Find of the Month

Each month we highlight interesting, important, and odd items from our collection, along with the stories they tell.

Most recent Find of the Month

November 2023 - Professional hockey

Seattle Center Coliseum

In January 1982, the financial troubles of Colorado's professional hockey team led to inquiries from a potential buyer's agent about whether the Seattle Center's Coliseum could host a relocated NHL team beginning with the 1982-1983 season. This would involve increasing the seating capacity, updating lighting to broadcast quality, and meeting other NHL standards.

An internal Seattle Center memo discussed the idea in less than enthusiastic terms. The biggest issue was the short timeline, as preseason would begin in early September (less than eight months away). The Coliseum already had bookings for 164 days from September through the following April, most of which would need to be cancelled to accommodate the hockey schedule. The memo noted:

The request for space for an NHL franchise comes on extremely short notice and at a time when booked events are either contracted or definitely confirmed to the promoters and to do anything at this time, other than to honor those commitments, would invite legal consequences for which we have little defense... With more advance notice, it is conceivable that a smoother transition from trade show business to hockey might be accomplished, but to attempt such a change in less than a year is inconceivable.

In addition to the timing, there was also concern related to the logistics of converting the venue from hockey to "dry floor" events; two days were needed to switch between them, leading to even more days when the facility could not be rented. The memo also questioned the "marketing mix," as it was anticipated that hockey would mostly serve the same 15,000 people, while the 20 events that would have to be cancelled to make way for a hockey season would represent several hundred thousand varied attendees. The memo asked, "Do we want a mix or a single activity?"

A final concern was the viability of a team in Seattle at that time:

There is a real question of whether or not hockey could draw and maintain an audience of 15,000. If it could, conceivably it would be a financially successful venture for the Center. If it could not, we stand the chance of another team failing, with the subsequent problem of re-filling the Coliseum dates not to mention our P.R. It is my own feeling that hockey would not last long here where other more established professional teams are even now facing serious difficulties.

The (remodeled) Coliseum did eventually become home to an NHL team but not until 2021. Meanwhile, the Colorado team ended up becoming the New Jersey Devils.

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