Just days after officially opening its expansion sweepstakes, the NHL has received five requests for expansion bid applications. Las Vegas, Quebec City and the Greater Toronto Area are in the mix as expected, but what might surprise some observers is its believed there are two competing bids from Seattle.
A source indicated that Victor Coleman, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer and native of Vancouver, has definitely requested a bid package and intends to apply by the July 20 deadline. The other Seattle bid is believed to be coming from Connecticut investment banker Ray Bartoszek. And if that weren’t enough, there are apparently two groups looking at the possibility of building an arena in the affluent suburb of Bellevue, which is across Lake Washington from Seattle.
And since it will cost expansion applicants a minimum of $2 million just to apply for expansion, there could be a fair chunk of change coming to the NHL from that city. It has been confirmed by multiple sources that the NHL has set an application fee of $10 million, $2 million of which is non-refundable.
The NHL wants to be in Seattle, it seems. And, judging by the interest the parties have displayed to this point, Seattle definitely wants to be part of the NHL. The NHL, apparently, wants to be in a downtown arena, which should give the edge to Coleman. But a downtown arena might never become a reality because in order to get public funding, the arena needs a basketball tenant that might never be forthcoming.
And that’s where Bartoszek, who is trying to build an arena in nearby Tukwila, comes in. Tukwila is about 11 miles from downtown Seattle, but might be the only viable option. And while neither arena is anywhere close to becoming a reality at the moment, the Tukwila proposal is further along.
The problem for Coleman is that there is a memorandum of understanding with the city that will provide $200 million in public money for a combined NHL and National Basketball Association facility and $125 million for an NBA facility. The city has already made it clear that it will not fund an NHL-only facility to the tune of $125 million, so much of the money for a hockey-only facility would have to come from private funds. With an expected expansion fee of $500 million, plus the cost of building a new arena, that’s a steep sum for even those with incredibly deep pockets.
This might come down to the fate of the Milwaukee Bucks, who have threatened to move if they don’t get funding for a downtown arena. With a deadline looming, the team is reportedly looking for $250 million in public funding for a new $500 million arena. Hedge fund manager Christopher Hansen, who in the past has been the NBA half of a partnership with Coleman, was part of a ham-handed attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle two years ago. If the Bucks were to move, Seattle would be considered a prime landing spot, but there seems to be mixed signals on whether the NBA would allow the Bucks to move and there don’t appear to be any plans on the horizon for expansion.
In short, Coleman has no interest in an NBA franchise and wants only to be involved in the NHL, while Hansen, who seems to hold the cards in this scenario, is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Coleman has made no secret of his desire to only have an arena in downtown Seattle and is not interested in pursuing an NBA team. So without Hansen, he would either have to find another partner or raise the money to build a rink and pay the expansion fee on his own.
“I’m looking at an alternative partner,” Coleman told KING5 News in Seattle in April. “The reality is basketball is not coming soon. I’d be ready to listen and would be willing to reconsider the MOU if there is an NHL-first proposal that pencils out for the city.”
In that same interview, Coleman also said an arena in the suburbs is not a good alternative. “They should look at Glendale and elsewhere,” he said. “One hundred percent the league wants to be in downtown Seattle. Chris Hansen still controls all this (downtown) property and he’s got to make a determination.”
Clearly, Seattle has some work to do if it wants its first taste of big-league hockey since the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association folded more than 80 years ago. If it’s unsuccessful in doing so, it certainly won’t be for a lack of interest.