Tuesday, word officially broke that the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Board of Governors had voted to approve Seattle as the 32nd NHL franchise, starting the 2021-2022 season. Wednesday, a massive remodel of Key Arena, soon to be Seattle Center Arena—essentially a rebuild underneath the iconic roof—will break ground, preparing what will eventually be the home of Seattle’s first major league hockey team since the Seattle Metropolitans folded in the 1920s.
From the get-go, the Key Arena remodel was designed to court both an NHL and a National Basketball Association (NBA) team. While the NBA team is a longer-term goal, a hockey team was expected to arrive sooner. Under city agreements, contractors were waiting until a hockey team was secured before starting demolition. Oak View Group (OVG), which is leading the project, announced the groundbreaking date Tuesday.
Sports fans had been eagerly awaiting the announcement. For a city without a hockey team, Seattle is sure a big fan of hockey. Season ticket reservations started in early 2018, and by August, 33,000 people had already put down deposits. Even before we had a team, we had our own hockey bar.
Back in August, the arena team announced the scope of the work, which will be completed by Skanska and AECOM Hunt and involves increasing the stadium’s capacity and decreasing its environmental footprint while keeping its iconic roof. The new venue underneath will be designed by architecture firm Populous.
OVG included a video with a partially-bisected view of how the work will be done, digging below the surface to expand the stadium’s square footage and capacity but leaving the exterior appearance untouched. When it’s all done, the arena will a 17,400-person capacity for hockey and a 18,600-person capacity for basketball.
The project was originally slated to cost $600 million, paid for by OVG and private equity, but some additional project upgrades brought the price tag to $700 million. OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told ESPN that various things raised the cost, including dedicated locker rooms for NHL and NBA teams and the existing Seattle Storm, plus 50,000 extra square feet for storage and the Space Needle view club that OVG showed off back in February.
With the current design, the arena’s interior will expand to 750,000 square feet. In addition to hockey, the arena will host what the original one already did: Seattle Storm games and concerts.
The stadium could open in 2020.