Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri June 21, 2013

'Skeptical' about NHL's Coyotes moving to Seattle

Do sports fans in Seattle dare to get excited about the prospect of yet another professional team coming to town?

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel is skeptical about the possibility of the Phoenix Coyotes moving to Seattle.


Can Seattle stomach another sports fight?

Last month, the NBA rejected a Seattle investment group's bid to buy and relocate the Sacramento Kings. That decision left many sports fans exhausted by all the emotional highs and lows of the process.

Now comes word this week that, if a deal in Glendale, Arizona, falls through, there's a chance that Seattle could get the Phoenix Coyotes professional hockey team.

Art says there is a concern that Seattle is getting "played" again by another pro sports organization.

"Among the skeptics of pro sports, they're already closed off and they're even more hardened now against this idea," he said. "And even the fence-sitters are exasperated having to have this thrust upon them all of a sudden after they were in some sense misled at least and some would say betrayed by the NBA."

No middleman

The NHL has owned the Phoenix Coyotes for four years. Art points out there's no Maloof family to contend with like there was in the Kings battle.

"The league doesn't want to own this team anymore," he said. "So that's why some people believe this thing is real and can happen. And it's going to have to happen very swiftly if it does."

Glendale may put subsidies on ice

The Phoenix suburb of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, has been subsidizing the team to the tune of $15 million a year for the past six years. But things have changed recently.

"They had an election there where four of the seven council seats were won by people who have anti-subsidy views," Art said. "So, now, suddenly, in order to keep this team, a vote is going to happen  in a week or 10 days that will decide whether the city continues."

If the prospective, private owners of the Coyotes who want to keep the team in Phoenix ultimately say that the deal is unsatisfactory, they will not buy the team for $170 million. In fact, they will sell it to two guys from New York who want to relocate the team in Seattle and will pay $220 million to the league.

"So that's, in a nutshell, a very complicated series of events that have to happen before Seattle should get excited," Art said.

Arena deal would have to be changed

The current deal for a proposed NBA/NHL arena in Seattle's Sodo district mandates that a basketball team must arrive first. Art says that language would have to change if the Coyotes come to town.

"The mayor (Mike McGinn) has been very careful to characterize the hockey situation as 'Plan B' so people don't get too excited," Art said. "The Memorandum of Understanding would have to be redone, which means to gather city council members and staffers - in summer and in a primary election season - to redo a complicated document to accommodate the NHL instead of the NBA."

Also keep in mind that the NHL's schedule for next season is set in July. So the clock is definitely ticking here.

Could be pricey at KeyArena

Another reason why Art is skeptical is KeyArena, where the Coyotes would play should they end up coming to Seattle.

"KeyArena has only 11,000 quality seats for an NHL team. And the smallest arena in the NHL is 15,000. And they charge from $117 a ticket to $200 a ticket for the lower-bowl seats," he said. "That means a whole lot of people are going to have to pay a whole lot of money for those precious seats. And I just don't know if that's plausible."

"A lot of things have to happen in very short order for this to come true for Seattle. So, I'm a little skeptical."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.