Climate Pledge Arena
West entrance (First Ave N.) in 2008
|Full name||Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center|
|Former names||Washington State Pavilion (1962)|
Washington State Coliseum (1962–1964)
Seattle Center Coliseum (1964–1995)
KeyArena at Seattle Center (1995–2018)
|Address||305 Harrison St|
|Location||Seattle, Washington, U.S.|
|Public transit||Seattle Center|
|Owner||City of Seattle|
|Operator||Oak View Group|
|Capacity||After 2021 renovation:|
Ice hockey: 17,400
|Broke ground||May 12, 1960|
|Opened||April 21, 1962|
|Renovated||1964, 1994–1995, 2018–2021|
|Construction cost||US$7 million (1962)|
($60.5 million in 2019 dollars)
$74.5 million (1995)
($129 million in 2019 dollars)
|Architect||Paul A. Thiry (1962)|
|Project manager||CAA ICON (2021)|
|Structural engineer||Peter H. Hostmark and Associates (1962)|
Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire (1995)
Thornton Tomasetti (2021)
|General contractor||Howard S. Wright Construction (1962)|
PCL Construction (1995)
Mortenson Construction (2021)
|Seattle Redhawks (NCAA) 1964–1980, 2008–2018, 2021–|
Seattle Totems (WHL/CHL) 1964–1975
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA) 1967–1978, 1985–2008
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) 1989–2008
Seattle SeaDogs (CISL) 1996–1997
Washington Huskies (NCAA) 1999–2000
Seattle Storm (WNBA) 2000–2018, 2022–
Rat City Roller Derby (WFTDA) 2009–2018, 2021–
Seattle Kraken (NHL) 2021–
Century 21–Washington State Coliseum
|Area||approx. 6.8 acres (2.8 ha)|
|NRHP reference No.||100002406|
|Added to NRHP||May 10, 2018|
|Designated SEATL||August 2, 2017|
Climate Pledge Arena is a multi-purpose arena in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is located north of downtown in the 74-acre (30 ha) entertainment complex known as Seattle Center, the site of the 1962 World's Fair. Originally developed for the exposition, it was bought and converted by the city of Seattle afterwards for entertainment purposes such as concerts, ice shows, circuses, and sporting events. The arena is currently undergoing redevelopment work at an estimated cost of $900 to $930 million; it is expected to open in June 2021 with a capacity of 17,400 for ice hockey and 18,600 for basketball.
Prior to its closure in October 2018, the arena was most recently home to the Seattle Storm of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the Seattle University Redhawks men's basketball team, and the Rat City Roller Derby league of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. It also played host to the Pac-12 Conference's women's basketball tournament. Upon the conclusion of redevelopment, it will host the Seattle Kraken, a National Hockey League (NHL) expansion team that will begin play in the 2021–22 season. The Storm and the Redhawks are expected to resume as co-tenants when the arena reopens.
The arena is most notable as the longtime home of the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Sonics first played at the facility, then known as the Seattle Center Coliseum, from their founding in 1967 to 1978. After a stint in the Kingdome from 1978 to 1985, they returned to the arena in 1985. The facility underwent an extensive renovation after the 1993–94 season, which necessitated the Sonics moving home games to the Tacoma Dome for the 1994–95 season, and it was renamed KeyArena after KeyCorp bought the naming rights in 1995. The SuperSonics left KeyArena in 2008 amid a controversial relocation to Oklahoma City. The arena also had a history of hosting minor professional hockey teams, first as home to the Seattle Totems of the original Western Hockey League and the Central Hockey League from 1964 to 1975, followed by the Seattle Thunderbirds of the current Western Hockey League from 1989 to 2008. The Totems folded in 1975, while the Thunderbirds left in 2008 for the new ShoWare Center in Kent, a suburb southeast of Seattle.
The arena was the first publicly financed one in the area that was fully supported by earned income from the building. Arena finances were bolstered for several years by a payment following the settlement with the SuperSonics in 2008, but the level of activity and revenue after the departure of the team left little reserve beyond basic building maintenance. The naming rights deal with KeyCorp concluded at the end of 2010, but the building maintained the KeyArena name until its 2018 closure.
In June 2020, Amazon bought the naming rights to the arena. In a departure from usual corporate naming, Amazon dedicated the arena name to bringing attention to climate change. In light of the unique name and its purpose, Amazon also announced that the arena would be the first zero-carbon one in the world, powered exclusively by renewable energy including both on-site and offsite solar rather than the widespread standard use of natural gas found in other arenas.
