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Investor calls Seattle “the best market in the United States that does not have a hockey team”

Jul 27, 2012, 10:23 AM EDT

Don Levin

The city of Seattle received some solid public relations on Thursday in the form of AHL Chicago owner Don Levin.

Levin told the Seattle Times the city is the best U.S. market without a team at the moment and, in an effort to bring the NHL to the Emerald City, he’s prepared to invest $100 million.

“It’s probably the best market in the United States that does not have a hockey team demographically,” Levin told The Times. “I imagine there’d be thousands of Canadians that would come to every game because they can’t get into the building in Vancouver because it’s sold out and it’s such a good team.

“That would give them an opportunity to come to the city for a weekend to see hockey.”

The Canucks have sold out 407 consecutive sellouts games at Rogers Arena. The sellout streak began on November 14, 2002 and includes 361 regular season games and 46 post-season games.

As for location — Levin’s idea is for the proposed arena to be housed in Bellevue, a nearby suburb of Seattle. Bellevue City Manager Steve Sarkozy confirmed he has had discussions with “a couple” of potential team owners, including Levin.

“Easy to get in and get out,” Levin said. “I think the city [Bellevue] has a good base of restaurants and hotels, so the teams could stay there and the fans could stay there. You’d be bringing in a lot of people to spend a lot of money.”

Related: Report: Wayne Gretzky discusses bringing NHL to Seattle area

  1. capesouth - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    From a bird’s eye view, I actually think it would work there. They have the NFL, MLB, and MLS. It makes more sense to me than cities like Columbus, Phoenix, and a handful of other places. Some of these teams need to be disbanded or moved. Canada is underutilized in the NHL, IMO. It is that countries sport and they only have what, 6 teams?

    • capesouth - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      The NHL needs to consolidate a bit. Also, picture a Vancouver vs Seattle rivalry. Makes sense to me.

    • babar61 - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      7 teams with the return of the jets. Quebec city is building a new arena and so is Vaughn (just north of Toronto). It will be interesting to see what happens in the next five years.

      • capesouth - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:41 AM

        7 bad. Still getting used to the Peg which is obviously thriving. Quebec would too.

    • bladesofsteal - Jul 27, 2012 at 3:24 PM

      If the team needs “thousands of fans” to come down from Vancouver, that doesn’t actually make it seem like a good hockey city.

      Further, what’s the saturation point for sports in Seattle? The team would come in behind the Seahawks, the Mariners, the Sounders, and the Huskies in college football and basketball. Plus, if a new arena gets build you can sure as hell bet the NBA would be returning. Can Seattle support 5 pro sports teams plus 2 college teams? That’s a lot to ask of the corporate and public communities, and you can guarantee that the NHL would start at the bottom.

      • capesouth - Jul 27, 2012 at 3:42 PM

        Seems to me ‘you can guarantee’ a lot. I don’t think you can guarantee any of that. Pretty sure any plan someone has of bringing an NHL team to any city doesn’t require the NBA be a part of that deal. Why add another obstacle like that? Doesn’t make sense. An argument could easily be made for why hockey works there, moreso than basketball and even soccer (which already exists). It certainly makes more sense than Columbus and Phoenix.

  2. zaksyuk - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    100 million? I got 5 on it whats up !~

  3. bleedingteal4life - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    I would move to Seattle in a heartbeat if they did this

    • desertfan - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      From Phoenix??

  4. flyeredup202 - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Seattle could be great spot for a team…. why do states like Flordia have 2 teams? I can walk up to a panthers game at game time and get an ice level seat for like 12 bucks… its a joke… move the team to a location that will support them. I love the flyers and the rival Devils but there is not much support in that arena look at the playoffs they could barely sell out the arena in the EC Finals…. its a joke there are alot of teams that could seriously be looked at for a move.

    • MannySilvers - Jul 27, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      The Devils sold out every home playoff game, I don’t understand why people keep saying they had a “hard time”. I was at games 4 and 6 of the conference finals and there were barely any Rangers’ fans there too.

      • flyeredup202 - Jul 27, 2012 at 12:02 PM

        Well then devils fans have issues, they are wearing white and blue to alot of those “home” games… when the flyers played I drove up for the games and it was more flyers fans in that building then devils fans. You maybe right but…24 New Jersey 87.4 % is not a sell out… your team is in the bottom 1/4 of the league in attendance… where our fans support above and beyond. 107% and the 7% is because of playoff games. That might be why we think you cant sell tickets its because you cant…. you are the flyers and rangers second arena

      • MannySilvers - Jul 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM

        People suggesting that there are more Flyers or Rangers fans at the Prudential Center when those teams play there are just straight up wrong. There have been times where there have been a lot of those fans there, but never close to as many Devils fans. And of course the Flyers and Rangers have larger, more stable fan bases, the Rangers have been around sine 1936, the Flyer 1967, the Devils were placed right in the middle of two huge, long standing fan bases.

      • zombies9 - Jul 27, 2012 at 3:42 PM

        The point of the chart was just to note that even though the thunderbirds were horrible, people still went to the games in comparible numbers than many other markets, including ones North of the border.

