Seattle Hockey Partners CEO Tod Leiweke says the development of a future NHL team will happen in Northgate.
On Monday morning, Leiweke and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan officially announced Northgate would be the site of a training facility and team headquarters. And it will be more than that.
Durkan said the facility will allow the city to host national competitions.
The formal announcement comes after months of work, site surveys, and speculation. It follows the NHL Executive Committee's unanimous recommendation to move forward with Seattle's bid on an expansion team.
Seattle Hockey Partners CEO Tod Leiweke has previously discussed the facility as being on par with the Seattle Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.
The new facility would include three NHL regulations size ice rinks with spectator viewing areas, including up to 1,000 fans at the main rink. There will also be locker rooms, strength and conditioning areas, and the franchise headquarters.
Don Muret, who worked at the Sports Business Journal, and now works for Oak View Group, tweeted that the Northgate project designer is Generator Studio. The Kansas City company, says Muret, is the architect of a new suburban practice facility for the NHL's St. Louis Blues. OVG brokered the deal with the City of Seattle for the New Arena at Seattle Center.
NHL Seattle and Simon Malls, which owns the property, both said they are finalizing the exact location for the facility, but it will likely be on the East Side of the existing property.
Simon has been going through early design guidance for a massive redevelopment of the site, which includes multiple mixed-use buildings and a public park. It also included tearing down 60 percent of the existing mall to make way for construction.
The location makes sense, however. Northgate Mall is directly connected to a transit center. Light rail service is expected to begin by 2021. It’s also highly visible, sitting just off of I-5, across the street from North Seattle College. The Seattle Department of Transportation has plans for a bike and pedestrian bridge connecting the college to the west and the mall to the east.
According to Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson, because that work was already underway, it would streamline the process of building the headquarters and training facility. The area has already been zoned for this kind of redevelopment, said Johnson.
It is possible the training facility could be completed before the $700 million renovations of the KeyArena site.
There are currently no full-time ice rinks in the Seattle City limits, and youth hockey proponents have argued that a facility like this one, could help grow the game.
Seattle Council member Debora Juarez, who once joked back in 2016 about having a big shiny new arena on the mall site, may get the next best thing. Juarez’ district includes Northgate. Seattle Hockey Partners said a new training facility is key for developing the game long term. Juarez had been pushing to put the training facility within city limits, and it is believed, at one point that Hockey Partners had been looking elsewhere. Juarez has also been a big proponent of transit oriented development on that site, and this would help to likely speed up an redevelopment.
Seattle Hockey Partners is pushing to start a new franchise in 2020 at the new arena at Seattle Center, which would open the same year. The council approved the $700 million project on Sept. 24. The NHL executive committee, made up of 10 influential owners, gave the green light to the $650 million application on Tuesday, and is expected to finalize that part of the deal on Dec. 3-4.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan weighed in through a spokesperson. Stephanie Formas, Durkan's communications director issued the following statement:
"The completed Development Agreement set forth that (OVG) could begin its pre-construction as early as October 2018 and begin demolition once the conditions set forth in the agreement are met, which include securing all necessary permits and showing proof of insurance, as well as the NHL awarding a franchise, among other conditions. It has always been assumed that this work would proceed while the parties await final approval of an NHL franchise, and that timeline is memorialized in the Development Agreement. Following Tuesday’s unanimous recommendation by the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors, the City will continue its work with the (OVG) to begin necessary pre-construction activities as soon as possible. There is considerable preliminary work that needs to be done before demolition can begin, including utility terminations, environmental and geotechnical testing and remediation, mobilization, material and equipment stockpiling, and installation of fencing. That work can proceed before the NHL franchise is officially awarded. The conditions for demolition and construction were carefully negotiated to protect the City’s interests while still looking forward to an arena opening in October 2020."