When Seattle Center Arena, formerly known as Key Arena, reopens in the summer of 2021, it will be primed for Seattle’s new NHL team — and potentially soon after, the return of the NBA to the city.
The stadium at Seattle Center in downtown Seattle is currently undergoing a drastic USD $930-million renovation, which involves retaining the landmark exoskeleton and roof structure, gutting the old stadium interior and demolishing the concrete grandstand bowl, and excavating to a depth of 70 ft below ground — removing 600,000 cubic yards of dirt.
Deconstruction work began in December 2018, shortly after the stadium closed, and excavation work is slated to begin later this week.
Previous condition of Seattle Center arena before construction:
Current June 2019 condition of Seattle Center arena during construction:
Time-lapse video of interior demolition work between December 2018 and early-June 2018:
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Future condition of Seattle Center after renovations:
Future construction phases later this year will involve the erection of 24 temporary steel columns to hold up the roof during excavation and other additions.
According to NHL News, excavation is expected to continue until this fall, and this will lead to the start of the new interior, with new concrete grandstands, box suites, concourse spaces, food and dining, service spaces, and other facilities. Concourse space will be expanded with a new glass enclosed and roof main entrance into the venue.
Improvements will also be made to the stadium’s acoustics, exterior facades, and public realm.
The level of excavation work is necessary to allow for steeper concrete grandstands offering more optimal sightlines and to increase the stadium’s seating capacity.
The stadium’s previous capacity for basketball and hockey was 17,072 and 15,177 seats, respectively — below ideal NBA and NHL venue standards.
After the rebuild, Seattle Center Arena will be able to hold 18,350 in basketball mode and 17,300 in hockey mode. While this is a considerable improvement for this particular facility, it is still on the lower end of the capacity spectrum for a venue of this nature.
For instance, Vancouver’s Rogers Arena holds 18,910 for hockey and 19,700 for basketball, and Calgary’s planned CAD$550-million new events centre will have a capacity of at least 19,000 for hockey.
Instead of a brand new facility, the City of Seattle, which owns the stadiums, opted to retain the cavernous roof given its historical importance and significance to the city’s skyline. Retrofits that preserve heritage design elements may eventually lead to the building’s registration in the US National Register of Historic Places.
Built in the early 1960s, the stadium originally opened as the Washington State Pavilion for the 1962 World’s Fair, before being converted into a multi-purpose events and sports venue.
It was the home of the NBA Seattle Supersonics from 1967 to 2008, until the team was relocated to Oklahoma City as the Oklahoma City Thunder, after franchise owners hit a wall with seeking public funding from Seattle and Washington State to help cover the cost of building a new modern replacement stadium.
Oak View Group (OVG), the company contracted to manage the stadium for the municipal government, chose global sports and convention centre architecture firm Populous to design the retrofit.
The project originally had a USD$600-million budget, with a 2020 opening date, but this increased due to an increase in the scope of the renovation work and inflation.
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