    • escape1221 - Jul 27, 2012 at 2:55 PM

      The only reason the Panthers attendance has been low for so long is because they haven’t had a good team for the last 12 years. Any city other than the hardcore hockey cities wouldn’t have great attendance either. There’s support for the cats they just have to have a competitive team for consecutive seasons. And I’d love to know where you can get $12 lower bowl seats?

  5. earlcpeacock - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    why does PA have two teams? the only team pennsylvania needs is a winning one like the franchise. 1975

    • chazxcore - Jul 27, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      Adding nothing insightful to the conversation. Just the same boring dribble. It’s just getting really sad.

  6. pantherpro - Jul 27, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Agreed! Seattle would be awesome!

  7. chazxcore - Jul 27, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    I would love a team in Seattle. It is a very good sports city and I think the city would go nuts over hockey and the eventual rivalry with Vancouver could be great. I could see them being a west coast favorite of mine.

  8. filthadelphiadivers - Jul 27, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Seatttle would be a strong market for the NHL. Could definitely see some rivalries developing with western Canada teams.

  9. pensfan1 - Jul 27, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    That’s an easy comment to make when you live in Chicago. I live in Seattle and am a rabid hockey fan – of a different team and always will be. I’ve been going to all hockey available here for 15 years and yes, Seattle already has a minor league hockey team. Everett has one, and there are several club level teams, mens and womens. the Seattle Metropolitans even won the Stanley Cup (in 1917) when it was a club trophy before the NHL so there is a long history of hockey here. Despite that the city can’t manage to fill a junior level arena. They use to play in Key arena. 16,000 plus seats but they only managed about 3,000 filled. They built a new arena, smaller that seats 6,500. It looks fuller but still only garners 2,500 butts in seats. Seattle is not a hockey town. People don’t travel to local games let alone watch a rivalry build with Vancouver for several times the cost of a ticket. And an 8 game seasonal rivalry with Vancouver does not a season make although it might draw Canadians down to fill an arena for those games. It won’t fill seats with Seattleites. There’s also a reason local universities do not play division 1 hockey but do play club level hockey. Hockey here does not draw. If you want to locate hockey on the left coast, Portland would be a better choice. Even for the junior level games they are drawing 10,000+. You’ll find a few thousand that might commit to the NHL 5 year contract for season tickets to pull a team in but unless they are willing to buy multiple seats it won’t sell. Don’t be fooled by someone seemingly resolving a Phoenix (or other team) crisis by burying it in a potential Seattle crisis.

    • davebabychreturns - Jul 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM

      I’ve heard this before, that Seattle has some very appealing assets at face value but the big time support of existing hockey teams is just not present – it might well be true.

      That being said if a team is being relocated it probably means that it’s to a location the NHL does not want expansion (and a big fat hundreds of millions expansion fee that goes with it) which probably means it won’t be a surefire success. Seattle still might be at or near the top of the list.

      Anyway, Portland would be an interesting option as well. If nothing else they could have a cross country hipster rivalry with supporters of the Brooklyn Islanders.

    • rogersjd16 - Jul 27, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      I get your point, but it’s a completely different ballgame when you’re talking about NHL vs any minor league or junior team. You’re certainly spot on in terms of existing fa base, but you can always build one. I admittedly don’t know – I’ve only been to Seattle once. But as as a rabid season ticket holding NHL fan as well, who is fortunate enough to work in the professional sports industry, I’d have to think when you’re talking about the likes of Canucks, Wings, B’s, Hawks, Flyers, Habs, Leafs and whomever else coming into town, those hockey fans are going to be more apt to spend the money to come see the games. Not to mention transplants. Casual or rabid fans. Add in when Sid or Ovechkin (puke) would be there…I have a hard time seeing it fail. Always felt and heard Seattle has great sports fans, and again, it’s about building that fan base.

    • beavertonsteve - Jul 27, 2012 at 1:39 PM

      Portland has some pretty intense sports fans. They support the WHL Winterhawks pretty well (over 6,000 average last year) and they have an extremely loyal fan base for their MLS team. If Seattle ends up getting a team they will still draw fans from Portland.

      I’d be happy if Seattle got a NHL franchise. I used to make the drive from Sacramento to San Jose to catch a few games a year and it’s about the same time and distance.

    • rich324 - Jul 27, 2012 at 2:22 PM

      1 the new arena is in Kent not Seattle and 2 the T-birds suck that is why there in no one coming to the games.

    • zombies9 - Jul 27, 2012 at 2:32 PM

      First off, Portland drew 10000 during the playoffs but their attendance this past year was 4085/game which was only 150 more than Seattle’s and 400 less than Everett’s avg attendance. Given the fact that Seattle was God awful this year they still had higher attendance numbers than 3 Canadian teams. Are we to assume there is no hokey interest in those markets as well? The attendance is directly related to the product on the ice.

      I disagree with your assertion that Seattle is not a hockey town. Both my 8 year ol son and 6 year old daughter are out there every week, and I can tell you from talking to people constantly, that the potential in this area is HUGE. People are chomping at the bit to see pro hockey here.

