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Get a peek inside Seattle's soon-to-be NHL arena

The old KeyArena is now a mud and dirt pit in place of where the Sonics and Storm once played to make way for a new arena to house Seattle's NHL team.

SEATTLE — The arena for Seattle's NHL expansion franchise remains on track to open sometime in the summer of 2021.

At the old KeyArena there is now more dirt than dunks and more exposed rebar than rebounds. In fact, engineers have raised the roof without ever playing a game. 

Reporters and photographers were given a tour of the former KeyArena Monday.

The $1 billion makeover of the KeyArena is not a renovation, it's a full-scale overhaul. 

"We are building a brand new arena," said Ken Johnson, who is overseeing the construction project for Oak View Group and the NHL franchise. 

Johnson said one of the most challenging parts so far has been putting supports in place to handle the weight of the 44-million pound roof, which is staying in place. 

The 1962 World's Fair era roof has historical landmark status, so the new arena is being built under it. 

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The securing of the roof was needed before full excavation could truly begin. Contractors will start digging 15-feet down from the surface later this year, trucking out 600,000 cubic yards of dirt within a year. 

Johnson said that 2019 will all be about digging out, and 2020 will be about "building back up" and the new arena bowl that will go in its place. 

Once the privately financed building is done, the arena will be 800,000 square feet or double the footprint of the old KeyArena. 

Johnson said the project is on track for opening in summer of 2021. The bank name will disappear after new naming rights are announced. 

The NHL team is scheduled to start playing in the fall of 2021, and the to-be-named team got some good news Monday. 

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The NHL Player's Association announced it will not exercise a right to reopen the collective bargaining agreement, following an announcement by the league itself that it would not move to revisit the deal. That means the existing deal will continue until September 2022, and a work stoppage won't threaten the beginning of Seattle's professional hockey relaunch. 

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