Seattle arena approved, and OH MY GOD THE OILERS ARE IN TOWN!!!

The Seattle city council, as expected, voted last night to approve Chris Hansen’s $490 million arena plan (6-2, with Richard Conlin and Nick Licata voting no, and Tom Rasmussen not present) — and that still managed not to be the big news of the day, thanks to:

Representatives of the Edmonton Oilers, including owner Daryl Katz, were reportedly in Seattle on Monday, taking a tour of Key Arena. The news was originally reported by Ian Furness of KJR AM radio in Seattle.

Oilers management confirmed the visit on its website, writing in part:

The Katz Group has been listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets for some time. After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers’ lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise.

We are extremely grateful to Oilers’ fans for their patience and loyalty as we work through this process towards what we sincerely hope will be a long and successful future for the Oilers in Edmonton. We have no further comment on the status of our discussions with other markets at this time.

As CBS Sports blogger Brian Stubits observes, this is a pretty transparent ploy by Katz to kick the tires on Seattle in order to put pressure on Edmonton to meet his increasingly exorbitant arena demands. (Stubits even cites Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux’s successful jaunt to Kansas City to squeeze an arena out of his hometown, a trip that Lemieux later bragged was never a serious move threat.) “The chances that the Oilers and Katz are just using Seattle as bait are probably very high,” he concludes, “but you never quite know.”

Katz managed to land the lead news item in today’s Edmonton Journal, so that was an effective use of a few plane tickets. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has set an October 17 “drop-dead date” for Katz to put his cards on the table publicly about what he wants from the city as part of an arena deal, but it’s unclear what will happen if the Oilers owner refuses. My guess would be this.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, the county council still has to approve Hansen’s plan, at which point there will then need to be a several-month-long environmental impact review. None of that seems likely to trip up the project at this point, though, meaning the biggest hurdle remains Hansen finding an NBA team to play in his arena. No news or speculation out of Sacramento yet, but wait for it — the Maloofs have to know how this game is played, too.

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10 comments on “Seattle arena approved, and OH MY GOD THE OILERS ARE IN TOWN!!!

  1. Gotta love how much Seattle whined when they lost their team, and now they’re not only openly trying to steal someone – anyone – else’s, but they’re happily willing to help Katz extort more out of a city that’s already committed $125 million, when there’s zero chance they’ll get the Oilers. Then again, if they did move, Oilersgate will make an awesome movie.

  2. I know you have the Oilers sorta on the way to Quebec City [if they move]. I live relatively close to Quebec City, in Ottawa, and will tell you that if QCity gets a team they will fail yet again.

    Location, location, location.

    The town is great to visit for a day or seven but it is going to be just as difficult to get star players there in 2014 as it was back in the 1990s. A big thing is convincing your wife you want to live in a city that is 99 per cent french. You gotta send your kids to french school, all the signs are in french, all the people are in french. That is pretty cool for a weekend; not so cool when you are living there. Toss in the fact that QC would be the coldest city in the league and has the highest taxes in North America, highest gas prices in NA and most expensive groceries, well you see what I mean, eh?

    Dan Shields, Ottawa.

  3. There’s really no possible way Hansen would have let it come this far if he didn’t already have an excellent lead on a team or two, along with an excellent idea of how much it’s going to cost. As I’ve said, one of our local fan blogs has said it’ll take $700M to get the Sacramento Kings to Seattle. If it really was that much, Hansen would not have let it come this far.

    It may not be the Kings. That’s a distinct possibility. But even if it was, I feel very confident that the number Stern has whispered to Hansen is substantially less than that amount.

  4. Moving the Oilers would be Gary Bettman’s biggest black eye on the NHL yet. It’s one thing to move teams that are losing money and struggling. It’s another thing to move a team with the 4th highest ticket prices in the league and regularly sells out despite the team being out of the playoff race by christmas.

  5. @ John

    It would be even worse. For Bettman to ask the league to bleed millions of dollars into a team in the desert while asking the city to cut services and maintenance so they can also bleed for the team only so he can say “Okay!” to the Oilers moving to Seattle???? (For the record, I think Seattle could be an excellent market for someone).