      • zombies9 - Jul 27, 2012 at 2:54 PM

        I was wrong. Seattle had higher avg attendance than 8 Canadian teams. Pretty good for a terrible team with no fan support

      • zombies9 - Jul 27, 2012 at 2:57 PM

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM

        I’m not disagreeing with you but I just want to point out the chart you provided is for games upto November 11, 2011, so it only has the averages for 8-10 home games per team. The attendance figures for the season could be higher than that, the chart you provided lists the Calgary Hitmen with 7400 fans per game, at the end of the season their average was 8900 people per game.

        Again I’m not arguing with you whether Seattle is or isn’t a viable location for the NHL, just pointing out your evidence cited is partial.

      • zombies9 - Jul 27, 2012 at 4:40 PM

        The purpose of the chart was to just show that even though the Thunderbirds were horrible, it didn’t necessarily stop people from coming out to see them. Especially compared to many supposed rabid Canadian markets.

      • soro17 - Jul 27, 2012 at 5:07 PM

        Umm, Swift Current only has 15,000 people. About 20% of the town shows up for each game. Kootenay (Cranbrook), Prince Albert and Moose Jaw are similarly small towns and each likely have more than 10% of the town showing up each night. I’d say hockey interest is high in those towns. Each of those towns may also have a Junior ‘A’ team (in Prince George for example, I believe the Spruce Kings in the BC J average over a 1000 a night) and in the prairies in particular, the Bantam AAA and Midget AAA teams would get good crowds.

        I love Seattle, head down several times a year, have played agains the Sno Kings in the old Safeway in Lynwood,etc. I just am not convinced it is a good market for the NHL based on the number of existing pro sports teams in the marketplace and the paucity of hockey fans.

      • zombies9 - Jul 27, 2012 at 5:42 PM

        You are making my point.

        Even though there are so many sporting options for the people here, they still have comparible numbers in the stands as quite a few of the Canadian teams. Even if they are low man on the totem pole here, there is stiill a lot o interest..

        4 WHL teams in the state of Washington alone and 1 in Portland with is separated by a bridge from Wa. Yet somehow, all I hear is that there is no interest.

        That’s the exact same argument people had against MSL coming to Seattle and look how that turned out. The Seattle area is expected to grow by 1 million people in the next decade or so. There is and will be enough interest for NHL as well.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 28, 2012 at 2:05 AM

        Here’s a list of the top 20 CHL attendances this year from April, although it doesn’t have Seattle on it Everett, Tri-Cities, Portland and Spokane are all on there…now I know they won’t get fans from Portland and Spokane for every single game but I believe Tri-Cities and Everett are close to Seattle and when you add them to the Thunderbirds attendance it shows that it’s an area that at least warrants a much closer look for possible relocation.

    • eastcoastcynic - Jul 27, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      As a fellow rabid hockey fan living in the Seattle area but transplanted from the “east”, I can tell you that the potential is here for NHL success: As far as Junior Hockey only drawing 3 to 4 thousand people thereby ruling out the NHL that would be like saying the NBA won’t draw well here because Seattle University Basketball only draws 5000 or so at the Key. It’s a quality issue that will draw fans to the NHL in Seattle just like the NBA would. As far as a lack of Hockey history in Seattle, one can look to San Jose for a lack of NHL history that became successful at the gate. The key as was the case with the Sharks will be getting a competitive if not Stanley Cup winning product on the ice in the near term after we get a franchise.

      The corporate dollars are here just like in the Bay Area (Silicon, San Jose) to support the NHL; the team just needs to put a good product on the ice and it will succeed at the gate

  10. claysbar - Jul 27, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    I can see the mezzanine level now, Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks, ToFu Dogs, Starbucks, Starbucks, Seaweed Fritters, Starbucks, Starbucks, Starbucks, Fried Pearl Jam Pickles etc.

    • handsofsweed - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:19 PM

      Ummm, sushi?

      • claysbar - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:21 PM

        I didn’t want to beat a dead horse

  11. mclovinhockey - Jul 27, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Anyone ever see the vide where the guy from QC called up like 60 people in Seattle (sports bars and stuff) to try to ask about hockey…. 1 person knew who Wayne Gretzky was… Funny stuff

  12. zaro11 - Jul 27, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Can add the Islanders to that list of teams that may benefit from a move to Seattle. Their lease expires soon and have been linked to every open market in the past few years.

  13. charleslouis99 - Jul 27, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    crossing over the border to go to a hockey game could be time consuming and congested but I could be wrong

  14. nhstateline - Jul 28, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    based on what goes on at Buffalo during the NHL season, people are certainly willing to come over to watch hockey. ICE issues border traffic alerts for Sabre game days and I’d bet the same thing would happen here. Plus, Washington State has a lot of transplants from all over North America so there’s interest. The relative size of the media market means that alone would generate more money than would Quebec City and the corporate community is way bigger in Western Washington than it is in Quebec City. One of the bigger questions with Quebec City is: who exactly is going to buy the suites and the club seats ? The Quebec Government can’t buy them all and there isn’t much of a corporate community in that area. It’s a wonderful city with great people who love hockey but financially it might not be as good of a prospect as is Seattle. Vaughn, on the other hand, will work better than either Seattle or Quebec City.

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