Key to the Future

Seattle’s Key Arena granted landmark status

Architecture Preservation West
Seattle's Key Arena was recently granted landmark status, a development that might help guide proposed renovations to the structure. (Courtesy Oak View Group)
Seattle's Key Arena was recently granted landmark status, a development that might help guide proposed renovations to the structure. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has granted landmark status for the city’s iconic Key Arena, a move that will help guide recently-proposed renovations for the 55-year-old structure.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles–based developers Oak View Group unveiled a speculative bid to renovate and update the aging structure in an attempt to lure professional basketball and hockey teams to the Emerald City.

The $564 million scheme was selected by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in lieu of a competing bid from AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties, partially because Oak View’s proposal sought to keep intact more of the structure’s historic, character-defining features, like its hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The recent landmark designation is expected to aid in this endeavor by creating a predictable and orderly scope for the renovations to proceed. Potentially, the landmark status could also allow the development to benefit from historic tax credits.

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 structure, according to Arena Digest, was recognized by the preservation board for meeting all six thresholds for historic designation, with the building’s roof, exterior walls, and structural trusses receiving official status.

Key Arena was designed by architect Paul A. Thiry in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition. The structure became a sports arena in the years after the exposition and played home to the Seattle Supersonics professional basketball team from 1967 until 2008 when the team decamped for Oklahoma City. The structure received extensive renovations in 1995 that partially impacted the now-historic roof structure.

It is unclear how or if the new renovation scheme will seek to repair these changes.

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