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KeyArena logo.png
KeyArena (2890740573).jpg
West entrance (First Ave N.) in 2008
KeyArena is located in Washington (state)
Location in Washington
KeyArena is located in the US
Location in the United States
Full nameKeyArena at Seattle Center
Former namesSeattle Center Coliseum (1964–1994)
Washington State Coliseum (1962–1964)
Washington State Pavilion (1962)
Address305 Harrison St
LocationSeattle, Washington
Coordinates47°37′19″N 122°21′14″W / 47.622°N 122.354°W / 47.622; -122.354Coordinates: 47°37′19″N 122°21′14″W / 47.622°N 122.354°W / 47.622; -122.354
Public transitMonorail Seattle Center
OwnerCity of Seattle
CapacityBasketball: 17,072
(18,600, planned post-renovation)
Ice hockey: 15,177
(17,400, planned post-renovation)
End-stage: 16,641 (16,000+, planned post-renovation)
Center-stage: 17,459 (19,000+, planned post-renovation)
Broke groundMay 12, 1960 (1960-05-12)[1]
OpenedApril 21, 1962 (1962-04-21)
Renovated1964, 1994–1995, 2018–2020
Construction cost$7 million[2]
($59.3 million in 2018 dollars[3])
$74.5 million (1995 renovation)
($126 million in 2018 dollars[3])
ArchitectPaul A. Thiry, FAIA, Architect
Structural engineerPeter H. Hostmark and Associates[4]
General contractorHoward S. Wright Construction[5]
Seattle Redhawks (NCAA) (1963–1980, 2008–2018, 2021–)
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA) (1967–1978, 1985–1994, 1995-2008)
Seattle Totems (CHL) (1974–1975)
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) (1985–1994, 1995-2008)
Seattle SeaDogs (CISL) (1995–1997)
Washington Huskies (NCAA) (1999–2000)
Seattle Storm (WNBA) (2000–2018, 2021–)
Rat City Rollergirls (WFTDA) (2009–2018, 2021–)
Seattle NHL team (NHL) (2021–)
Venue Website

KeyArena (formerly Washington State Pavilion, Washington State Coliseum and Seattle Center Coliseum) is a temporarily-defunct multi-purpose arena in Seattle, Washington that is currently under redevelopment. 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, the Century 21 Exposition.[6] It was used for entertainment purposes, such as concerts, ice shows, circuses, and sporting events. KeyArena is currently under renovation to be replaced with the Seattle Center Arena, in which a new NHL team will begin play for the 2021-22 NHL season.

It had a seating capacity of 17,072 for basketball games,[6] 15,177 for ice hockey games 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.

The arena's current tenants are the Seattle University Redhawks men's basketball team and the Seattle Storm of the WNBA.[6] The Seattle U. Redhawks are currently the arena's longest-serving tenant (1963–1980 and 2009 to present).[7] Rat City Rollergirls of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association have been a tenant since 2009.[8][9] KeyArena is now the permanent home of the Pac-12 Conference's women's basketball tournament. On December 4, 2018, the NHL officially approved a franchise for Seattle, which will play at the arena starting in 2021.

KeyArena was the home of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, WHL Seattle Totems and the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds. In 2008, the Oklahoma City-based ownership group of the SuperSonics (Professional Basketball Club LLC) reached a settlement deal with the city of Seattle on July 2, releasing the team from the last two years of their lease with the city and allowing the team to relocate to Oklahoma City for the 2008–09 season. After forty-one seasons in Seattle (and Tacoma), the team became the Oklahoma City Thunder and the owners agreed to leave the SuperSonics name, logo, and colors in Seattle for a possible future NBA franchise.[10] The Thunderbirds, who had called the Seattle Center Coliseum and KeyArena home for 32 years, also left in 2008 for the ShoWare Center in Kent, a southeast suburb.

KeyArena was the first publicly financed arena in the area to be fully supported by earned income from the building.[11] Following the 2008 settlement with the SuperSonics after relocation to Oklahoma City, KeyArena finances were bolstered for several years by a settlement fund but the current level of activity and revenue leaves little reserve beyond basic building.[12]


Seattle Center Coliseum[edit]

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 remodeled as the Washington State Coliseum, one of the centerpieces of the new Seattle Center (the former Exposition grounds). When the newly renovated Coliseum opened the Seattle University men's basketball team became the arena's first major tenant. The Coliseum became home to the Seattle SuperSonics beginning with their inaugural season in 1967 and remained throughout most of the team's lifetime.[13] The Washington State Coliseum would later be renamed the Seattle Center Coliseum; operated by the City of Seattle and named after the Seattle Center grounds.

