Professional hockey is coming back to the Emerald City.
The NHL Board of Directors on Tuesday awarded an expansion franchise to Seattle, where the league’s 32nd team will play games at a redeveloped KeyArena beginning in the 2021-22 season, just a few blocks away from Amazon’s headquarters and offices of other tech giants such as Google and Facebook.
“Seattle: The NHL is thrilled to welcome you,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at press conference on Tuesday.
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) December 4, 2018
This is an awesome day for Seattle and Seattle sports fans. We are all ready for the NHL to arrive and for the return of professional hockey to Seattle. Seattle is one of North America’s great sports towns, and we’re about to become one of its great hockey towns! #NHLSeattle https://t.co/DJEmrJzBc7
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) December 4, 2018
The announcement is a huge milestone for Seattle Hockey Partners, an ownership group that includes Tim Leiweke, David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer, as well as Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy and majority Seattle Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was a big supporter of getting pro hockey back to Seattle, which was home to the 1917 Stanley Cup champions.
— Sports Radio KJR (@SportsRadioKJR) December 4, 2018
Construction on the new arena, an $800 million renovation managed by Oak View Group (parent of Seattle Hockey Partners), will begin Wednesday.
“We believe it will be one of the finest arenas in the world,” said Tod Leiweke, president of Seattle Hockey Partners.
Groundbreaking is tomorrow for rebuilding @KeyArenaSeattle. Project architect is @populous. Builder is Skanska-Hunt joint venture. @elevatesv is selling premium seats. @oakviewgroup is brokering naming rights.
— Don Muret (@breakground) December 4, 2018
The owners have previously discussed Amazon and how its 45,000 employees in Seattle could serve as a potential built-in fan base. Last year Leiweke told GeekWire that he met with Amazon about potentially integrating something similar to the checkout-less Amazon Go concept at the renovated arena.
Oak View Group ran a season ticket drive in May that racked up 33,000 deposits in one day. The team name is still undecided. The team will practice at a new training facility as part of a Northgate development.
The most recent NHL expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, defied expectations in its first season. George McPhee, the team’s general manager, told GeekWire in January that Seattle could be a “perfect fit” for an NHL team.