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    A dream arena?

    Looks really do matter. A first look at design for a new SoDo sports arena that will help shape Seattle's skyline for the long run.
    This is one of the designs presented for a new sports arena in SoDo. (Click on an individual image to enlarge.)

    This is one of the designs presented for a new sports arena in SoDo. (Click on an individual image to enlarge.)

    A sketch with details of a leading possible design for a sports arena in SoDo.

    A sketch with details of a leading possible design for a sports arena in SoDo.

    A view of one proposed proposed designed for a SoDo sports arena, as it would be seen from Beacon Hill.

    A view of one proposed proposed designed for a SoDo sports arena, as it would be seen from Beacon Hill.

    Nothing's final, but it looks like the "Sonics" may well be returning to Seattle, and despite objections and lawsuits, plans are still going forward on the proposed Chris Hansen basketball/hockey arena in SoDo.

    This week brings us a new, more detailed look at the Sonics future home in a document called "Early Design Guidance 3" prepared for the Design Review Board (the pdf version is online at the city's web site). This is a step in moving toward a building permit.

    The "vision" of the arena designers "is to create an arena that reinforces linkages to downtown and invigorates its surroundings by reinforcing the existing city fabric and providing a destination, gathering place and become a vital contributor to Seattle’s vibrant culture."

    They've offered a number of designs, but the one on the top right seems to be leading the pack. According to the Seattle Times, some people say it reminds them of a vegetable steamer, others compare it to the inside of a jet engine. It kind of has a caldera-like feel from some angles, appropriate perhaps in playing off Mount Rainier in the background.

    One of my Facebook friends describes it as "dominos in a circle filled with Greek yogurt (but that might be the mushrooms talking)." Another describes it as "a hole in the ground down which millions and probably billions of dollars will be tossed." It reminds me a bit of a listing jello salad, others say a jello mold. A salmon mousse, perhaps. Or could it be a XXX Root Beer franchise?

    The color is interesting. It seems to play off the Port of Seattle cranes, but also echoes the original "Galaxy Gold" of the Space Needle, seen recently during the 50th anniversary. That color has not been universally approved. Prince Phillip of Great Britain dismissed it as "bridge paint" and Tom Robbins said it made the Needle look like a Howard Johnson's. Still, it's a color that goes well with Seattle's gray, and occasionally blue, skies.

    The slanting roof will undoubtedly be a benefit in the rain. The roof won't be retractable, though I kind of like the idea of outdoor basketball.

    Maybe the rooftop could be drafted for urban agriculture. A pot farm? Mini-goat grazing? Pea patch?

    The arena's design is less industrial chic than Safeco's look, not as tall as the Space Needle, has more coherence than Frank Gehry's blobular EMP, is less brutal than the old Kingdome, and less cool than Koolhaas' downtown library.

    Certainly, its ultimate success will be determined by what kind of play goes on inside, but even non-basketball fans will have to look at it for a long, long time, and we'll all end up owning it one day.

    Will this be a worthy addition to our skyline?

    Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.

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    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 8:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    It might be a worthy addition someplace other than SoDo.

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 9:01 a.m. Inappropriate

    The overlapping slabs recall the walls on the elegant stairs, bridges and other surfaces of our Olympic Sculpture Park. Are they indeed a national trend our architectural historians are tracking? It us a little early to judge the color, but the design does seem to be getting better


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    I wonder if the Wheedle will be back.

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 9:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    You must be kidding!? immediately reminded me of the Spam Carving contests held in Pioneer Square years ago. Can you spell laughing stock!?


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    My wife described it as a bundt cake.

    Jon Sayer

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 10:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    If I was king of Seattle, I would have have sold the key arena site for $1 to CHanson and have them rebuild on that site. This sodo location is dull at best during the daytime and mostly barren at night time. Sure it's a great place for buying home interiors, fast food, hole in the wall bbq, random supplies and waiting at train stops but lower QA would be the urban environment the paperwork keeps trying to say the arena will create.
    Oh well, it's not my money so it's not my choice.

    In terms of look, I like this one. It's Seattle different yet Seattle safe and will be able to host multiple events.

    Time to move forward.

    Thanks for the article and keep writing mossback.