Seattle Center Coliseum
The arena opened in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition, the work of architect Paul Thiry. After the close of the Exposition, the Pavilion was purchased by the city of Seattle for $2.9 million and underwent an 18-month conversion into the Washington State Coliseum, one of the centerpieces of the new Seattle Center on the former Exposition grounds. When the newly renovated Coliseum opened, the Seattle University men's basketball team became the arena's first major tenant. In 1964, the facility was renamed the Seattle Center Coliseum. That same year, the Seattle Totems moved into the Coliseum. The Coliseum became home to its most famous resident, the Seattle SuperSonics, beginning with their inaugural season in 1967 and remaining as host throughout most of the team's lifetime.
The Coliseum in this incarnation hosted two NBA Finals, in 1978 and 1979, both between the Washington Bullets and SuperSonics. The Bullets won in 1978, prevailing in game 7 in Seattle. The Sonics retaliated the following year, winning in Game 5 on the Bullets' home court, thus capturing the franchise's only championship. Upon the opening of the new Kingdome in 1976, which first hosted the NFL's Seahawks and NASL's Sounders followed by MLB's expansion Mariners in 1977, the Sonics would begin playing a small number of home games at the stadium. For the championship 1978-79 season, the basketball club moved into the Kingdome full-time. They would call it home through the 1984-85 season, after which the team returned to the Coliseum. During those 7 years, the Sonics would occasionally play home playoff games at the Coliseum or Hec Edmundson Pavilion to not interfere with the Mariners' regular season home schedule. They would continue to play occasional games as the Kingdome through the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The arena hosted the NBA All-Star Game once, in 1974; the 1987 game had included NBA All-Star Saturday festivities on February 7, where former Sonics star "Downtown Freddie" Brown was the MVP of the legends game, Boston Celtics star Larry Bird won the three-point contest, and Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan won the slam-dunk competition. The NBA All-Star Game itself for 1987 in Seattle was held at the Kingdome.
Additionally, the arena has hosted concerts by many famous artists, spanning many different genres. The Beatles performed at the arena twice, first on August 21, 1964. Their 1966 show on August 25 was the final stage performance of their career at an enclosed indoor venue; the final two were outdoors at baseball parks in California. A notable performance by Metallica was in 1989, when they were supporting the Damaged Justice Tour. Their performance at the Coliseum was one of their first large arena concerts and it was filmed for their live album, Live Shit: Binge and Purge.
In 1983, Barry Ackerley, head of the Washington D.C.-based television, radio, and billboard company Ackerley Communications Inc., purchased the Sonics from long-time owner Sam Schulman. In the mid-to-late 1980s, the team's on-court success would decline. This was coupled with a sub-par home court experience at the Coliseum, which included the NBA's lone rain delayed game on January 5, 1986 when rain water leaked from the roof onto the court as the Sonics played the Phoenix Suns. Timeouts were called so ball boys armed with towels could do their best to wipe up the puddles, but even so, two players slipped and fell on the wet surface. Early in the second quarter, referee Mike Mathis called the game with the Suns up by eleven points. The game was resumed from that point the following night, and Phoenix won by seventeen.
Ackerley began exploring new options for an arena. Heavy relocation rumors began to circulate, amongst them a potential move to San Diego or possible sales to groups in other markets like Milwaukee or Toronto. In 2018, Ackerley's son Chris would say that the family was always committed to keeping the team in Seattle, and that "[...] in each case, we stood on our principles that this is a Seattle community asset."
Potential replacement by arena in SoDo
In 1990, the Ackerleys talked about building an arena east of Lake Washington near the mall in Bellevue. They would eventually purchase land in the SoDo District near the Kingdome, some of which included the site that would become the Mariners' current home, T-Mobile Park. Ackerley approached the city about a public contribution to the new arena, but the city was reluctant over fears the city-owned Coliseum would become obsolete. They offered to help finance a renovation of the Coliseum, but the team owner declined. To sweeten the offer, Ackerley sold city leaders on the idea that the new arena in SoDo could also attract an NHL club. The city, along with Denver, had been conditionally granted an expansion NHL franchise in 1974 to begin play in the 1976-77 season. The NHL briefly flirted with relocating the Pittsburgh Penguins to Seattle (and the California Golden Seals to Denver) to address a troubled market and fill the expansion commitment, but ultimately kept the team there. Eventually, the Seattle franchise award was rescinded altogether when the potential ownership group was unable to secure the funds for the expansion fee.
