$1B WA Arena Opens to the Public


At the end of last month, a grand opening was hosted for Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena. The structure is home to the National Hockey League’s latest expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, and the Women's National Basketball Association’s team, the Seattle Storm.

According to reports, it is the world’s first net zero carbon arena.

Project Background

The Seattle City Council took the final step in green-lighting the redevelopment of the historic KeyArena in September 2018, unanimously approving the deal with The Seattle Arena Company, or ArenaCo, which included Oak View Group. Oak View at the time tapped the joint venture of Skanska and AECOM Hunt as the general contractor of the project, with Populous as the architect and CAA ICON as project manager.

Originally, the project was supposed to be completed in time for the 2020-21 NHL season with a price tag of $600 million—both of which have been pushed incrementally since the project’s inception.

In August 2018 (before final approval), OVG pointed to steel and aluminum tariffs as part of the reason for the rising price. The cost hikes were also partly to blame for the replacement of general contractor JV Skanska and AECOM, which was swapped for Mortenson Construction less than a week after the groundbreaking at the end of 2018.

In May 2019, the budget was updated to the $930 million price tag with an opening date of June 2021.

In January 2020, the roof entered its “floating phase,” when it was suspended by the temporary structure of 72 steel columns. New foundation was also poured at that time.

In May, exterior wall work began as the project was able to remain unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, the arena floor was complete—53 feet below ground, about 15 feet deeper than the original floor—giving the space its new square footage of just over 800,000.

August of last year is when the climate proposal and the Amazon deal was announced as the arena renovation went into “full building mode” following the completion of the floor and excavation.

Later, in October, officials went on record to say that despite a month-long delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the arena work was still operating on schedule.

At the beginning of the year, OVG CEO Tim Leiweke confirmed some additions as well as confirmed that OVG submitted the project’s registration to the International Living Future Institute, a move needed to become the first arena to be Zero Carbon certified.

While the arena has retained its original, historically registered roof and exterior glass, many other changes were taking place to get the arena zero carbon ready, such as:

  • All natural gas implements have been removed from the site and were being replaced with electric substations;
  • A rainwater storage tank was added that will recycle water and use it for operations such as ice making; and
  • Solar panels were added to the iconic roof, which is being overseen by various historical commissions.

For every event, operators will track trips (such as whether a family arrived by venue or bus) so that it can pay for carbon offsets to keep the venue 100% carbon neutral.

The project officially surpassed the $1 billion price tag in May when officials confirmed that the costs for the venue itself had risen to $1.05 billion—in addition to an adjacent parking garage at $75 million and another $25 million in signage and other work, bringing the new grand total to $1.15 billion.

Most recently, in July, officials working on the project announced that despite battling material delays for the last pieces of construction, the project was on track to open by mid-October. At the time of the announcement, seats were being installed and crews were working through a delay related to the arena’s retractable platform from Slovakia.

What Now

For the project, all updates to the structure were done without touching the arena’s famous roofline. Since the arena is a designated historic building, four supporting pylons were installed first so that the entire interior could be redone. The playing floor can also drop 15 feet, to 58 feet below grade, allowing playing lines for hockey and basketball to line up.

An additional 50,000 square feet was added for more storage and premium club space, which offers views of the Space Needle. The capacity for the venue has been expanded to 17,400 for NHL games and 18,600 for NBA, growing the arena’s capacity to encompass 750,000 square feet.

Starting on Oct. 17, the city hosted a week-long opening, celebrating the arena through a variety of large-scale and high-profile events.

“The dual scoreboards are one of the many examples of innovation in fan experience incorporated into Climate Pledge Arena,” said Populous Principal Geoff Cheong, in a release. “Our partners at Oak View Group wanted a world-class, iconic experience, and these unique displays will undoubtedly contribute to that. These are unexpected, incredibly dynamic and will allow fans to consume digital content in an entirely new way. They are the centerpieces to an entertainment experience unlike any other.”

According to officials, Climate Pledge Arena will serve as a long-lasting and regular reminder of the urgent need for climate action. The Climate Pledge, which was founded by Amazon and Global Optimism in 2019, is a commitment from companies globally to be net zero carbon by 2040.

The arena officially opened to the public on Oct. 22.


Tagged categories: Carbon footprint; Color + Design; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Completed projects; NA; North America; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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