Northgate, the city's original nexus of suburban one-stop shopping, will soon become the intersection of all things hockey in the Pacific Northwest.
NHL Seattle planted the flag for ice hockey firmly within the city limits on October 8, announcing that the team will build its headquarters, training center and three NHL regulation rinks at Northgate. Seattle Ice Centre represents not only further investment in making Seattle the epicenter of the Pacific Northwest but establishing a skating presence within the city for the first time in more than 40 years.
Tod Leiweke stepped to the mic and renewed NHL Seattle's three-pronged pledge: To build a championship team; to make Seattle its home; and to give back to the community. And Leiweke believes that Seattle Ice Centre can fuel the dreams of every local kid who aspires to skate and handle the stick at the highest level but also to throw a Triple Axel in figure skating or become a world-class curling skip.
"We believe this facility will give us an extraordinary advantage," said Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle. "If we do this facility right, dreams will come true. The ultimate dream of building this facility is bringing the (Stanley) Cup back to Seattle."
Leiweke had recently returned from New York and a successful presentation to the NHL Executive Committee toward securing an expansion franchise for 2020. The entire NHL Seattle delegation drew inspiration from seeing a plaque commemorating the first U.S.-based Stanley Cup champions, the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans.
Mayor Jenny Durkan, a member of that delegation, and City Council Member Debora Juarez see the Northgate facility and associated property redevelopment as outstanding opportunities for Seattle's youth and the greater community.
Juarez, who represents Northgate's surrounding 5th District, reminded the audience that the mall was one of America's first modern shopping centers. Seventy years later, the Seattle Ice Centre will be an anchor tenant in Simon Property Group's mixed-use redevelopment.
"We were cutting edge then, and we're cutting edge now," said Juarez.
"There's not another facility like this," stated Leiweke. "We think this facility is so significant that it will be internationally renowned for hosting tournaments."
Mayor Durkan stated: "We know our future has to be a city that keeps reinventing itself," adding that Northgate will soon be home to not only a world-class hockey club but also new affordable housing, a LINK light-rail station as well as higher education, with North Seattle College's campus on the west side of Interstate 5. "It's an amazing opportunity for all of Seattle, but particularly for our kids."
With a junior player for Washington Wild standing at her side, Durkan noted that Seattle Ice Centre will feature the requisite three sheets of ice to host a major tournament. "And we're going to host the girls and women's nationals right here in Seattle."
Plans situate the structure on the eastern border of Northgate, facing 5th Avenue Northeast. Rink 2 will include seating for more than 1,000 spectators; a community rink, adjacent to an outdoor park, and the team's primary training rink will have room for 400 spectators each. There will be eight locker rooms, including a state-of-the-art version for the team, plus strength and conditioning areas that will attract and retain top talent. Among the amenities in the public areas will be restaurant, bar and retail space, including ice sports rentals, and a theatre. The 180,000-square-foot facility will be constructed using significant amounts of Pacific Northwest softwood timber products.
Typically, pro sports practice centers are off-limits to the public. Not so in Seattle.
"Our goal is to provide access and opportunity to the game of hockey for children of all ages no matter their financial means," Leiweke noted.
Lance Lopes, NHL Seattle's project leader who surveyed multiple potential King County sites before focusing on Northgate, declared that Seattle Ice Centre will prove to be buzzing with activity. "You will see hundreds of young people playing youth hockey and learning to skate; figure skating, adult leagues, tournaments," said Lopes. "It will just be an absolute beehive of activity around ice that has not existed before."
Providing such a platform is an investment in the sport that goes beyond what will be witnessed in NHL play. Before long, Seattle will become a hockey city in its own right; where producing another T.J. Oshie will be the rule rather than the exception.
Combining access with ambitious, talented youth and a fervent fan base, hockey has a huge upside in Puget Sound. Furthermore, there will be opportunities for inspiration.
Fans and players of all ages will have plentiful prospects for watching the team up-close. Lopes said a new team would train in public on numerous days throughout each season. No charge. Free parking. Just drop-in.
Lopes has studied the effects of NHL teams taking root in new, uncharted regions such as Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas, Phoenix and Las Vegas. "These facilities really change embracement of the sport," he said. "This is more than just a headquarters for us. We are also ambassadors for the game. To do that, we had to invest in a facility of this scale and size because it's going to grow the game for our entire region for years to come."
Added Durkan: "This will really change the face of hockey in this area," she exclaimed. "We will be leading not just the Pacific Northwest but the entire West Coast."