Sea Island, Ga. — Seattle is getting a National Hockey League team. It will just have to wait a little bit longer to drop the puck.
The NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise on Tuesday, with play set to begin in 2021 instead of 2020 to allow enough time for arena renovations. The as-yet unnamed franchise will be the Emerald City’s first major winter sports team since the NBA’s SuperSonics left town in 2008.
“Today is a day for celebration in a great city that adores and avidly supports its sports teams and for our 101-year-old sports league,” commissioner Gary Bettman said.
The announcement came a few moments after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan let the news slip at a watch party, prompting cheers: “I got a call from a mole in the room and it was a unanimous vote. We’re getting hockey.”
The decision was widely expected after the Seattle Hockey Partners group impressed the board’s executive committee with a plan that had all the ingredients the NHL was looking for.
Strong ownership led by billionaire David Bonderman and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, a downtown arena in a sports-crazed city and a season-ticket drive that had 10,000 orders in 12 minutes all cleared the way for the NHL to add another team less than three years after approving a franchise in Las Vegas.
The owners will pay a $650 million expansion fee, up from the $500 million the Vegas Golden Knights paid to join the league just two years ago. CEO Tod Leiweke said arena renovations will cost $800 million and the addition of a state-of-the-art practice facility makes it a total investment of over $1.5 billion.