Will the NHL's Nut-Cutting Neuter Seattle Again?
Among other things:
- It opted against making the Downtown-to-Space Needle monorail more than a short-haul tourist attraction and can only look with wistful envy at how well Vancouver BC's SkyTrain serves the public in the here and now.
- It rejected a mass-transit package in 1968 that would've been 90% fed-financed, and now its overburdened freeways look like a parking lot.
- It saved Bud Selig and the City of Milwaukee the need to pay an expansion fee in 1969 and still put a major-league team on the field one year later.
Ray Bartoszek is a Connecticut 1%er who's talking about plopping an arena near the Seattle-Tacoma airport and, assumedly, building a destination site around it, sorta like the Texas Rangers are still trying to do in Arlington.
However, nothing's been announced or even hinted that even he will be posting a non-refundable $2million deposit to support the $10million expansion application fee.
As noble as Bartoszek appears to be, is it that hard to put up personal dosh when the public's funds aren't part of the equation?
Why the reluctance? Let us count the ways:
- The NHL is gonna want to know that at least 10,000 season tickets can be sold; even in the NBA Sonics' heyday, the city never exceeded 9000 of them.
- The NHL is also gonna want an expansion franchise to receive priority status in post-season arena dates, which is one reason Chris Hansen has tiptoed around a re-writing of the SoDo memorandum of agreement for an NHL-first option.
- And then there's that sticky issue of a $500million expansion fee.
If nothing changes, the obvious big winner is Québec City. Not only is their new arena ready and season-ticket holders poised to crash a website, but the ownership -- Québecor -- can pull $10million out of its front pocket and not even care that it's gone.
The loser, besides Seattle? With Las Vegas a lock for one franchise, if the Nordiques v2.0 get the nod, it'll be the Eastern Conference team that's gotta move West. Don't look for the Red Wings to agree to that arrangement again.
But with the 30 existing teams splitting $1billion in free money due ot the expansion, they'll come up with something.
And that's more than Seattle can say right now.