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How the new arena at Seattle Center will sound very, very different

The Oak View Group unveiled Tuesday how the acoustics at the new arena at Seattle Center will be unmatched.

Seattle, are you ready for some vertical lapendary baffles?

Say, what?

Well, you're getting a whole lot of them in the New Arena at Seattle Center.

The "baffling" announcement was part of an intricate, intimate reveal at the Pacific Science Center Tuesday night.

The Oak View Group (OVG), which is developing the KeyArena site, along with their lead sound engineer explained the acoustical touches planned for the new building at the public forum. It was part of a continuing series called the "Science of Sports and Entertainment," which is being co-hosted by the Science Center and NHL Seattle.

"We want to rival the top venues," said Don Graham, the vice president of events for OVG. 

Graham specifically cited New York’s Madison Square Garden, and the Forum in Inglewood, California as the top two venues.

RELATED: Opening date for New Arena at Seattle Center pushed to Summer 2021

"Hard to beat those top two, but we will be number three,” he joked.

Graham said music and concerts will be an anchor tenant at the new arena at Seattle Center with 70-80 shows a year. Brian Elwell, lead sound and acoustic engineer for the project, laid out the group's plan to make the building work not only for the new NHL franchise but for concerts as well.

"I need to know about reflections," Elwell said to the audience as he explained "reverb time," which is the amount of time for sound to fade away in a closed space.

Elwell said the old KeyArena served as an echo chamber of sorts for concerts.

"A rock band doesn't want any reverb, sports you want a lot of reverb,” he said.

Elwell pointed to plans to dramatically alter the undercarriage of the KeyArena roof, which is being preserved as part of the project. He noted the main trusses are 7.5 feet deep, and how OVG will install dozens of 7.5-foot-tall "vertical lapendary baffles" to match the depth, which are all 4 inches thick.

Credit: KING

There will also be a perforated metal panel on both sides of the side, upper deck, and below a viewing bridge. Elwell said this will allow fans in the upper deck to play a part in the noise in the bowl during a hockey game.

The group will also be installing retractable acoustic curtains in addition to a blackout curtain that will be separated by several feet. It's a way to help open up the bowl and make it louder during games while muting the echo during concerts. The 40' tall acoustic curtain will be 7 feet away from the other.

All told, Elwell said it will reduce the reverb from the old KeyArena by half and put it on par with the Forum.

RELATED: Plans for new arena at Seattle Center show project is more than a renovation

Michael Wansley, aka Wanz, who sang the riff on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Grammy award-winning song "Thrift Shop,” was part of Tuesday’s panel. He said it was refreshing that the acoustics were being considered at the front part, instead of the "back part" like the Kingdome.

Graham said he believes Seattle was losing 17 shows a year to the Tacoma Dome, and "we'll get those shows back" with the new building. The new arena at Seattle Center will also include an expanding loading dock, which is seen as key to the concert business.

Last week, NHL Seattle and OVG announced the 800,000-square-foot Arena would not be complete until summer of 2021 and cost between $900 and $930 million.

It will host an NHL expansion franchise beginning that fall, as well as the WNBA's Seattle Storm. The venture is backed by private money, as part of a 2018 agreement with the City to redevelop the site.

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