SEATTLE — Wednesday will mark a significant day in the Seattle Kraken's evolution, but the team's tentacles already extend to different parts of the city.
In fact, the first rink at the new Kraken Community Iceplex in Northgate will open July 29, with team staff moving in shortly after.
It is a remarkable accomplishment, when all things considered. Groundbreaking began on February 27, 2020, the day before the first announced death from COVID-19 in the United States.
There have been stops and starts to the project ever since, but it will be done on time for the first players to hit the ice during training camp later this year.
"They'll spend a lot more time here than downtown," joked Iggy Tarajos, the director of operations at the KCI, as he led KING 5 through the facility, which includes three rinks and an adjacent public park. There is also a Starbucks Community Store, and the 32 Bar and Grill slated to open inside for people who want to share a drink at the site.
Tarajos excitedly showed off the piping for the facility, which will be used to freeze and refreeze the ice surfaces. The first layer will take some 30,000 gallons for all three sheets.
The largest rink, with nearly 1,000 seats, will play host to Kraken practices and special viewing events and programming. The Kraken have already staffed up for their planned youth, adult, and women's leagues that will also be using the site.
"Growing the game is a priority for us," said David Kyu-Ho Min, the Kraken's player development coach for the Kraken Youth Hockey Association. "We're willing to have difficult conversations to expand our sport and tap into the woman's game. Growing the game in different backgrounds and life."
The $80 million-project is part of the massive redevelopment of the Northgate site. In fact, it's just one piece in the overall redevelopment of an area which could be a case study in transit-oriented development.
It sits right next to a Sound Transit Light Rail station, and pedestrian overpass which connects North Seattle college to the east side of the freeway. They are three major projects all expected to open to the public around the same time this fall.
"We are the successful picture of transit-oriented housing, development, economic vitality, welcoming neighborhoods," said Seattle City Council member Debora Juarez, who is always proud to highlight positive development in her district she calls "D-5."
"Having light rail and transit, where you're a ten-minute walk shed, so you can walk to work, you can take your kids to childcare, you can do everything. You can shop, you can go the hospital, you go the doctor, everything is condensed for density but more importantly for walkability," she said.
Juarez is also quick to point out that the redevelopment includes thousands of housing units, with many online before 2025.
"We're looking at about, over 7,000 units of affordable, low-income and market-rate mixed use," she said.
Across the freeway, North Seattle College President Dr. Chemene Crawford is also smiling. Her campus will be connected to the light rail station by the pedestrian bridge, which is already in position over the freeway.
"I mean, we have so much opening up across the bridge, and this will provide a gateway for not only students but for anyone who wants to access to campus or access this beautiful neighborhood they were part of," she said.
In fact, Crawford said the school is looking at how to activate the parking lots it owns to build of the new connection and access to light rail.
"We're trying to catch lightning in a bottle," she said.
Yes, the Kraken have sports fans excited, and with good measure as the city had pursued a franchise for more than a decade.
But Juarez said there are more reasons to be enthused about the team, other than just what happens on the ice. They've already pushed the puck forward in her part of the city.
"It isn't just about the hockey it's important, it's incredibly exciting," she said. "It will be dramatically different."