June 8, 2017

Location, location, location

So...the Tacoma Dome.

If KeyArena's going to be in some form of demolition or construction, then an NHL expansion team is going to have to play somewhere, right? There aren't many options, and each has its flaws. Basically, they're going to have to choose between number of seats or accommodations, because they won't be able to do both.

ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington, is the smallest choice of the lot, seating just 6500 for hockey. This is where the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds play. It opened in 2009, so it's the newest arena of the lot.

Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington, has potential but it's still just too small - even for a temporary NHL home. It seats 8149 for hockey, and is the home of the WHL Everett Silvertips. It opened in 2003.

The Tacoma Dome is really the only choice, so far as the number of seats is concerned. I think for hockey, it seats around 21,000. There are no numbers for that, however, since there hasn't been any sort of hockey team in Tacoma since 2002, and the last NHL exhibition game that was played there was in 1996, from what I can find.

The problems with the Tacoma Dome are many. One, it's just one big open space with a bare concrete floor under a wood dome. Literally. It's a serious hike from the dressing rooms to the ice when it's all set up.

So no luxury boxes - no boxes at all, actually - and not much in way of concessions, either. I'm not even sure where the press box is in that building, since the last time I saw hockey there I wasn't all that interested in that sort of thing. But it's probably really, really far away from the ice.

Because of that, the seating can be arranged in any way they like. However, there has never been hockey-specific seating - they usually have football or basketball in there, so the seating is at a very shallow angle. To put it plainly, the sight lines seriously suck for the fans, pretty much no matter where you sit.

It's sort of like watching hockey in a football stadium - like one of those outdoor games - only it's smaller and indoors.

And I don't even know the last time the building had any updates done to it anywhere. Could be that the locker rooms are exactly as they have been since 1983 (when it was built), for all I know. The City of Tacoma, which owns the building, approved of a 2-year $21 million renovation last fall. But I'm not sure when that's supposed to start...or finish.

As for practice rinks, they'd probably end up at the rink I used to play hockey at on the Tacoma Tideflats. It's nothing fancy, but it's close. Otherwise, they'd have to go out to Parkland (which is south of Tacoma, in the opposite direction of Seattle) or up to Kent.

The other issue is logistics for the team itself. SeaTac Airport is actually in the middle between Seattle and Tacoma - hence the name "SeaTac", so that's not really the issue. Although, they'd probably charter out of Boeing Field once they move to Seattle after KeyArena is done and likely renamed. But that's not what I'm talking about.

You see, Tacoma's way cheaper to live in than Seattle is - by far. It's smaller and a bit more laid back, too. So people with families would love Tacoma, but the commute to and from Seattle would kill any reasonable person. It's only 34 miles from downtown to downtown, but it's an awful commute at just about any time of day.

What I'm getting at is for a team to set up shop in Tacoma, they'd have to pick up and move that shop to Seattle, at some point. That means relocating employees and players, which is not going to be a fun time for anyone. Especially not when it's getting difficult - and expensive - to get a house in Seattle right now. In like five years, it'll probably be impossible.

I'm not so worried about the fans coming to Tacoma for hockey. They already come down for concerts, so they've mostly got that figured out. There's a train station about half a mile from the Tacoma Dome, so people from Seattle will just take that.

Most expansion teams suck for the first 10-15 years, anyways, so after the initial three-year period of excitement, the crowds will naturally shrink because of that. But they'll probably move into their new home around then, so that will help maintain interest. For a little while, at least. Expansion teams have it rough for a long while, for the most part.

But traffic there isn't like traffic anywhere else. Where there's stop and go traffic on the freeways in other places, it's a literal parking lot there. You. Don't. Move. I know, because I've been in it. Your typical 15-minute commute just isn't going to take 15 minutes there, no matter how you slice it. And those kinds of logistics - to and from Seattle from Tacoma - is what's going to screw people who aren't familiar with the area up.

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