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Seattle moves closer to NHL franchise deal, season-ticket sales

KeyArena. (File, AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)

Seattle moved closer to a professional hockey franchise with reports that that the National Hockey League’s commissioner made a formal request to its Board of Governors to seek approval for a new franchise in the Emerald City.

RELATED: Seattle council approves KeyArena deal

Coming in the wake of the city’s new agreement for a plan to rebuild the former KeyArena, the league proposal will ask the owners to set a timeline for awarding the franchise — a $650 million asking price and the specific details about opening advance season-ticket sales  – which league officials see as a demonstration of the potential local fan base.

The proposal was offered at the annual NHL Board of Governors’ meeting in Florida Thursday.

Sources close to the negotiations said league Commissioner Gary Bettman this week told Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, that he’d take the request to the other league owners now that the arena deal is done. The Oak View Group just reached a $600 million deal to rebuild the Seattle Center Arena and it potentially will be a minority owner of the new franchise.

Bettman said the request does not mean a franchise has been formally awarded to the city and potential owners David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer, the movie maker responsible for Top Gun. What it means is the local bid is first in line and that the Board of Governors is strongly considering it. And if the group meets the terms of the proposal — and the arena gets built on time — Seattle will become a hockey town.

Enthusiasm for the potential new team was immediate — including from at least one existing NHL team:

The NHL commissioner said the process is just beginning. “The fact of the matter is the board has authorized us to permit (the Seattle group) to file an expansion application and do a season ticket drive,” Bettman said Wednesday.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city, “couldn’t be more thrilled.”

“(The ownership group) has a lot of benchmarks to meet but I’m very confident we can meet them in Seattle,” she said.

On Monday, the Seattle City Council approved a memorandum of understanding  (MOU) between the city and the Oak View Group. The deal  will set in motion a blizzard of negotiations and contracts within the agreement such as environmental and traffic impact studies, construction permitting and the specifics on how the $600 million will be spent. Durkan signed the deal on Wednesday.

This was the proof the NHL needed to announce that Seattle was the next likely location for a franchise — a possibility that has long been rumored once Oak View was selected as the potential developer of the arena. Leiweke has considerable ties to the NHL and NBA.

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