SEATTLE — The investment group trying to bring men’s professional basketball back to Seattle is remaining focused on the NBA, even if landing a hockey franchise could happen sooner.
”No one in our ownership group is interested in being a majority owner in an NHL franchise. That’s been the case since the start,” said Chris Hansen, who led the unsuccessful effort last year to purchase the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle. ”I’ve certainly queried our ownership group about this. I think if someone really wanted to it would be easier than bringing in an outside party.
”But the most important thing is the passion is just not there for the NHL among our ownership group that is there for basketball. Getting involved in hockey solely because basketball hasn’t worked out right now, when it’s not something your heart is in, would be a disservice to the fans here.”
Even as rumors continue to circulate about the NHL having interest in Seattle as a market sooner rather than later, Hansen said his job would be to find someone willing to partner with his group and their proposed arena in Seattle. The arena has been approved by both the Seattle City Council and King County Council pending environmental reviews.
Hansen said the focus right now is getting those environmental reviews completed — possibly by the end of the summer — so that if an NBA franchise becomes available via sale or expansion, Seattle can be at the front of the line ready to go. He has no interest in re-writing the memorandum of understanding reached between all parties so that an NHL franchise could possibly be a primary tenant in a new arena.
Hansen has kept a relatively low profile since last spring, when his group’s attempts to buy the Kings from the Maloof family and move the team were blocked by the NBA Board of Governors. NBA owners rejected Hansen’s record $625 million bid and eventually approved the sale to a group of investors led by technology executive Vivek Ranadive for $535 million with plans to keep the franchise in Sacramento.
Hansen said there are far fewer conversations with the NBA now than there were at this time a year ago, though he remains confident the NBA will eventually return to Seattle. His investment group has not changed, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and neither has his original timeline of trying to land a team within five years of when the process began.
”By the end of that, the NBA will have its new TV contract. They’ll have a few years of the revenue sharing and collective bargaining agreements being in place to understand the profitability of some of the teams that might have been a concern and there are a few franchises that are up for sale and that will probably have been worked out one way or another,” Hansen said. ”I think they’ll be in a better position at some time within the next three years on expansion or possibly something else will come our way.”