Seattle Center Coliseum at night, circa 1963

The Seattle Center 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, with the Sonics retaliating the following year winning in five, this time finishing on the Bullets' home court, thus capturing the franchise's only championship. It was also the site of the only NBA game to experience an extended rain delay. On Sunday night, January 5, 1986,[14] the Phoenix Suns were visiting and rain from the Coliseum roof leaked onto the court.[15] 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;[16] the game was resumed from that point the following night, and Phoenix won by seventeen.[17]

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.[18] The NBA All-Star Game itself for 1987 in Seattle was held at the Kingdome.

The arena hosted the basketball competitions of the Goodwill Games in 1990.[19]

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.[20] 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.

Rebirth as KeyArena[edit]

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.[21] In an unusual move, the Coliseum would be closed for a year during the renovation. Construction began on June 16, 1994.[6] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

U2 performed at the arena in 2005 on April 24 and 25, during their Vertigo Tour, attended by a sold-out total of 30,251.

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.[25] 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.[22]

Diana Ross was scheduled to perform at the arena during her Return to Love Tour on July 24, 2000, but the show was cancelled, due to low ticket sales.

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.[26]

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.[27]

Between June 28 and 30, 2011, the arena hosted the Seattle audition stages in the first season of the Fox singer search program The X Factor.

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.[28]

In January 2012, 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.[29] 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.[30] On July 2, the city of Glendale, Arizona approved a new lease for the Coyotes at Arena, and soon after, the NHL approved the sale of the Coyotes to an investment group that will 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.[31]

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."[31] Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that KeyArena would be "a difficult arena for hockey" due to the large number of obstructed-view seats.[32]

In February 2012, KING 5 reporter Chris Daniels said an NBA team could also use KeyArena as a temporary home.[33]

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.[34] 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 Mr. Hansen's preferred site near the Mariners' Safeco Field parking garage.[35]

In October 2012, Madonna performed two sold-out shows on October 2 & 3 during her The MDNA Tour.

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.[36]

Starting in 2014, American video game developer Valve Corporation began hosting The International Dota 2 eSports tournaments at the venue, which have since featured prize pools of over $20 million.[37][38][39]

KeyArena hosted the second and third-round games of the 2015 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament in March.

The arena was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.[citation needed]

Seating capacity[edit]

The seating capacity for basketball:[40]

as Seattle Center Coliseum
  • 13,200 (1962–1973)[41]
  • 14,078 (1973–1974)
  • 14,082 (1974–1975)
  • 14,096 (1975–1976)[42]
  • 14,098 (1976–1985)[43]
  • 14,230 (1985–1986)[44]
  • 14,252 (1986–1994)[45]
as KeyArena
  • 17,072 (1995–2014)[46]
  • 15,354 (2014–2018)[47]
  • 18,600 (2021–) plans for Renovation

Seattle SuperSonics relocation controversy[edit]

Last Sonics Game in 2008

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 Women's National Basketball Association (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 [48][49] 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 for $350 million[48][49] was approved by NBA owners on October 24, 2006.[50][51][52] 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, the voters of Seattle passed Initiative 91,[53] 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.[54] 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".[53]

On February 12, 2007, Bennett proposed using tax money to pay for a new $500 million arena in Renton, a suburb of Seattle.[55] After failing to reach a deal by the end of the legislative session, Bennett gave up his attempt in April 2007.[56] On November 2, 2007 the team announced it would move to Oklahoma City as soon as it could get out of its KeyArena lease.[57] 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.[58] The Seattle City Council later unanimously passed an ordinance modeled after the initiative.[59] 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.[60]

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."[61] Bennett also reiterated that the team was not for sale and dismissed attempts by local groups to repurchase the team.[57]

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.[62] 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.[63] 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.[64]

The NBA Board of Governors approved the relocation of the Seattle Sonics on April 18, 2008 [65]

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.[66] 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.[67][68] The team moved to Oklahoma City immediately and announced it would begin play in the 2008–09 season.[69][70]

On October 5, 2018, the Golden State Warriors played against the Sacramento Kings in a preseason game, in the same arena where former Sonic Kevin Durant played previously. The game was mostly played to celebrate its moments with the NBA, which ended up being its final event before the arena closed down for redevlopment.[71]


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 the Seattle City Council over the street vacation of Occidental Avenue.[72]

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.[73] 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 within the existing roof structure.[74] On June 7, 2017, the city selected OVG as the preferred bidder for the redevelopment.[75]

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.[76] 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 were the 2018 league champions. [77][78] The Storm will play the 2019 season at the Alaska Airlines Arena on the campus of the University of Washington.

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.[79] The NHL Board of Governors voted to approve the Seattle NHL team on December 4, 2018.[80] Redevelopment commenced the next day on December 5.[81]


KeyArena 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.[82][83]

The Seattle Center Monorail also serves the arena, connecting it to Westlake Center and the Westlake tunnel station, and runs higher frequency service during events.

KeyArena 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.[84] The arena is located near the Mercer Street exit on Interstate 5, as well as State Route 99.[85]

Link light rail service to the Seattle Center and KeyArena is planned to begin in 2035, as part of the Ballard–Downtown extension.[86]


See also[edit]


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