The NHL has officially approved Seattle as the location of its 32nd team.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Tuesday after the conclusion of the board of governors meetings.
Seattle’s foray into the National Hockey League will begin in the 2021-2022 season and will call a renovated Key Arena home. The ownership group is led by David Bonderman, founding partner of TPG Capital and former member of the Uber board of directors.
Bonderman and Co., a group that includes Jerry Bruckheimer and Tod Leiweke, will fork over the $650 million expansion fee. That’s up from the $500 million put in by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2016.
Interestingly, Seattle was the first U.S. city to hoist a Stanley Cup when the then-PCHA Seattle Metropolitans won it against the NHA’s Montreal Canadiens in 1917. The NHL would be founded months later.
“The league’s expansion decision was only made possible because Seattle will possess the three pillars essential to the success of any franchise: terrific committed ownership, a thriving market and a state-of-the-art venue,” Bettman said.
That venue was home to the NBA’s SuperSonics, a basketball franchise that is still missed by the locals. The Key Arena will receive a renovation to the tune of $800 million. The project will be led by the Oak View Group, who set a season ticket goal of 10,000 deposits. They reached the target in a dozen minutes and have 10,000 names on the waiting list.
“I came here for things that were beyond economics,” said Leiweke. “I came here because I believe that it was an absolute shame when the Sonics left. The city deserved better. I believe that Key Arena could work, and my brother did a brilliant job of showing courage and conviction to see that through. I’ve always believed in the fans.”
Seattle was the largest market in the United States without an NHL or NBA franchise. It will be positioned in the Pacific Division, a natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks. The Arizona Coyotes will be moved to the Central Division and the NHL will have 16 teams in each conference.