of the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA. Since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder, the Seattle Storm of the WNBA are the building’s only occupants.
The Oak View Group approached the city council months ago with their plan to redevelop the arena. They ambitiously plan to have the building operational by October 2020 as long as they receive environmental approvals by fall 2018.
Oak View Group is run by Tim Leiweke. Before becoming CEO of Oak View Group, Leiweke was the CEO of AEG, a titan in the arena operations industry, and the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment.
Due to his connections with the NHL via his Maple Leaf days and his NBA connections with the Staples Center and AEG, Leiweke seems like the perfect guy to reach both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Bettman recently stated that the NHL is “not in an expansion process,” but Seattle could be the perfect place for a new team.
David Bonderman, a billionaire investor and part of the Oak View investment, has openly expressed his interest in owning an NHL franchise.
In addition, Seattle’s proximity to Vancouver could quickly establish a regional rivalry with the Canucks. Lastly, by adding a team in the Western part of the country, the league would have a balanced 16 teams in the Eastern and Western conferences.
Investors have looked to Seattle as a potential spot for an NHL or NBA team before, but roadblocks with a potential new arena have thwarted the efforts.