NHL Seattle: League, city move closer to expansion

The WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds play in suburban Kent, Washington. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
The WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds play in suburban Kent, Washington. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images) /

At its annual Board of Governors meeting, the NHL announced it will allow Seattle to submit an expansion application. 

Ever since the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL, everyone has been wondering who the 32nd team will be. On Thursday, the league moved closer to establishing a 32nd team. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league will accept a formal expansion application from a Seattle ownership group.

The news comes on the heels of the city council agreeing to a $600 million renovation to Seattle Center Coliseum. According to the plan, the arena will be gutted and excavated, with the bowl dug down lower to accommodate additional seating.

Their bid will be an expensive one,  carrying a $650 million expansion fee. Bill Foley paid a $500 million fee for the NHL’s 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights.

The process

As reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, this does not mean a team has been awarded. Like Las Vegas, potential owners will conduct a season ticket drive and submit an expansion application. The NHL Board of Governors will then review the application. However, it’s expected to go smoothly.

Las Vegas’ season ticket drive proved to be an absolute success. The team bucked concerns about casinos or snowbirds buying up tickets by selling 16,000 season tickets to locals. However, the state of Washington faces a different situation.

The Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area already hosts two Western Hockey League teams, the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds, who play in suburban Kent. However, an NHL team would charge higher prices and have to make headway in a market featuring entrenched NFL, MLB, MLS, and WNBA teams.

Not first hockey team at Seattle Center

Seattle Center Coliseum, also known as KeyArena, has hosted hockey before.

The arena first opened in 1962, and the Thunderbirds played two stints there. The team moved to Kent in 2009, as a renovation in the 1990s made the arena less amicable to hockey. The setup is similar to the one the New York Islanders deal with at Barclays Center. The renovation should rectify those issues, as well as provide more corporate-friendly seating.

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According to Nielsen, Seattle is the 14th-largest media market in America. Backed by a flush ownership group and with corporate partners like Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft nearby, it’s a strong market for the league to enter. Aside from Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest is an untapped area for the NHL. The league’s strategy is obviously to create new markets. There have been some failures such as Atlanta, but Seattle is a good bet.