Uptown Alliance hosts KeyArena discussion

To enter KeyArena today — whether from the east or west side — sports fans and concertgoers have to head down a set of stairs from either plaza to reach the front doors.

But the way people access the venue will look far different after the building’s redevelopment, with entrances on the south end of the site, an area currently devoted to loading purposes. 

That’s one of the main elements of the latest designs for the project, as presented during an Uptown Alliance meeting on Jan. 9 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 

 “What’s happening with the arena is that the elevation around the building ultimately will all be at the same elevation, which is near where it was in 1962,” said landscape architect Barbara Swift.

Though representatives from Populous — the lead architecture firm on the project — were unable to attend, both Swift and Rico Quirindongo of DLR Group walked a group of about 100 people through their design process, ahead of a presentation before the Seattle Design Commission this week.

Quirindongo referred to, “creating a new front door,” to the arena with the south entry. That’s in contrast to the buildings to the north of the arena — which house KEXP, the Vera Project, and the SIFF Film Center — which are landmarked and not included as part of the development

Swift discussed making most of the site level, aside from three places with a grade changes ranging from 9-to-15-feet. Thats true to the original design of the arena.

“[Just think about] being able to walk straight up to the façade of the arena,” Swift said. “That’s what you’ll have as an experience.”

Also discussed was how best to activate the site, particularly on non-event night, with suggestions from those on hand ranging from a bar or restaurant open year-round, to outdoor concerts. Community sport courts were another idea floated, as a way to replicate the activity that currently comes with the skate park (which will be demolished).

Some of the most consistent feedback the group received centered around lighting and way finding on the site — as a way to make it both safe and easy to get around — along with creating a designated pick-up and drop-off site for rideshare trips.

In brief remarks, OVG Seattle Director Lance Lopes said the group recognizes the substantial footprint the arena has on the Seattle Center campus.

“We’re very, very excited to be able to get this level input from the communities and neighborhood,” Lopes said.

OVG’s new Director of Operations, Steve Mattson, was also on hand. Before coming to Seattle, he served as vice president of the Target Center in Minneapolis, a venue that just re-opened after a $145 million renovation.

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