What’s Next for Seattle NHL Redevelopment [April Breakfast Recap]

I didn’t think I was surrounded by hockey fans, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Not only did Seattle-area fans buy 10,000 tickets, but they did it within 12 minutes. (Let’s just sit with that for a minute.)

Within the first hour, another 15,000 tickets sold; ultimately, 32,000 tickets have been sold to date. And this is all without plans for what seats can be purchased … without a fully-built stadium or training facility for the team … without a team formed … without a general manager named … and without a team name. But what do I know? Seattle is R-E-A-D-Y for N-H-L!

We heard from Tod Leiweke, NHL Seattle CEO, at Wednesday morning’s breakfast about the plans for the complete rehaul of Key Arena and the new development of the training facility in Northgate.

Tod inspired the NAIOPWA crowd by telling the story of bringing pro hockey to Seattle, a $1.6 billion enterprise. He called our city a “City of Believers,” and underscored the courage of the undertaking as well as the commitment that private investors have to the community and fans alike to make it a positive impact for the city.

Tod talked about the history of Key Arena and the great leaps and bounds that have been accomplished so far in its rehaul and what’s more to come. He cited that the city has been a great partner in their efforts and that he hopes to continue to keep the nonprofit partners engaged every step of the way. There are some innovative partnerships. For example, KEXP will be the official music partner/DJ for the new stadium.

Originally built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, and then refurbished in 1995, the stadium has seen just one facelift in its 57 years. Slated to be complete in 2021, the new stadium will be subterranean, yet keep its original, historic roof. Crews are currently digging to bring the bowl down from its relatively high aboveground elevation to sit belowground. To give some perspective on the depth of the arena, when you walk in via the street-level entrance (on the southwest side), you will be almost at the top of the arena! Overall, the area will be more campus-like and technologically enhanced; the arena will boast 500 parking stalls and a tunnel “even El Chapo would admire.”

The hope is that Key Arena will not only host the new NHL team and continue to support the Storm, but also become one of the top five music destinations in the U.S. and host an NBA team once again. Tod believes Seattle is one of the music capitals of the world, and he’s excited that Live Nation is an equity partner in the development for this aspect of the project.

Tod then talked about the need for a state-of-the-art training facility for the NHL team and the redevelopment for the three-rink facility at current site of Northgate Mall. The $80 million training center will host the training ice with 1,000 fixed seats as well as two sheets/rinks for the community. It will be a place for hotels, restaurants, and retail. He hopes to see many youth come for youth hockey leagues and figure skating. A new light rail station will come online just as the redevelopment is set to transform the neighborhood from a shopping center to a mixed-use hub of bustling activity.

The breakfast ended with Tod answering questions from the crowd, with the first inquiry being why he believes Seattle will love hockey … asked by a former professional hockey player. Tod responded that hockey players are some of the greatest athletes in the world and we are in a town that already loves hockey, or that they will soon fall in love with hockey. He gave examples of his past experience with a downtrodden team, and turning that around for the better, and his enthusiasm for everyone’s excitement for the project in the Pacific Northwest.

In response to a question about affordability, Tod said that 1,000 tickets for every game will be sold below market value for the community. He wants to ensure those are given to and used by the right people. He also underlined that the fanbase they are reaching out to is not just Washington, but also everyone in Oregon and Alaska, too. He said there could be some rivalry (and fans!) in Vancouver, B.C.

Additional questions addressed:

Team name: Only time will tell when the name of the team will be released!

Demographics and transit: Developers are working hard to invest in infrastructure around the arena, including solving transportation challenges. Along those lines, the developers believe that in the next few years, a demographic shift will bring 25% of fans within a two-to-three-mile radius of the arena.

Nonprofit involvement: Tod again talked about the community nonprofit involvement so that ALL are winning and benefiting from the development, mentioning the VERA Project, KEXP, SIFF, the Ballet and Opera House.

He then answered a question about the youth teams—girls’ and boys’—in the area and talked about the importance of the two sheets of ice serving them and the many, many families that would benefit, especially in that they won’t on the road as much. He believes strongly in the character and integrity of hockey players.

The group’s vision for the stadium is for it to be very tech-forward. Tod talked about a custom app that will serve as a robust communication tool that guides a fan outside and inside the stadium. From the moment they leave their house, the app will help them navigate everything from parking to getting a beer.

I like to think everyone left the breakfast trading ideas for team names, and eagerly awaiting the Northgate training hub and opening night at the arena.

Download the final attendance list on the NAIOP WA app. Look for the paperclip icon (materials) for the 2019 April Breakfast.

This article was written by NAIOP Washington State and Marcom Committee member Sarah D. Fischer, Burgess Design.

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