This summer, people who pass by the Seattle Center will still see the arena’s landmark sloped roof—but the rest of the structure underneath will have been picked away bit by bit, leaving nothing but a dome temporarily suspended in midair.
The Seattle National Hockey League (NHL) and Los Angeles-based Oak View Group have revealed a first look at the demolition of the KeyArena to make way for a new one, slated to house NHL games and concerts.
Built in 1962 as a pavilion for the Seattle World’s Fair, the arena has a rich history that the Oak View Group (OVG), the project developer, is working to preserve. That includes the building’s iconic roof, along with several other features of the structure, which was designed by Paul Thiry.
In fact, according to OVG’s website, the company hopes to see the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its association with the World Fair.
"This is not a renovation," says Shaun Mason, a construction consultant at CAA ICON of Denver who is working on the project, in a video released by the NHL. "It is an all-new arena under that historic roof."
To do that, OVG is gutting the building to restore its interior without touching the roof. Steel columns and buttresses will be visibly holding the roof up starting in late April, when crews begin removing the walls of the arena.
“We’re going to keep that roof in place, demo underneath it and build a brand-new arena,” says Ken Johnson, construction executive of OVG, in the video.
Demolition started Dec. 5. Crews spent weeks removing the seats, equipment and ceiling tiles — “all the stuff you want to get out of the way so that when it’s time to start doing the real serious demo, you’re set to go,” Johnson says.
Crews have also conducted utility relocation work, like moving power lines, water lines and steam lines, and knocked down auxiliary structures nearby.
In April, crews are planning to begin the “hard demolition” of the arena, removing cement to prepare for excavation. Plans for the New Arena, as it’s set to be named, call for going down another 15 feet and excavating 600,000 cubic yards of dirt from June to October.
Mason says the dig will widen the arena to allow fans to be closer to the ice.
In line with preserving the arena’s historical elements, crews will also be photographing and tagging each piece of a glass wall art installation so that it can be safely removed and returned to its exact place once the project is complete.
The 750,000-square-foot facility is set to be complete in late spring of 2021 with 17,300 seats for hockey, 18,350 for basketball and nearly 19,000 for concerts. The NHL says 60 to 80 concerts are expected to be booked in the first year of operation, and the new NHL team is set to hit the ice that fall.
Check out this look into the building’s demolition, courtesy of NHL Seattle and OVG: