With a 7-2 vote earlier this week, the Seattle City Council approved an agreement to build a $490 million multipurpose arena in the Emerald City. Although the process is still relatively young, the City Council’s approval is a major step towards breaking ground on the proposed facility. The arena will be both privately and publicly financed, as the city of Seattle and King County have pledged $200 million towards the project.
The primary motive behind building a new arena in Seattle is clearly bringing back the city’s beloved NBA franchise, the Supersonics. The Sonics abruptly relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008, generating a massive public movement for the development of a new arena for the purpose of luring an NBA franchise back to Seattle.
Although reviving professional basketball in Seattle was the driving factor behind the arena’s development, NHL expansion wasn’t far behind. Seattle, along with Quebec City, Houston, and Kansas City, has been rumored to be popular destination for NHL expansion in the near future. In fact, the development of the new, NHL-ready arena attracted Edmonton Oiler’s owner, Daryl Katz, and team president, Patrick LaForge, to Seattle for a tour of the proposed site this summer. The visit, in addition to a reported meeting between the arena’s investors and Wayne Gretzky, have sparked rumors of a possible Edmonton relocation.
In my opinion, Seattle would absolutely support an NHL franchise. Its undoubtedly one of the best sports towns in the nation, as the Seahawks faithful, dubbed the “12th Man,” are notoriously known for being the loudest crowd in the NFL. Seattle’s newest professional sports franchise, the Sounders of the MLS, has consistently drawn crowds over 55,000, setting MLS attendance records in each year of their existence. An NHL franchise in Seattle would also have a natural rival in their neighbors to the north, the Vancouver Canucks. The two cities are separated by less than 120 miles, a proximity that would undoubtedly produce an intense hockey rivalry in the Pacific Northwest.
Although we are a long way away from professional hockey in Seattle, hockey fans can now plausibly entertain expansion to Washington state with the approval of a new arena.