In July 1990, the city council approved a deal for a privately owned $100 million facility to be built on the Ackerley land in SoDo, despite objections over traffic and parking by the Seahawks and Mariners in the neighboring Kingdome. The city's contribution would be to waive about $31 million in tax revenues (about $1 million per year) to potentially be collected on admissions fees at the new arena. It would also pay $2 million for street improvements around the proposed site, including a pedestrian walkway over South Royal Brougham Way. Ackerley also agreed to sign a 30-year lease for the Sonics and to build an 1,800-stall parking garage. Ackerley appeased the Seahawks' concerns, noting the arena would be empty during any NFL games. The Mariners unsuccessfully continued to object, even enlisting then-Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent and then-American League president Bobby Brown to speak before the council ahead of their final vote.
During negotiations, Ackerley had asked for a provision to reduce the seating at the Coliseum by 9,000 seats so the older arena could not compete with the new building, but the city would not agree. Another selling point of the new arena were luxury suites, a means to attract corporate money and sponsorship that was then an emerging new revenue stream for sports team owners. Ackerley's financing and agreement with the city hinged on the ability to sell the 70 proposed luxury suites.
Ackerley also committed to submitting an expansion application to the NHL by a September 15, 1990 deadline as part of the arena deal. His son Bill would head the expansion effort, while a competing group led by Microsoft executive Chris Larson and former Seattle Totems player then coach Bill MacFarland was preparing their own application. With the Ackerley application already submitted, the two groups would merge with Larson and MacFarland being primary points of contact with the NHL. Then owner of the Seattle Thunderbirds, Bill Yuill, also joined the group. Larson and MacFarland, along with Barry Ackerley and Bill Lear, Ackerley's financial advisor, were set to make a presentation to the NHL's Board of Governors on December 5, 1990. At the meeting, Ackerley and Lear asked to meet with the board first, promptly withdrew their application, and left. Larson and MacFarland were stunned to learn of the development but were unable to pursue any recourse as their names were never on the submitted application.
Thought to play a factor in Ackerley's decision were the significant demands by the NHL for an expansion team: a $50 million expansion fee that was more than any NHL club was valued at the time; a $5 million down payment that would be forfeited if 10,000 season tickets were not sold in the first year – the Sonics had never sold more than 9,000 season tickets; season tickets needed to produce at least $9 million annually, which would've made the tickets the second most expensive for a team in the area at the time; a 20-year lease with a "substantial" share of arena revenues from concessions, parking, and ad signage; priority status for postseason arena dates; and a secured $5 million line of credit in case the league had to take over ownership of the team at any point. Ackerley would not sacrifice Sonics revenues for a hockey team in which he would be a minority investor.
In June 1991, nearly a year after the city agreed to the arena deal, Ackerley announced that the project would not move forward. Increasing project costs, legal disputes, and inability to secure construction financing were cited as reasons to drop the project. Only around 30 of the 70 luxury suites were sold and the Ackerleys were unable to find a corporate buyer for naming rights. Ackerley Communications profits were down, which also contributed to the financing difficulties. A state Supreme Court case brought by Seattle Center employees challenged the constitutionality of the arena deal, while potential lawsuits from the Mariners and trade show organizers and possible legal challenges to environmental review of the project loomed.
Rebirth as KeyArena
Newly elected Seattle mayor Norm Rice was concerned over a loss of concerts and events to cities with larger, more modern facilities, and the strong possibility the city could lose the Sonics. The mayor believed that sports unite a community and that Seattle Center would continue to serve as a valuable hub for tourism. At his insistence, a Center commission developed a plan to renovate the Coliseum by excavating the floor to lower it and build a new bowl with more seating. The Ackerleys turned down the renovation concept in favor of building their own arena in SoDo. Though the city preferred the renovation, they would reluctantly agree to the new arena plan. After the SoDo proposal fell through, the Ackerleys attempted to find other investors to no avail. Barry Ackerley would return to the city to ask if they would still consider renovating the Coliseum.
With renewed interest on all sides, including the city council, the city spent $250,000 studying if it was even environmentally and engineeringly feasible to dig into the ground beneath the building. The plan proved possible and it was found that the compression ring holding the roof could be preserved, saving $15 million in cost and keeping the facility seismically sound against earthquakes. The original cable-suspended roof would be replaced by a conventional fixed roof with steel trusses that would preserve the well-known shape.
