The NHL’s potential expansion into Seattle continues to slowly creep forward and, by February, could reach the stage of gauging the city’s interest in housing another professional franchise.
After seeing its $600-million arena plans approved by the Seattle City Council in early December, soon followed by notification from the NHL that the league will consider expanding into the Emerald City, the Oak View Group is now moving into the next phase of its expansion bid.
The first item on the agenda: putting together the operational side of the organization.
“Everything is starting to take shape,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said on Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines segment Saturday. “[Oak View Group CEO] Tim Leiweke says he’s closing in on hiring an executive team. This will be people to get the business operations up and going.”
Likely leading the list of tasks on the schedule for that soon-to-be-assembled business team is putting together a season-ticket drive to see how interested the Seattle public is in having an NHL franchise in their city.
Those answers could come in just a few months.
“[Leiweke’s] got an ad firm, a campaign, a website, and after he gets NHL approval, they will soon roll out plans for their ticket launch,” Johnston said. “They hope to have that live by February.”
While the process is moving forward there’s much to be decided before Seattle’s bid can be considered a sure thing. One aspect that can’t be overlooked is the hefty price tag attached — $650 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, considerably higher than the $500 million paid to launch the Golden Knights in Vegas.
The ownership group is targeting the 2020-21 season as Seattle’s inaugural campaign, according to Friedman.
An early-2018 ticket drive should make clear to the league and the rest of the hockey community just how viable Seattle is as an NHL city. It took Vegas only two days to make their case, as the city checked off half of their 10,000-ticket goal in the first day and a half of their own campaign. In Winnipeg, only seven minutes were needed to sell out all 13,000 available tickets, leaving no questions regarding the Canadian city’s ability to reclaim the Jets.
Should all go according to the Oak View Group’s plan, it will only be a matter of months before Seattle can prove its own interest.