Play Ball

Seattle to renovate iconic Key Arena speculatively to lure NHL, NBA teams

Architecture West
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has selected a winning proposal for the redevelopment of the city's historic Key Arena. (Courtesy Oak View Group)
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has selected a winning proposal for the redevelopment of the city's historic Key Arena. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has selected a proposal by Los Angeles–based Oak View Group to redevelop the city’s Key Area as part of a $564 million scheme aimed at remaking and updating the aging sports complex.

Seattle renovate Key Arena

Under the selected proposal, the floor of the existing arena would be dropped by 15 feet in order to increase the arena’s capacity. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

The city is hoping to lure National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) franchises to Seattle by transforming and expanding the existing arena. Key Arena was originally designed by architect Paul A. Thiry in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition, the same world’s fair event that saw the construction of the Seattle Space Needle and other notable structures across the city. The structure became a sports venue after the expo and hosted the Seattle Supersonics NBA team from 1967 until 2008, when the team left Seattle for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Seattle renovate Key Arena

The arena’s concourse areas will be improved and renovated to accommodate new uses and flexible configurations. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

Murray chose Oak View Group’s proposal against a competing bid from AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties. According to Murray, the Oak View Group proposal was better for the city due to its design and financial details, including plans to have the arena renovation be entirely privately financed. The competing bid, according to Murray, required extensive public bonds to pencil out and threatened the building’s architectural and historic integrity while simultaneously not going far enough in its overhaul.

The Arena’s grounds will be renovated under the scheme, as well, including via the addition of covered walkways. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

According to King 5 news, Mayor Murray said, “Oak View Group really is building an entire new arena under the current roof. It’s not just a remodel, but a completely new arena.”

Seattle renovate Key Arena

The renovated arena will be able to accomodate NHL and NBA game seating configurations,
as well as concert seating arrangements. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

Oak View Group’s proposal, on the other hand, would dig down 15-feet below the arena’s existing bottom in order to expand the facility to 660,000 square feet. The existing roof and other heroic structural elements on Key Arena will be left entirely intact under Oak View Group’s proposal—unlike the competing bid, which sought to pierce a portion of the roof with a new structure. The arena complex will be expanded underneath the roof to include new raked seating and will ultimately be able to accommodate concert, NHL, and NBA seating configurations. The public plaza areas surrounding the arena will also be renovated under the scheme.

Seattle renovate Key Arena

The renovated arena will be able to accommodate NHL and NBA game seating configurations,
as well as concert seating arrangements. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

In a speech announcing his selection of Oak View Group’s bid, Murray said, “I chose this proposal because I believe it is a proposal that will bring the Sonics back to Seattle eventually, a track and NHL team, and give us the best entertainment that this world provides.”

Seattle renovate Key Arena

The renovated arena will be able to accommodate NHL and NBA game seating configurations, as well as concert seating arrangements. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

Following Murray’s decision, Oak View Group’s bid heads toward the Seattle City Council for consideration. It expected that once approved, construction on the arena would take three to four years to complete.

Related Stories