By Tim Booth
SEATTLE (AP) — The first event ever inside Climate Pledge Arena — whether it will be considered the official first event or not — was far from a soft opening.
“Dave Grohl said he was going to tear the building down,” joked Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke on Wednesday, barely 12 hours after Foo Fighters christened the new facility. “He came close, at 2 ½ hours I think he was intent.”
The home of the Seattle Kraken survived the screams and guitars of rock stars once this week and seems ready for its hockey debut on Saturday night when the Kraken host the Vancouver Canucks. Before the first home game for the NHL’s newest franchise, the arena will have its first official event Friday night when Coldplay performs there.
The week’s events — which began with Tuesday night’s benefit show featuring Foo Fighters — are the culmination of a process that started nearly five years ago when Oak View Group was selected by the city of Seattle to renovate what had been known as KeyArena when it was home to the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA.
It was originally earmarked as a $600,000 project. When the doors open for the first Kraken game, the price tag will have topped $1 billion, with the facility now featuring plush premium seating sections, exclusive clubs and the first three-sided dual scoreboard system.
The arena also is running off electricity generated in part by solar panels, will use recycled rain water for its icemaking and has a living wall of vegetation on one of the concourses.
The building also resolved a long struggle to find a suitable arena for pro sports and concerts. It will also be home to the WNBA’s Storm and perhaps someday the NBA once again.
“We’re very pleased on what we have created for Seattle in this moment of truth,” Leiweke said.
Some finishing touches were being applied all over the building Wednesday, from cleaning in the tunnel suites that lead from the NHL locker rooms to the ice, to some of the concession areas that had equipment delayed due to shipping issues.
The Kraken locker room was done, complete with the team’s logo on the ceiling. But it still needed to be set up by the team’s equipment staff after Seattle spent the first week of the regular season on the road.
Ken Johnsen, the construction executive who oversaw the arena project, said shipping delays created a little apprehension in the closing months of the project. For example, COVID-19 issues and a backlog of ships waiting to unload cargo at various ports around the United States delayed the arrival of risers manufactured in Slovakia to be used for retractable seating in the lower bowl of the arena.
Johnsen said they had to use air freight in some instances to get the materials on time.
“If you weren’t watching things really carefully, this (chair) might be in a container in Long Beach,” Johnsen said. “So I would say we really started even before July focusing on what’s coming, where is it, are we going to have a supply chain problem, and I’m really proud that we didn’t.”