Seattle closer to NHL team as league will accept expansion application

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday the league's board of governors has agreed to consider an expansion application from Seattle.

Bettman says fee for team will be $650 million US

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, shakes hands with Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke after they signed an agreement to renovate KeyArena. On Thursday, the NHL agreed to accept an expansion application from the city. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

The NHL is opening its doors to Seattle.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday the league's board of governors have agreed to consider an expansion application from billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer to bring a franchise to the city.

"We don't just say, 'It would be a good idea to expand, let's do that,"' Bettman told reporters assembled at the posh Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. "We do our homework, we evaluate it, we examine all of the aspects.

"Expansion is a very, very important business decision, and you want to get it right."

Bettman said the fee has been set at $650 million US for Seattle — which would be the NHL's 32nd team — up from the $500 million Las Vegas paid to join the league in 2016.

"We're a little familiar with the city, but the level of due diligence that we will do is something the expansion process contemplates," he said. "From everything I know viscerally, I think it will be a good market ... I think the rivalry with Vancouver as a potential would be nice.

"It's an intriguing possibility, but we've got homework to do."

Quebec City left behind

Seattle plans to have the aging KeyArena renovated by 2020 with the goal of luring an NHL or NBA team.

"Evaluating the market, the arena, the ownership, the impact on the league is something that we'll go through," said Bettman. "The board will ultimately make a decision."

Bettman added Seattle is the only market being considered for expansion at the moment, which means an NHL team won't be playing in Quebec City's Videotron Centre in the foreseeable future.

The league deferred its decision on Quebec City's expansion bid when awarding a franchise to Las Vegas. The Nordiques left town for Colorado in 1995.

"I don't think today's events have any impact on Quebec City," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "If I wanted to be positive, I'd say one of the things we kept harping on is we need another team in the [Western Conference] before we consider expanding in the East.

"If Seattle submits an expansion application and is approved by the board, then you have your other team in the West and you've solved your balance issue."

Renovated arena

Las Vegas was permitted to start a ticket drive in December 2014 before allowing prospective owner Bill Foley to apply for an expansion franchise six months later, meaning that the process has been sped up for the Seattle group.

Bettman added relocation of an existing team could also be an option, but not one the league is considering at the moment.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday signed an agreement with a developer to renovate KeyArena after city council approved a memorandum of understanding with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group to privately finance a roughly $600-million remodel of the venue earlier this week.

KeyArena housed the NBA's SuperSonics until they relocated to Oklahoma City ahead of the 2008-09 season.

The Oak View Group, which has pegged Bonderman and Bruckheimer as the lead owners for a potential NHL franchise, is run by CEO Tim Leiweke, who previously headed Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

Seattle is the No. 14 media market in the United States and the only one in the top 25 without an NBA or NHL team.