NHL to SEATTLE

Skanska-Hunt tagged by NHL Seattle, OVG to Build New Seattle Center Arena

By Andy Eide

SEATTLE – The prospect of an NHL franchise landing in Seattle took another step forward Tuesday as the Oak View Group and NHL Seattle named a general contractor for the redevelopment of the Seattle Center Arena.

In a press conference held at the Labor Temple in Belltown, it was announced that Skanska-Hunt, a joint venture between Skanska and AECOM Hunt, would be brought on as the general contractor for the project. The two contractors will join a project team that includes developer representative and project manager CAA ICON, architect Populous, along with Labor Partners.

Seattle Hockey Partners President and CEO Tod Leiweke addresses the media during Tuesday’s press conference (Brian Liesse photo)

“Today’s announcement adding Skanska-Hunt to this world-class project team is just another step in a defining moment for our city as we continue to move forward toward the resurgence of the Seattle Center,” President and CEO of Seattle Hockey Partners Tod Leiweke said. “Visitors for the sports and entertainment events are going to be treated with a venue that not only honors the history of the arena but also provides the latest in fan engagement technology.”

The announcement comes a week after OVG and NHL Seattle indicated that the latest cost estimate of the privately funded project had risen to $700 million, about $100 million above the original cost. OVG is funding the arena project and will be responsible for any cost overruns.

Tim Leiweke of OVG says that the added costs come from adding 50,000 additional square feet to the arena and after consulting with resident organizations on ways to lessen the impact that construction will have on the neighborhood. Efforts to minimize that impact resulted in higher costs but Tim Leiweke emphasized that those extra costs are worth it to be ‘good neighbors’.

Being a good partner to the community is something that both Leiweke’s stressed during Tuesday’s press conference.

Next steps in the project are to seek and receive approval by the Seattle City Council, a vote that is expected to happen on Sept. 14th. Once approval is granted, OVG will take over KeyArena on Oct. 15th and can begin work on the project with a timeline to be completed in order to start the NHL season in October of 2020.

Skanska is a global construction firm that has 40-years of building sports and entertainment facilities including MetLife Stadium in New York and local projects such as Benaroya Hall, McCaw Hall and the renovation of Union Station.

AECOM Hunt has experience building over 150 sports facilities including 13 of the current NHL arenas and 14 NBA arenas.

“As the nation’s leading sports builder, we’ve successfully delivered arenas and stadiums across the country.” AECOM Hunt senior vice president Tim Smith said. “In the past year we’ve completed several iconic projects including Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.”

A commitment and partnership with local labor partners was emphasized Tuesday as well.

“I have to say that the Oak View Group, the City of Seattle and all the partners that have been active in this effort have been incredible,” Nicole Grant of MLK Labor said. “People like me, a journeyman electrician, are going to be able to have careers that start on this project and end with a fantastic retirement many years down the line.”

New details about the project itself were detailed. It included a demonstration of how the existing floor of Key Arena will be dropped 15 feet and expanded to allow for a capacity of 18,400 fans for hockey and 19,600 for a potential NBA club.

Tim Romani of CAA ICON details features of the proposed Seattle Center Arena (Brian Liesse photo)

The south side of the current arena will also be expanded and become the new ‘front door’ of the building, all while keeping the current roof intact as a major part of the structure. There will also be separate and permanent locker rooms for an NHL Team, the Seattle Storm, and an NBA team.

Comparisons to other multi-use arenas were presented as well. Most notable was a comparison to Staples Center in Los Angeles. The new Seattle Center Arena would place fans closer to the action than currently offered in Staples.

Traffic and transportation issues have been a hot-button topic surrounding the Seattle Center Arena as the city continues to struggle with daily gridlock, especially around the Center.

Tim Leiweke re-emphasized OVG’s commitment of spending an additional $100 million to improving traffic and transportation in and around the Center. That may include cash payments to improve Mercer Street traffic, adding parking spaces, creating partnerships with Uber and Lyft, and improving monorail services.

Additionally, Tod Leiweke indicated that they believe that 40-percent of the 37,000 fans who placed deposits for season tickets in March live within four miles of the building.

Now that OVG and NHL Seattle have their contractors and their building partners in place, the official stamp of approval from the NHL is the next big hurdle. It is believed that the league will meet sometime in September with its Board of Governors and the expectation is that they will approve Seattle to be home for the 32nd NHL franchise.

“Our story is only becoming more compelling to the NHL,” Tod Leiweke said. “I go back to March 1st and this is going to be a story of incredible fans and we said that will forever be a part of the history of our NHL franchise. We are already totally in debt to our fans…that’s why budgets have increased. We get to tell our story to the NHL this fall.”