SEATTLE — It sounds like Amazon will have more than naming rights in the new arena at Seattle Center.
On Thursday, Oak View Group CEO and lead developer Tim Leiweke let it slip that the company was working with Amazon to create contactless concessions at Climate Pledge Arena, similar to the payment system at Amazon Go stores already seen in Seattle.
At Amazon Go stores, customers use a phone app to enter the store. They then pick up their own items off shelves and can leave without having to interact with a cashier. Their items are paid automatically through their accounts.
Leiweke spoke as part of a broader discussion about the future of sports and the fan experience in a post-COVID-19 world, hosted by Sportico.
Leiweke appeared alongside two current NBA owners, the Golden State Warriors Joe Lacob and Milwaukee Bucks Marc Lasry.
Leiweke said issues raised during the pandemic have influenced changes to the building design.
"Air circulation systems, we improved at both Climate Pledge Arena, and the UBS Arena [the future home of the New York Islanders] and the Moody Center down in Austin. So in all three new buildings, we had to go back and with our engineering folks figure out how to put more air into the building and get fresher air in there. We've gone to great lengths now to go grab-and-go with Amazon. That's a huge part of what we're doing on our food and beverages."
"We're gonna have to do a lot more with our employees to make sure that we're tracking them, not just when they come to work," he added.
The conversation also led to talk about when venues, like Seattle's arena, or others may reopen to fans.
Lacob's franchise privately financed a $1.4 billion-plus Chase Arena in San Francisco, which opened in 2019. He believes there is a way to gradually reopen to fans, even if a COVID-19 vaccine is not in wide use.
"I think there are three ways to mitigate risk and to keep people feeling safe, and the demand is there and (the fans) want to come," he said. "Basically airflow, ventilation, masking, and testing, those are the three things that you can do. You can do them, they cost money, but testing in particular, but it's worth it. If you can fill an arena, my expectation is I'm going to try like hell to get half of our arena, and then all of our arena done as soon as possible."
Lacob says he has a plan.
"Testing is something, we can do it. I have a quantitative risk assessment model that I put together with UCSF and the leading epidemiologist there."
"We're presenting into the city on the state and shows you when you do those three things at a certain level, you can make the venue safer than going to the local grocery store," Lacob said.
Climate Pledge Arena is scheduled to open to fans in time for the inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken in October.
Kraken executives had previously hinted that the building's concessions would include cashier-less kiosks, cafeteria-style food service and beverage options.
The Kraken declined to comment on Leiweke's statement.