The NHL announced that it sent expansion applications to 16 parties, and that two were returned in advance of yesterday’s deadline: one from Bill Foley for a Las Vegas team that would play at the jointly operated AEG/MGM Grand Arena on the Las Vegas Strip, and one from Quebecor for a franchise that will intend to play out of the new Videotron Centre in Quebec City.
NEW YORK (July 21, 2015) – The National Hockey League today released the following update relative to the NHL expansion application process:
“As previously announced, NHL expansion applications were made available to all potentially interested applicants on July 6. Since that date, we have received requests from, and responded by sending applications to, 16 separate groups/individuals.
“The deadline for filing an application and proceeding in the NHL expansion process was last night. We can confirm that we have received two applications: one from Bill Foley for a franchise in Las Vegas, Nevada, and one from Quebecor for a franchise in Quebec City, Quebec.
“Our purpose, in initiating the expansion process in the manner we did, was not only to explore the possibility of admitting new members to the NHL but also, at the outset, to set realistic guideposts to distinguish between bona fide expressions of interest (i.e., those which have at least substantial ownership capabilities and an arena or the realistic possibility of an arena) from those indications of potential interest which were, at best, merely hopes or aspirations. Apparently, only Mr. Foley and Quebecor have the confidence in their ability to secure an arena and suitable ownership capability to move forward with this process.
“We now intend to focus exclusively on the two expansion applications that have been submitted in accordance with the previously announced process. The process we have outlined for qualified applicants includes at least two more stages of documentation submission. We will provide no further updates until there is something substantive to announce.”
While Seattle remains a top target for expansion, there is no suitable building in the region that could house a team long-term, and there is the pesky Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that more or less stipulates that in order to move forward with the construction of a new arena, arena developer and potential owner Chris Hansen and his associates must first acquire an NBA team through expansion or relocation. The NBA doesn’t plan on expanding in the immediate future, and with the Wisconsin Senate voting to approve $250-million in public funding for a new arena, the Milwaukee Bucks, previously considered a candidate to relocate, appear to have solidified their future in downtown Milwaukee.
There are other Seattle-area potential arena projects – the most advanced is headed by Ray Bartoszek, who would intend to build an arena in suburban Tukwila, roughly 11 miles south of downtown – though teams based in non-traditional hockey markets with arenas away from a central commercial core (see: Arizona, Florida) often struggle to attract fans after the honeymoon period wears off and/or when the team falters in the standings. Considering the Emerald City is already saturated with a crowded sports space that includes the Mariners, the Huskies, the Seahawks and the Sounders, the latter of which drew an average of over 43,000 fans in MLS last season, the prospect is hazy of whether typically heavy rush hour traffic towards a suburban arena in a nondescript neighborhood contains the viable staying power necessary to permanently embed an NHL team in the region. Clearly the best option for a healthy, successful NHL franchise in Washington centers around a new arena in Seattle, but until the MOU is amended or adjusted, there’s nothing happening there. A recent Seattle Times column by Geoff Baker spells out the need for the disparate owners across the Puget Sound region to come together to formulate a better option, though given that no application was submitted back to the NHL by any of the area’s groups, there’s nothing concrete on the horizon.
For more on expansion, Scott Burnside and Craig Custance at ESPN.com have you covered.