Potential Seattle NHL owners planning major practice facility

SEATTLE — The rebuild of what's now called KeyArena will be transformative for Seattle sports, providing a home at Seattle Center for professional hockey, and, perhaps, pro basketball.

But a related project will also be significant, as the probable owners of an NHL franchise plan a practice facility that could cost between $30 million and $50 million.

Tod Leiweke, CEO of the NHL Seattle organization, told KIRO 7 he envisions a facility that could become an attraction in itself with three sheets of ice.

"If we really want to be a world-class organization, we have to have world-class training facilities for our players," Leiweke said. "But we're thinking even beyond that. We're thinking about a training center that could impact the sport of hockey in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest," he said.

Leiweke said three rinks could provide space for the team to practice in front of fans and to host hockey tournaments, national and international events and leadership gatherings for corporate or nonprofit clients.

"We've got to find a piece of land that can accommodate that type of activity," Leiweke said. "It's got to be large enough. It's got to have a certain amount of accessibility. We want the neighborhood to complement what's going on and we're deep into that process right now," he said.

Leiweke would not say if the facility would be in Seattle, and only said, "We're looking at various sites."

Spokespeople for the cities of Kirkland and Bellevue said there have not been any discussions with officials in their cities.

There is land in SODO that Chris Hansen wanted to develop for an arena.

A spokesman for Hansen told KIRO 7 the developer has said he will not do anything with the property until there is an NBA franchise in Seattle.

The Seattle Sounders have a practice facility in Tukwila, and the Seahawks practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.

As CEO of the Seahawks, Leiweke moved the team into the VMAC, and said a good practice facility is important for attracting players.

"We will be a team that will spend to the (salary) cap so, all things being equal, what would make a player choose Seattle over other cities in the NHL? And it's things like training centers that can make a huge difference," Leiweke said.

A decision from the NHL on awarding an expansion team could come in September, with a potential first game in October 2020.

Developers hope to begin construction on the arena rebuild in October 2018 and are currently selecting a contractor.

Leiweke indicated that costs are rising beyond the $650 million projected for the arena, but the numbers are still being crunched.

"Part of that is driven by our ambition. I don't think it will be substantially over $650 million," Leiweke said.

Both the arena and practice facility will be privately financed.