    And I completely agree with Dan on QC, regardless of how they get their team one day. The only way QC will have any success is if they draft heavily on Europeans who might love the kitschy, cultural appeal of Quebec City and manage their assets/players extremely well.

    I can’t imagine too many North American players really embracing the city, especially super star players.

    I’ll end with a question: do arena deals that come to fruition via blackmail and turmoil and threats turn out worse than those where the politicians and team officials come to some mutual understanding?

    It sure seems that the shadier these deals are to start with the uglier they turn out.

  6. Quebec City, like Winnipeg, will only be attractive to a US team that is drowning in red ink.

    I’m not saying they aren’t supportable markets (at very least, better than a half dozen places where the NHL presently is and no fans seems to notice or care), but they aren’t going to be another Edmonton/Calgary, let alone another Toronto, Detroit, Manhattan, Philadelphia or Montreal.

    The only question is, will the NHL accept a return to smaller and less ‘attractive’ marketing locations like QC/Wpg rather than continuing to tax fans in the 12 good markets they have to pay for three or four true basket cases and a half dozen more marginal franchises?

    In the case of Wpg, we already have an answer…

  7. BTW, I think the blogger is being laughably generous when he says “you never know” about an Oilers move to Seattle.

    Katz’ pr blunders aside, the Oilers would see an increase of about $10-12m in their operating expenses in Seattle, would have to pay Hansen some sort of rent (even if it is a cut of earned revenues), and would almost certainly not get much (or any) suite/ancillary revenues. Add to that, Seattle fans are unlikely to be willing to pay an average ticket price of $100 (the Oilers, despite their claims of an avg $75 ticket price, generate about $1.6m per game in gate revenues… the $75 is the average of all three tiers of ticket prices but of course there are far more $100 & $175 tickets than there are $55 tickets for sale. Last I checked, there are more $300 seats than there are $55 nosebleeds…).

    In other words, their gate receipts would be approximately halved in Seattle, assuming fans there would accept a $45 avg price.

    Overall, these two factors represent a $40-50m hit on a business that probably grosses somewhere in the $115-130m range annually.

    I don’t think you “never know” about that. I think you absolutely know about that. And these numbers are based on the club’s earnings at Northlands, not the proposed new boondoggle/financial sinkhole/rink.

  8. John,
    once upon a time Seattle’s documents had model inputs and NHL general ticket prices of $55/80/40 for regular/playoff/exhibition games.
    Suites were $100/400/0
    Club seats were $125/200/50
    no-shows were estimated at 20%.

    They used the same price points for the NBA estimates, except with only 15% no-shows.

  9. Thanks ChefJoe, I wasn’t aware of those projections… not sure they are completely believable, but no model ever is.

    Although I didn’t specify ‘methodology’, I assumed that Seattle fans would attend in roughly the same number that Oiler fans do if the price was right. So I assumed a nearly full building, but that such attendance would require significantly lower price point ($45 on avg). See? My models are no more scientific than Hansens!

    I’m still not sure there are enough “spare” fan dollars in Seattle to support both the NBA and NHL. Of the two, I know which one will be the more viable business by far. I’m thinking that’s why Hansen (sensibly) wants no part of the hockey team other than it’s rent payments…

  10. Andrew:

    An interesting question. To answer that I think we’d have to know what kinds of threats or blackmail go on behind closed doors of even the most “cordial” of arena deals. I suspect every team owner uses shady figures to do their heavy lifting for them. Katz certainly has… and, comically, he seems to want to play Jimmy Durante/Edward G. Robinson himself from time to time.

    As stated elsewhere. I like the Hansen deal. It includes public money up front, and thus is a subsidy to business – no question. But, Seattle not only can but almost certainly will get it’s money back over the long run.

    As much as I find Katz’ sleaziness distasteful, if he’d proposed the same deal as Hansen, I’d have no issue with it. Originally, as you may recall, he did propose something similar (only he left out the part where he would guarantee the CRL revenues if they fell short). That has changed. So have the fans feelings about this owner, from what I can tell.

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