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NHL to consider Seattle for next expansion franchise

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has confirmed the North American ice hockey league’s board of governors has agreed to consider an application from the city of Seattle for an expansion franchise.

The Seattle City Council earlier this week approved a Memorandum of Understanding with investment firm Oak View Group (OVG) to renovate the city’s KeyArena in a bid to attract an NHL team or an NBA basketball franchise by 2020.

The Council said the MoU includes plans to almost double the square-footage of the KeyArena and transform it into a “world-class multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena”.

Bettman (pictured) has now said that a bid to house an NHL team at the arena will be considered, with Seattle having been set a $650m (€553m) expansion fee, according to the Associated Press news agency. It would take the total number of NHL franchises to 32.

“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, according to the AP. “This is a process that we go through.”

Bettman added that no other cities are currently being considered for an expansion franchise. This would rule out Quebec City, which has been without an NHL team since 1995, when the Nordiques relocated to Denver and rebranded as the Colorado Avalanche.

“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.”

The Las Vegas Golden Knights is the NHL’s newest franchise, having entered the competition at the start of the 2017-18 season. Golden Knights owner Bill Foley paid an expansion fee of $500m to form a franchise in Las Vegas.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of OVG, said: “We appreciate the NHL allowing us to file an application for expansion for Seattle and the new Seattle Center Arena. We intend to file promptly. We look forward to launching a season ticket deposit campaign and demonstrating Seattle’s desire, interest, and intent on joining the National Hockey League. We look forward to providing details on this process in the near future and having the opportunity to demonstrate why Seattle would make a great NHL market.”

Mayor of Seattle Jenny Durkan said the city’s franchise campaign would begin next year.

Seattle City Council’s MoU with OVG commits the firm to a 39-year lease with two, eight-year renewal options for a total of up to 55 years. OVG also agreed to contribute $600m to the project and cover all cost overruns associated with the development. 

KeyArena currently serves as the home of WNBA women’s basketball team the Seattle Storm and Seattle University’s Redhawks men’s basketball team. The venue was previously home to NBA team the Seattle Supersonics, which relocated to Oklahoma City ahead of the 2008-09 season.

It is hoped that renovation work on the arena will begin towards the end of 2018, with a provisional reopening date having been set for October 2020.