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Iron Willing

When the COVID-19 pandemic loomed, the construction engineers and crew at Climate Pledge Arena responded with can-do thinking. The result is lots of steel erected since.

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ /

Arena Takes Shape with Steel

Climate Pledge Arena Begins to Take Shape with Steel

As iron workers begin to erect steel throughout Climate Pledge Arena, the shape of the new building finally begins to reveal itself.

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Back in March, when Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for Washington, there was understandable concern among Oak View Group, Seattle Kraken and general contractor Mortenson Company leadership about continuing work on the brand-new arena project.

"There were quite few of us who first thought, maybe we can't keep this going," says Ken Johnsen, construction executive for OVG and the Kraken. "But we quickly thought, no, if we can show the highest standard of sanitization and health procedures for the workers, then we can be safe, and workers will want to come to work."

Mortenson health and safety engineer Justin Molocznik stepped up to write a comprehensive plan for continued construction, drawing upon recommendations from the federal CDC and the World Health Organization, then customizing it to the site on the Seattle Center campus. Molocznik vetted the work with his bosses and colleagues plus local trade unions. The plan's framework and detail ultimately has been adopted by other construction projects in the Seattle area along with sports facilities projects throughout the U.S. 

"We stood down on the site for four days [to deep clean] and pulled in the trade unions to figure out how we size groups, clean equipment, we looked at all aspects," says Johnsen. To that end, workers now do their daily jobs in the same "families" of five and at safe physical distances. Workers wear masks and get daily temperature checks before entering the construction zone. Handwashing stations and bathrooms are sanitized after every use, plus there are many other measures to keep the crew healthy and safe. The crew currently numbers about 450, including 140 ironworkers.

Fast-forward to progress as August arrives this weekend: "We're in the phase of the project where there is a lot of steel work under way," says Johnsen. "We have three crews of ironworkers on the job, sometimes four. The steel arrives each night or early morning. Those ironworkers [the ones with brown helmets] are putting up a lot of steel."

The steel erection in the northeast corner of the site is erected more than 50 feet from event level. There are "raker beams" going up, on which Climate Pledge Arena seating will be installed. What's more, metal decking is in place and concrete floors have been poured at the event or ice level, including the Kraken home and visitors locker rooms. 


Three smaller mobile cranes perform work normally executed by tower cranes, which are several stories high and not capable of working under the historic World's Fair roof that has been preserved. The northwest corner steel-raising is in progress and the steel work for the underground parking garage in the southeast corner is nearly complete. 

"You can now see the basic structure of the bowl, see it starting to take shape," says Johnsen. "Those raker beams allows you to imagine where your seats might be. In some places, those raker beams are all the way to what will be the upper concourse. We're getting a feel for what this amazingly tight arena bowl is going to be."

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