    By the way, when will L. Cheek make a comment on this structure. Tell him he has fans missing his writing out here.


    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 3:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    It would be built with public funds; so it is your money, and it is your choice. It is not time to "move forward" on this proposal; and it is not moving forward to publicly fund an arena.


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 10:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    I have to agree with chapala21 - it does have a spam look to it. I don't think it will be a national laughingstock though. The middle part evokes rice while the slabs look like spam layers. It's the largest hawaiian breakfast ever! The just need something macaroni looking to the side to complete the plate.


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    It reminds me of a leaf shutter on an old-fashioned camera. (If this were Rochester, NY, and the company wasn't going bankrupt, we'd want to call it Kodak Arena...)

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 11:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Will this be a worthy addition to our skyline?"

    And any politicians who commit the taxpayers to paying one dime of indebtedness on this monstrous eyesore, a monument to irresponsible wasteful spending, should be indicted and run out of office in disgrace.

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 11:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    It's sole purpose is to be a cash cow.
    By its design, a cash cow turd pile.
    How fitting: a turd pile palace to entertainment.

    Reminds me of Hammering Man:
    THE LABORER: TWO-dimensional, flat black featureless.
    Its long neck suggests both man and woman
    embroiled in strenuous, endless, monotonous toil.
    Exhibited in plain sight for the leisure class,
    Holding no more artistic sentiment than a whirlygig.

    Seattle employs a sickly avante garde like Salvidor Dali.
    Fiddle while your putrid Rome burns, losers.


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 12:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    Who cares what the outside roof resembles; let's get some teams and championship banners for the inside rafters!!


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    Can't say I know exactly what would work best for the site, but -- as is true with most folks -- I'll know it when I see it. The most-recent design seems closer to the mark.

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 12:58 p.m. Inappropriate

    (1) Agree with uncletim--IF it's desired to build a new palace for basketball, it should be at Seattle Center on Key Arena site.

    (2) It's a total joke that Key Arena, not many years after a big remodel, was pronounced unacceptable by the NBA. Their stupidity is amazing...and they should back up the decision by refusing to let the new Seattle basketball team (not the Sonics, please--pull the plug on the Boeing identity) play even one game there, let alone to inhabit it for two or three years.

    (3) Koolhaas: I spent an hour sitting among other users on the 5th Ave. level of the library last night. My dislike for the facility increases with each such exposure--it's a cheap, visually-impoverished, light industrial joke inside, and not at all suitable for a center of culture. We got an interesting-looking tinker-toy box on the outside, and a design/live catastrophe on the inside.


    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 12:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    As far as the Key is concerned, it's really unfortunate that it was remodeled six or seven years too early (otherwise we could have avoided this whole mess). I go to the Key for Seattle U basketball games and it is drastically ill equipped for a professional sports franchise. For an enjoyable game-time experience, the NewperSonics might as well play at the Comcast Arena in Everett. I'd like to see the Key continue its life as a venue for Seattle U, concerts, the Storm, and the big draw of Rat City Rollergirls. And now that Key Bank isn't paying for the naming rights can we please please please name it the Washington State Coliseum again?

    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 3:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Okay what is specifically "ill-equipped for a professional sports franchise" about Key Arena? Specific. Not Hansen PR. Specific.


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 4:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    It wouldn't take much of a redesign to make it Hat N' Boots Mark-II.


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 8:08 p.m. Inappropriate

    Why does this monstrosity have 100-foot-high glass walls all around it?

    The plans show that Hansen wants to make 1st Ave. S. narrower where it passes the arena site, so that the sidewalk next to the arena would be wider. Hansen should move his ridiculous glass walls further from the street to make room for his wider sidewalk. Do not make 1st Ave. S. narrower.


    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 8:52 p.m. Inappropriate

    Is Holgate St. going to be closed to car/pedestrian traffic through the rail yards during games?


    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    Holgate Street would absolutely remain open. The architects played with the idea of closing Occidental/Massachusetts on gamedays but a lawyer from the Mariners and the Design Review Board shot it down immediately.

    Posted Wed, Jan 23, 9:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    Absolutely right about citizens forced to look at the specter of the stadium…particularly those tens of thousands of commuters who will be forced into the miasma of downtown gridlock twice a day trying to get to and from work after the viaduct comes down.