The project had an estimated cost of $73.4 million, considerably less than other new arenas of the time in Portland and Vancouver, to be paid with the city's bond capacity. A new kitchen and support building, a parking garage on 1st Avenue N, a new team store, and a tunnel connecting the store to the arena brought the total cost to nearly $127.3 million. New amenities would include 22 concession stands, 8 portable stands with vending in the seating, three private sports clubs, and a public sports bar and restaurant. Club-level seating with 1,100 seats would also offer exclusive club, concession, and lounge areas, and a private concourse with 58 luxury suites would also be added.
A mandate of the project was that no taxpayer funds could be used to pay for it. This brought concern from the Ackerleys, but after nearly a year of negotiations a revenue sharing plan was developed. The city and the team would split revenues from suites, concessions, and other items all within in the arena to service the debt for the city and provide income to the team. The arena would be the first to finance itself by use of the arena. In May 1993, the city council voted 7-2 in favor of the deal with the Sonics signing a 15-year lease agreement and a guaranteed income of $7 million per year during the lease. The agreement was initially turned down in council committee in the hopes of negotiating a 20-year lease with an increased guaranteed income of $9 million per year starting in year 15. The Ackerleys declined these changes.
The Coliseum was rebuilt between 1994 and 1995, bringing the arena up to NBA standards of the day. The local Seattle office of NBBJ, the second largest architectural firm in the country, was chosen as the architects. In an unusual move, the Coliseum would be closed for a year during the renovation. Construction began on June 16, 1994. During the 1994–95 season, the SuperSonics played their home games at the multi-purpose Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, about thirty miles (50 km) south.
On April 11, 1995, the city sold the naming rights to Cleveland-based KeyCorp, the parent of KeyBank, which renamed the Coliseum as KeyArena. The renovation cost the city of Seattle $74.5 million and the SuperSonics approximately $21 million. The naming rights cost KeyCorp $15.1 million.
The remodeled arena maintained the architectural integrity of the original roofline by using the existing steel trusses in combination with four new main diagonal trusses. The wood, steel and concrete from the demolition was either reused in construction of the new arena or sold to recyclers. The original acoustical panels, the panels attached to the roof that keep the space from echoing, were refurbished and reused. The court was lowered 35 feet (11 m) below street level to allow for 3,000 more seats. The doors opened to the newly renovated arena on October 26, 1995. The sightlines, however, benefitted the SuperSonics at the expense of the junior Thunderbirds. The floor was just barely large enough to fit a regulation ice rink. Many seats in the lower level were so badly obstructed that almost half the lower level was curtained off for T-Birds games. The new scoreboard was significantly off-center in the ice hockey configuration, hanging over one blue line instead of the center-ice faceoff circle.
The first regular season game for the SuperSonics at the rechristened KeyArena was played on November 4, 1995, against the Los Angeles Lakers. The renovated arena hosted the 1996 NBA Finals that first season, when the SuperSonics lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games. The last SuperSonics game played there was on April 13, 2008, a 99–95 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Depeche Mode performed at the arena six times: the first show was on May 2, 1988 during the Music for the Masses Tour prior to the renovation. The second one was on November 7, 1993, during their Devotional Tour. The third was in 1998 on December 7, during their Singles Tour. The fourth one was on November 16, 2005, during their Touring the Angel. The fifth one was in 2009 on August 10, during their Tour of the Universe, in front of a crowd of 9,376 people. The sixth was October 21, 2017, during their Global Spirit tour. The 2009 show was recorded for the group's live albums project Recording the Universe.
Once KeyArena lost the SuperSonics and the Thunderbirds, there was speculation that KeyBank may try to amend the naming rights deal. In March 2009, the city and KeyCorp signed a new deal for a two-year term ending December 31, 2010, at an annual fee of $300,000.
Phish has played at KeyArena twice, on November 27, 1996, and October 18, 2014.
In 2009, the Seattle University Redhawks men's basketball team began playing their home games at KeyArena for the first time since 1980. In February 2009, the Seattle City Council approved a new 10-year lease that would keep the WNBA's Storm at KeyArena.
