‘Epic’ new Key Arena set to open Summer 2021 after cost overruns and slight delay

SEATTLE - For the first time Thursday, the public gets a peek inside Key Arena since it was shut down for redevelopment.

“I think we are going to build one of the greatest buildings in the world,” Seattle Hockey Partners CEO Tod Leiweke said.

Q13 News went underground into the heart of the bowl on Thursday.

Heavy equipment is crunching away at what’s there now and will dig even deeper into the sacred ground.

“The nice thing is that since we are going down we will be excavating 600,000 cubic yards,” Construction Executive Ken Johnsen of OVG said.

Johnsen promises new the arena will be more intimate despite the space doubling in square footage.

They will dig 15 feet lower than the structure is now. The massive project is more of a complete overhaul than a renovation.

Seattle deemed the iconic sloped roof of Key Arena a landmark so it will be the only thing that remains when it’s all torn down. Construction crews will put temporary steel to keep the roof up while they gut everything below. Then they will take down the temporary steel and replace them with permanent ones.

Oak View Group, behind the birth of an NHL team for Seattle, revealed a model of the new arena on Thursday.

“We didn’t cut things out, they didn’t ultimately cut corners, this is definitely more money than we all thought,” Leiweke said.

OVG says the new structure will not have a back of house, meaning all four sides will equally be remarkable. It also boasts better vantage points to see the games.

“I’ve told depositors whose number may be higher than they want to be careful of vertigo, this is going to be one of the steepest buildings in all of North America,” Leiweke said.

The privately funded project initially estimated at $650 million has ballooned up to $930 million.

But Leiweke says it is still all worth it.

The cost overruns are also coupled with several months in construction delays, meaning some added traffic headaches to the public.

“The schedule has slipped a little bit, we have an agreement with the contractor that this project will be delivered in the summer of 2021,” Leiweke said

If the project is not done by the early part of the summer, it will affect an agreement between WNBA’s Storm and the city.

A contract with the city of Seattle says the team may get up to $260,000 for every home game they miss.

“We care about their financial viability, we are going to work with the city and work with the Storm,” Leiweke said.

Seattle Storm CEO and General Manager Alisha Valavanis released a statement on Thursday.

“Our long-term partnership with NHL Seattle and OVG has just begun. We remain excited by all the possibilities that lie ahead for the Storm, including playing in a state-of-the-art arena. All conversations with Tod and team up to this point indicate their full support of and appreciation for our franchise and the impact we are sustaining as a result of two plus years away from our home court.

“They are committed to return us to our permanent home by June 1, 2021, which will allow us to play the majority of our 2021 season there.

“We trust Tod and anticipate this timeline will play out. Recognizing the challenges and complexity of this relocation, we continue to support this project and NHL Seattle’s and OVG’s efforts to bring a world class arena, future home of the Storm to Seattle."

The exact completion date however may not be clear until another year.

“It’s important to get it right, it’s important to be safe,” Johnsen said.

“With the dream of not only NHL hockey, world class music events and someday the NBA,” Leiweke said.

Leiweke says they studied basketball arenas to come up with the new design.

“For those who say this building may not work for basketball, this is evidence. In fact, we studied every other basketball arena; we think we have as an intimate building as there is,” Leiweke said.

He also says concert goers will also benefit from the world class design.

The place will go from having two loading docks to eight, providing more access for events to happen. All of that will be underground along with 550 parking spaces.

“This parking garage may be one of the most expensive in the world,” Leiweke said.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.