    If you think you miss the Sonics just wait until the viaduct is gone.


    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 4:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    Rebuilding the viaduct is the only financially sensible choice. Perhaps after more tunnel blades break, get stuck or bogged down, the wise leaders will switch to the wise course of action. I won't hold my breath or cross my fingers tho.

    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 9:54 a.m. Inappropriate

    The AWV is a structurally unstable engineering piece of crap. The ramps to 1st Ave, the ramps and overhead through Lower Belltown were designed by a previous generation of idiots and misanthropes who fully expected the notorious Seattle traffic nightmare to insue. The Washington State automobile lobby is an organization of tyrannical, destructive American pigs who proudly design roads, streets and highways to achieve a particularly high death toll to increase the bottom line profit margin. Seattle's transit system doesn't work intentionally by its design. The powers-that-be derive wealth from automobile dependency. The Key Arena lacks private parking and corporate suites though it is admittedly an architectural masterpiece.
    Seattle has enough major league sports venues to entertain its suburban drone supply.


    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 9:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    My oh my.

    Posted Sun, Jan 27, 9:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    The viaduct did however handle ALL of the demands that exist for capacity and mobility in the region unlike ANY of the proposed solutions, including this tunnel mistake. As for the engineering, maybe it needed more testing...it only served day in and day out for 60 years.

    Maybe the Discovery Institute could have the almighty ask the previous generation of idiots you speak of what they think of this current mess. They must be having some yuks over this billion plus dollar joke being played on Seattle commuters.


    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 11:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    This design is out of step with the general character of Seattle's architecture. It see nothing more than a monstrous Jell-o mold slumped within the SoDo industrial lowlands.

    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    I was at the Design Review Board meeting, and while the design itself is pretty much a go (excluding street-level functions such as the plaza configuration, sidewalk depth, and the placement of an access road), the colors that everyone is belaboring were deemed "placeholder colors" to be determined later in the design process. Personally, I like the Galaxy Gold/late-90's-Sonics harkenings of the orange and the review board was curious about the choice but the architects seemed to shrug it off like an okcupid date to which they weren't looking forward. In the end, based on their reactions, I strongly doubt that orange will be the color used (they even discussed the possibility of maleable ambient lighting like on CenturyLink), and am 100% sure that the tippy-top will not be white.

    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    To JimCusick's rail question -- there is a plan to grade separate every one of these crossings. More like the Tukwila 180th underpass near Ikea than the Royal Brougham freeway mess.

    Anyone know though if the Holgate separation will be up or down? And when? Will the arena fund that separation to fast-track it?

    Rob K

    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 2:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    I've enjoyed the conversation so far, but you guys have failed to mention the most important item. They need to call this thing the Bingdome.


    Posted Thu, Jan 24, 4:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    I don't mind it, but I'd rather the rusty/orange color on top was Sonics green.

    Posted Fri, Jan 25, 3:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    It looks like those things you put in pots to steam vegetables in, only pink.

    I doubt if professional basketball played in the rain would be practical in Seattle. NBA teams move a little faster than pickup games and the injury potential on a slick floor would be horrendous.


    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 3:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    The arena proposal was hatched in nine months of secret backroom meetings between Mcginn, Hansen, and the sports marketer Carl Hirsch (among others, Hugh Spitzer for one). They came up with a scheme for a publicly funded arena that provides all benefit Hansen, and only cost to Seattle.

    The arena comes from ugly, and no matter what, if the arena is built it will be ugly.


    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 8:27 a.m. Inappropriate

    I think it's great that the outward appearance of this arena can be interpreted so many different ways. The imagery suggests that the space will be bathed in natural light, which could be quite spectacular when filtered through the fins of the 'steamer.'

    Besides the more obvious sight-lines and overall inside experience, I think the success of this development will be measured on how inviting the streetscape/plaza area is made.

    When NHL teams make deep play-off runs (and probably NBA, although I don't know), it's common for double the arena capacity or more to turn out for a viewing party in the vicinity. It's difficult to tell whether this sort of activity could be accommodated with this design.


