Barely a year after morphing from a plan into action, a spaded shovel has broken ground and turned dirt over toward a new era in Seattle sports and entertainment.
Construction of the new home for an NHL franchise has begun in earnest on the Seattle Center campus. Governor Jay Inslee, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle City Council members joined with community leaders, OVG-Seattle's Tim Leiweke and NHL Seattle to do the honors Dec. 5.
"We're breaking ground on the next generation of the Seattle Center," stated Mayor Durkan. "The next generation will love this as much as I did growing up. Some of my best times were in this building, watching great music, great sports. When this is done it will be the best arena anywhere."
It's been a whirlwind of activity on the part of all interested parties to get this far, this fast. It was only 52 weeks ago, on Dec. 7, 2017, when the NHL Board of Governors agreed to review an expansion team application from prospective owners David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer. Earlier this week, the NHL formerly approved adding Seattle as the 32nd team in 2021.
"It's been incredible," said NHL Seattle CEO and President Tod Leiweke. "It was a complicated matrix of inter-related agreements, but it all got done."
The groundbreaking is a golden moment in erecting a world-class arena, a building that moves forward with its own existing history - and the prospect of making much, much more. The new Seattle Center Arena will serve as the stage for NHL hockey, Storm basketball, Seattle University basketball and - hopefully soon after - the NBA's return as well. In all, over 140 sporting events, concerts, entertainment and family activities can be hosted each year.
"We honored the 1962 World's Fair. We honored the history and tradition of our neighborhood and Seattle Center, and we kept the majestic, beautiful roof, "said Tim Leiweke. "We learned to build a new arena underneath it. Yes, it takes more money to be among the top five in the world for music and sports. It means we have to spend an enormous amount of money to make it perfect, and it will be perfect."
The dream is real. It's now tangible, if not visible. Much of the activity around the arena's massive reconstruction, much like an iceberg, is out of sight, either subterranean or hidden by the iconic canopy of the structure which opened as the Washington State Pavilion for the 1962 World's Fair. A lot of history has been made under that sloped roof and, beginning in 2021, those memories will meld with new ones.
Tod Leiweke remembers the Sonics leaving in 2008. "This building was left for dead, and it's not fair," he said. "This building is historic; it's such an important part of our community, and it deserves to be preserved. But this is not a renovation, it's an entirely new building. It's going to give flight to dreams."
"Now," he added, "it's officially time to go to work to build a top-notch hockey franchise. As we do this, we will invite our fans to join in and be a part of the process-stay tuned as we return to hockey in Seattle."
Tim Leiweke noted that major work will begin in earnest next week, with the arena scheduled to open in early 2021. There will be regular updates provided to the City and community partners as construction moves forward. Tod Leiweke reaffirms their commitment to being good neighbors. Meanwhile, the balance of Seattle Center's 74 acres remains open, as always.
"We will still have a lot of things going on," said Director of Seattle Center Robert Nellums. "Seattle Center hosts over 16,000 events annually. We not only be open during construction, but we will part of the fabric of this community like we have always been for the past 56 years."
Tim Leiweke took a brief moment to recount the feverish pace of activity since he first arrived in Seattle 28 months earlier, to explore the possibility of a new Seattle Center Arena.
"Up until the last half-hour I haven't reflected on what we just pulled off here," he said. "At some point it will hit us. For us, the moment to smile will be in the early part of 2021, when we open. Up to now, we have done everything we said we would do. And the most important thing is to open a world-class arena in Seattle, that will be one of the best in the world. And that's next."
Seattle Center Arena / NHL Seattle Milestones
DECEMBER 4, 2017
Seattle City Council approves Memorandum of Understanding between the City and Oak View Group for the renovation of KeyArena.
DECEMBER 7, 2017
Commissioner Gary Bettman announces that the NHL Board of Governors agrees to review a Seattle expansion team application from prospective owner David Bonderman and business partner Jerry Bruckheimer.
FEBRUARY 20, 2018
NHL Seattle announces that season ticket deposits will be accepted online, beginning March 1.
MARCH 1, 2018
NHL sells 10,000 season ticket deposits in the first 12 minutes and 25,000 after one hour. By the following day there are 32,000 total commitments. A waiting list continues to add fans.
APRIL 11, 2018
Tod Leiweke is introduced as CEO of NHL Seattle. Leiweke is formerly CEO of Vulcan Sports and Entertainment (Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field, Portland TrailBlazers, Moda Center) and COO of the NFL.
JULY 31, 2018
Oak View Group announces Skanska and AECOM Hunt as general contractors for the new, state-of-the-art Seattle Center Arena.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2018
Oak View Group reaches an agreement with City officials for the proposed new Seattle Center Arena and introduces local representation among the ownership group.
SEPTEMBER 24, 2018
Seattle City Council unanimously approves OVG renovation of KeyArena.
OCTOBER 2, 2018
NHL Seattle delivers a proposal to NHL Executive Committee for acquiring an expansion franchise for 2021.
OCTOBER 8, 2018
NHL Seattle announces that Northgate will be the site of Seattle Ice Centre, featuring the club headquarters, training center and three NHL regulation rinks.
DECEMBER 3, 2018
NHL Board of Governors vote to approve the Seattle expansion franchise as its 32nd team in 2021. Five-thousand more fans join the season ticket waiting list.
DECEMBER 5, 2018
Official groundbreaking for Seattle Center Arena.