In 2009, the arena hosted the WWE No Way Out Pay-Per-View event. The WWE returned on March 9, 2010 to tape the March 10th episode of NXT and March 12 episode of Smackdown. They would return a year later to host the WWE Over the Limit pay-per-view on May 22, 2011. In April 2011, the Professional Bull Riders brought the Built Ford Tough Series to KeyArena for the first time.
On January 21, 2011, Seattle Center announced that KeyCorp would not renew its agreement for naming rights of KeyArena, after 15 years of sponsorship. However, the venue retained the KeyArena name, despite the fact that the naming right had expired.
In January 2012, ESPN.com reporter Scott Burnside said an NHL team playing in KeyArena "would be entirely acceptable", as a temporary venue for a franchise, depending on a future arena plan. The Phoenix Coyotes were often speculated to be a likely candidate for relocation and in June 2013, reports circulated that if the NHL could not negotiate a new lease for the Coyotes with the city of Glendale, Arizona by July 2, the league would sell the team to a private investment group which would then be given permission to relocate the team to Seattle prior to the 2013–2014 season and use KeyArena as a temporary home. On July 2, the city of Glendale, Arizona approved a new lease for the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, and soon after, the NHL approved the sale of the Coyotes to an investment group that would keep the Coyotes in the Phoenix area, eliminating the possibility that the Coyotes could move to Seattle.
Conversely, in February 2012, SB Nation columnist Travis Hughes said that while it made "too much sense" for the NHL not to put a team in Seattle in the future, KeyArena was completely unsuitable even as a temporary facility due to the same problems with sight lines that ultimately forced the Thunderbirds to move out. Hughes wrote that even one year of NHL hockey in an arena where half the lower bowl sat unused would be "just unacceptable." He argued that the situation would be even worse than what the Coyotes faced at America West Arena, their original home in Phoenix. When the Coyotes played there from 1996 to 2003, they had to deal with seats where part of the ice could not be seen at all, forcing them to curtain off several thousand seats in the upper level.
League officials have hinted that a new arena would have to be in place before a new or relocated NHL team came to Seattle. During the 2012 All-Star Weekend, Bettman said that while Seattle was a good fit for the NHL, "there's no building." Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that KeyArena would be "a difficult arena for hockey" due to the large number of obstructed-view seats.
In July 2012, at a public town hall meeting debating Chris Hansen's proposed NBA/NHL arena in downtown Seattle, anti-arena proponents wanted to "re-explore" using KeyArena instead of the proposed site downtown. The environmental reviews required for the building approval are, as of February 2013, exploring alternate sites that include the KeyArena site and the nearby Memorial Stadium site in addition to Hansen's preferred site near the Mariners' Safeco Field parking garage.
In December 2013, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis became the first Seattle-based act ever to play three consecutive sold-out shows at KeyArena when the duo concluded their 2013 World Tour in support of their album The Heist.
On September 16, 2016, the arena hosted the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
Roger Federer organized a tennis exhibition match at KeyArena with Match for Africa 4, held on April 29, 2017. Two matches were played, the first a doubles match pitting Roger Federer and Bill Gates against John Isner and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, and a singles match featuring Federer and Isner. More than $2 million was raised for the Roger Federer Foundation from the match's proceeds.
In its initial configuration, the arena had a seating capacity of 13,200 for basketball games, 12,250 for ice hockey games, 16,000 for meetings, and 14,770 for boxing matches. Minor expansion occurred as the SuperSonics grew in popularity, but the design of the arena limited its expansion potential; calls for its renovation occurred as early as 1976.
In 1977, Seattle voters passed a bond measure to make improvements to Seattle Center. Permanent ticketing areas were added to the arena eliminating the portable ticket booths that were in use since The Seattle World's Fair. In 1983, the original seats were replaced while improvements were made to the concourses to compete for concerts after the Tacoma Dome opened.
With the 1995 renovation, the arena's capacity was expanded to 17,072 for basketball, 15,177 for ice hockey and ice shows, 16,641 for end-stage concerts, and 17,459 for center-stage concerts and boxing. Risers held 7,440 on the upper level and up to 7,741 on the lower level, with luxury suites adding another 1,160 seats. However, the ice hockey capacity was reduced to 10,442 when obstructed seats were removed.
The redeveloped arena will feature a new interior and entrance atrium while retaining the existing roof and three exterior walls. It is planned to seat 18,600 for basketball, 17,400 for ice hockey (as well as arena football, indoor soccer, indoor lacrosse, and ice shows), 16,940 for end-stage concerts and events, and 19,125 for center-stage concerts and boxing.
