SEATTLE — Climate Pledge Arena is billed as the first facility of its kind in the world, attracting professional sports and world-class entertainers to the heart of Seattle.
But building it was no easy task.
Crews managed their way through rainy Seattle weather, day and night shifts, and unprecedented COVID protocols to reach the finish line.
It all began with the design’s ability to honor history. The roof, built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, is a designated landmark and couldn't be replaced.
"Amazingly there were only two people in the process, us and the city, who believed we could make it work by a complete new build and keep the roof. Everybody else said it couldn't be done,” said Tim Lieweke, CEO of Oak View Group.
It could be done, using a technique likened to building a "ship in a bottle." Crews erected temporary support to "float" the roof, while also digging out 600,000 cubic yards of dirt beneath. That excavation doubled the arena's size while maintaining the original design.
When crews recycled all the windows from the old Key Arena, not one window broke.
Engineers also innovated a new way to circulate air inside, affectionately called "snorkels."
"So in a very direct comparison, you use a snorkel when you're swimming to get air above water. We've got a below-grade building, we got to get air through a straw,” said Will Traylor, Senior Project Manager for Mortenson Construction. “These four snorkels are the straws for the air. So the four snorkels are the key to getting fresh air into the arena and exhaust air out."
The new arena design also includes amenities for visiting artists and shows. A two-lane tunnel running beneath the arena leads to eight loading docks, where crews can unload and set up for concerts more efficiently than ever. Acoustical panels in the rafters will improve live sound.
"It's just another way we can welcome all the artists back in,” said Rosie Selle, VP of Marketing for Climate Pledge Arena
Visiting artists will also enjoy dedicated dressing rooms, a catered dining room, and a music room where they can record songs or messages to fans.
"Artists will want to feel like they're at home and that's ultimately what we want them to feel when they come to Seattle, is that they feel at home at the end of the day,” said Nick Vaerewyck, VP of Programming for Climate Pledge Arena.
By last week, the finishing touches were underway and on October 22 visitors will step inside the planet's most sustainable arena.
Filmmakers are chronicling the arena construction in a documentary, which will stream on Amazon Prime Video.