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Dramatic changes made to plans to replace KeyArena

Oak View Group unveiled new plans on Monday for replacement of KeyArena -- taking into account community concerns about traffic and pedestrian flow.

New changes to the plans for New Arena at Seattle Center were unveiled on Monday. Public feedback led to significant changes with a push to dramatically change the pedestrian flow once the project is given the final green light.

New designs from the Oak View Group, and its architectural firm Populous, show the project will now rely heavily on the south end for pedestrian and fan access with a massive atrium complex. The 670,000 square foot facility will replace the existing KeyArena and include major changes on each side of the building. Populous’ Geoff Cheong, in a phone interview, acknowledged community concerns about congestion, foot and traffic flow played into the designs. KEXP, McCaw Hall, and Seattle Opera all operate on the North Side of the building. Uptown and South Lake Union groups have also questioned how the building would be integrated into the community.

The new design looks to pull people to the other side of Seattle Center. It includes the Atrium, which will have three main entrances, and match the glass curtain which has enveloped the Arena site since 1962. The two main entrances of the Current KeyArena, on the East and West sides, which include depressed stairwells, will be filled and go away.

The Atrium is 360 feet in length, and extends out from the South Side of the Arena, where a loading dock and parking currently take up space. There will also be 15 feet in grade difference, allowing for a pedestrian overhang near 2nd Avenue. The designs also show a park like setting on the building’s southwest corner, which could be used year round.

Once inside, many fans will be able to enter straight into their seats, in what will be a four-tiered bowl, as opposed to the current two. The Designs show a “Space Needle Club,” with views of the Seattle icon, and other high end touches.

Cheong says the lower bowl will include lower bowl seats, lower bowl club seats, and “ice level suites,” similar to the Diamond Club set up at Safeco Field. The Suite Level is just above the lower bowl, and includes “opera boxes” on the south end, and club seating on the opposite side. There is the upper concourse on the plaza level, where most people will enter, and yet a fourth level, which OVG has labeled as the “bridge level,” including spots for 300 spectators with a clear view of the action. The press box will also be on that level.

There are other significant design changes as well, in the $600 million dollar Arena project. OVG says the changes will allow for 17,000 seats, and it plans on having a two scoreboard system inside. The ceiling, which has protected status, will be draped with an “acoustical cloud” for concerts, to enhance the audio quality inside the building, according to Steve Mattson, OVG’s Director of Operations. Cheong adds that the building will include NHL locker rooms, as well as locker rooms for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and a future NBA franchise.

OVG’s design also plays into the fact that most of the available space is to the south of the existing KeyArena. OVG still plans to dig down, and construct multiple loading docks, and parking underneath the new atrium. Cheong says the plans also call for preserving the Bressi Garage as-is, which has been given a historical designation by the City of Seattle.

The new renderings come less than 72 hours before OVG begins soliciting refundable deposits for NHL franchise season tickets. OVG is asking for a $500 deposit for each seat, and $1,000 for each club seat. Those go on-sale March 1st at 10am on NHLSeattle.com. OVG will likely need at least 10,000 deposits to solidify their application to the NHL for a franchise to begin play in 2020. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been coy about when a official decision will be made, but it is widely believed, based on how the league handled expansion Las Vegas, an announcement could be made as early as June. OVG still needs to complete an environmental review, and have final transaction documents approved by the City. If the project stays on schedule, OVG’s Tim Leiweke has said demolition of KeyArena could begin in November.

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