The seating capacity for basketball and hockey are as follows:
Seattle SuperSonics relocation controversy
In 2001, ownership of the Seattle SuperSonics (who had called KeyArena home since 1967) transferred from Barry Ackerley to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Schultz claimed that in the five years he owned the SuperSonics, the team suffered heavy financial losses, which led him to seek funding from the Washington State Legislature for a newer, more modern arena. After failing to reach an agreement with the city of Seattle over a publicly funded $220 million expansion of KeyArena, the Basketball Club of Seattle, led by Schultz, put the SuperSonics and its sister team, the WNBA's Seattle Storm up for sale. After failing to find a local ownership group to sell the team to, Schultz talked to ownership groups from Kansas City, St. Louis, Las Vegas, San Jose and Anaheim before agreeing to sell the team on July 18, 2006  to an ownership group from Oklahoma City, who had pursued an NBA franchise after hosting the New Orleans Hornets franchise successfully for two seasons as the city of New Orleans rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina. The sale to Clay Bennett's ownership group, Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC) for $350 million was approved by NBA owners on October 24, 2006. Terms of the sale required the new ownership group to "use good faith best efforts" for a term of 12 months in securing a new arena lease or venue in the Seattle metropolitan area.
In 2006, 74% of voters in Seattle voted to pass Initiative 91, a measure that prohibited use of tax dollars on arena projects in the city unless it could be shown the city would turn a profit on their investment. The limitation of tax dollars that could be spent on the arena, combined with earlier losses under recent ownership groups, "likely doomed the Sonics' future in the city".
On February 12, 2007, Bennett proposed using tax money to pay for a new $500 million arena in Renton, a suburb of Seattle. After failing to reach a deal by the end of the legislative session, Bennett gave up his attempt in April 2007. On November 2, 2007, the team announced it would move to Oklahoma City as soon as it could get out of its KeyArena lease. Seattle's mayor, Greg Nickels, maintained a stance that the Sonics were expected to stay in Seattle until their lease expired in 2010 and said the city did not intend to make it easy for Bennett to move the team early. Over concerns the city would accept a buyout of the lease, a grassroots group filed a citywide initiative that sought to prevent the city from accepting such an offer from Bennett's group. Seattle City Council later unanimously passed an ordinance modeled after the initiative. On August 13, 2007, Aubrey McClendon, a minor partner of Bennett's ownership group, said in an interview with The Journal Record (an Oklahoma City newspaper) that the team was not purchased to keep it in Seattle but to relocate it to Oklahoma City. Bennett later denied such intentions, saying McClendon "was not speaking on behalf of the ownership group". Due to his comments, McClendon was fined $250,000 by the NBA.
On October 31, 2007, Bennett informed NBA commissioner David Stern that the ownership group intended to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City as soon as it was legally possible. The timing of the announcement, one day after the Sonics' home opener, drew critical comments from Tom Carr, Seattle's attorney, who said "Mr. Bennett's announcement today is a transparent attempt to alienate the Seattle fan base and follow through on his plan to move the team to Oklahoma City ... Making this move now continues the current ownership's insulting behavior toward the Sonics' dedicated fans and the citizens of the city." Bennett also reiterated that the team was not for sale and dismissed attempts by local groups to repurchase the team.
On September 23, 2007, the City of Seattle filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep the Sonics from leaving before the end of their lease in 2010. In the midst of the lawsuit, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offered to pay half of a $300 million renovation of KeyArena; the rest to be provided by the city and county. However, when the state legislature did not give approval for the county to provide funds by an April 10 deadline, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said that the effort had failed and the city's hopes rested in its lawsuit.
The NBA Board of Governors approved the relocation of the Sonics on April 18, 2008.
On June 16, 2008, the grassroots organization "Save Our Sonics" organized a well-publicized rally, which reportedly drew over 3,000 participants, at the U.S. District Courthouse in Seattle to protest the proposed relocation of the team. The rally was held on the first day of the city of Seattle's lawsuit against the PBC to enforce the remaining two years on the KeyArena lease.
On July 2, 2008, two hours before a ruling in the city's lawsuit was to be given, it was announced that the team and the city had reached a settlement where PBC would pay the city $45 million immediately in exchange for breaking the lease, and an additional $30 million if Seattle was not given a replacement team in five years. According to the conditions of the settlement, the Sonics' name and colors could not be used by the team in Oklahoma City, but could be taken by a future team in Seattle, although no promises for a replacement team were given. The Oklahoma City team would retain the franchise history of the SuperSonics, which could be "shared" with any future NBA team in Seattle. The team moved to Oklahoma City immediately and announced it would begin play in the 2008–09 season.
On October 5, 2018, the Golden State Warriors played against the Sacramento Kings in a preseason game at KeyArena, the same arena where former Sonics forward Kevin Durant played previously. The game was mostly played to celebrate its moments with the NBA and ended up being its final event before the arena closed down for redevelopment.
Redevelopment into Climate Pledge Arena
In October 2016, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city would seek proposals to redevelop KeyArena into an NBA and NHL ready venue, issuing a full request for proposal in January. This came after the rejection of the new arena proposed in SoDo by Seattle City Council over the street vacation of Occidental Avenue.
Two groups, Seattle Partners (led by AEG and Hudson Pacific Properties) and the Oak View Group (led by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke), submitted proposals to the city in April 2017 to redevelop the arena, also securing corporate partnerships and seeking the support of the NHL. Both groups were required to submit an additional proposal to preserve the arena's iconic roof, which the city planned to submit for municipal landmark status. AEG unveiled a $520 million proposal that would extend the iconic roofline over presently underutilized space on the arena's south end. Oak View Group submitted a $564 million proposal that would lower the arena's bowl 15 feet (4.6 m) within the existing roof structure. On June 7, 2017, the city selected OVG as the preferred bidder for the redevelopment. The landmark status of the arena's exterior, including the roof, was approved by a city-appointed landmarks preservation board on August 2, 2017; furthermore, the exterior was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 10, 2018.
On December 4, 2017, the city council approved a memorandum of understanding with OVG to rebuild the arena by 2020. The approval came days after the previous memorandum with the SODO Arena had expired. Four days after the approval of the MOU, the NHL gave the Oak View Group approval to submit an application for an expansion franchise in Seattle. The arena would be closed for two years, and the last remaining professional sports team tenant, the WNBA's Seattle Storm, plans to move elsewhere in the Seattle metropolitan area during those two years. The team played its usual summer schedule at KeyArena in 2018, beginning in mid-May and continuing through the playoffs in early September; they ultimately won the 2018 WNBA Finals. During the renovation, the Storm are playing most of their home games at the Alaska Airlines Arena on the campus of the University of Washington, with other games at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
On September 25, 2018, the proposed $700 million renovation of KeyArena was approved unanimously 8–0 by the Seattle City Council and signed into legislation by mayor Jenny Durkan. The NHL Board of Governors voted to approve an expansion team for Seattle on December 4, 2018. Redevelopment commenced the next day on December 5. Though some design changes and additions had contributed, in mid-December 2018 OVG announced that it had replaced the general contractor, Skanska Hunt, with Mortenson Construction as overall project costs had increased to between $825 and $850 million.
With the closing of the arena in October 2018 to begin redevelopment, the City of Seattle, Seattle Center, and Oak View Group retired the KeyArena name and officially adopted Seattle Center Arena as the name for the project. It is alternately referred to as the New Arena at Seattle Center. In February 2018, it was reported that six interested parties had approached OVG regarding naming rights for the new arena. Alaska Airlines was announced as the naming sponsor of the south atrium in January 2020. On June 25, 2020, Amazon purchased the naming rights, changing the arena's name to Climate Pledge Arena, with CEO Jeff Bezos choosing the name to call for action on climate change. The rooftop signage for KeyArena was removed by a helicopter on July 8, 2020.
Climate Pledge Arena is located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, which is served by King County Metro bus service from surrounding areas, including Queen Anne Hill and Downtown Seattle. The RapidRide D Line and other routes provide frequent service between the arena's west side and Downtown Seattle. Route 8 connects the neighborhood to Capitol Hill and the Central District.
Climate Pledge Arena is served by three public parking garages, with a total capacity of 2,944 vehicles, located in and around the Seattle Center. Additional neighborhood parking lots and on-street parking spaces bring the total number of spaces up to 7,400 stalls. The arena is located near the Mercer Street exit on Interstate 5, as well as State Route 99.
- Friends Arena, a multi-purpose stadium in Stockholm, Sweden whose naming rights depart from usual corporate naming by promoting a nonprofit organization against school bullying
- List of NCAA Division I basketball arenas
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