    Posted Sat, Jan 26, 6:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    You know something? People just go to see a game, not to have an "experience". Are people so lame that now going to a game is an "experience"? It is pathetic. We do not need to publicly fund some arena in order to profit only Hansen, and so some lame narcissistic babbits can "feel" as if they had an "experience". Truly disgusting.


    Posted Sun, Jan 27, 8:30 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'm sorry your body is so void of feeling that you are incapable of having an 'experience.' I have been to many sporting events/concerts/plays, etc. that constitute an 'experience' and I find it mind-boggling that someone questions my perception.

    There is a reason the human race has long sought to build communal buildings--to share experiences. When you stay home and view an event on television, you merely watch it, but to negate the experience of being amongst 10,000 or more people is futile.

    Of course you know more than all of us about the proposed arena, so you must be compelled to make comments that have NOTHING to do with the article. If you don't like the idea of the arena, this is not the forum for you. This article is about the building itself. You know...where people have experiences...


    Posted Sun, Jan 27, 4:58 p.m. Inappropriate

    No, It is quite the opposite. See, I have "experience" every moment of every day. My life is not so void of feeling that I have to go to some game, at some new arena to have an "experience".

    A forum about a publicly funded arena is a forum to talk about a publicly funded arena. The little game of slicing things up into little pieces so as to obfuscate the whole, does not work on me, or any other discerning, mindful, person.

    Now, I do not know if I know more about the arena proposal than "all of us"; but I bet I know more about it than you. Also, you need to floss between your ears, if you think this article has nothing to do with the arena proposal.


    Posted Sun, Jan 27, 5:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    The inspiration:

    Seriously though, it may look good in California (its got that red mission tile look) or Hawaii (the spam look)- but it is a complete anomaly in Seattle.


    Posted Mon, Jan 28, 2:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    Now, the building. There is nothing new, or innovative about it. It is the actual arena, surrounded by a glass and steel rectangular block.
    Its tall vertical walls loom over the too narrow sidewalk, and street. Glass and steel buildings are cheap to build.

    It appears that the idea here was to cover the entire property, and to do it in the least expensive way. Note that the walls are vertical, and end at a flat roof. So, it is a cover over the property with the actual arena in the middle. Cheap. It is like the Taco Time on 45th Ne with a dome sticking out of the middle. No real attempt at beauty. A run of the mill glass and steel stucture with some ornamentation. It could be a K-Mart, or a mall.

    But the recatangular block is a mall isn't it? This building isn't really just a basketball arena is it. It is a basketball arena surrounded by a recatagular glass and steel mall, designed to be built as cheaply as possible, with cheap materials. A rectangular block with no grace, flow, or seeming aesthetic at all.

    What percentage of the floor space in this building is dedicated to the actual sport? Not much of that recatangular space, in that rectangular box. It is not even designed to be nice for those inside it. "Wow, I am in a gridded out box, great".

    This thing looks like a run of the mill mid-grade glass and steel tower on its side; and would be cheaper to build.

    This design is insulting, and designed with nothing but moneymaking utility at the cheapest cost in mind. A rectangular glass and steel block. The architecture of client driven cheap. A fifty year old brick warehouse has much more beauty, and stature, than this rectangular block travesty


    Posted Mon, Jan 28, 6:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Note that the walls are vertical, and end at a flat roof"

    So we should curve/slant the walls just to make the building more expensive? Are you suggesting orthogonal spaces can't be made to be visually appealing?

    "What percentage of the floor space in this building is dedicated to the actual sport? Not much of that.."

    Should they make the hockey rink larger, more European? This is not a cogent argurment.

    The notion of creating a gathering space where people can experience an event together, where they can share emotions seems lost on you. The 'box of glass' is meant to keep people comfortable and move them through the space efficiently. The glass visually connects the user to the outside, not necessarily because it was the 'cheapest' option.

    I walked past an NHL arena a few months ago that had a similar wall of glass. It was wonderful to look inside and see the concourse with imagery and sweaters hung on the wall. This transparency is even better when it's game night and there's activity inside.

    This is much preferred to our own kitchy baseball stadium down the street with it's long facades of brick or steel grid.


    Posted Mon, Jan 28, 4:21 p.m. Inappropriate

    If you wanty to make a pretty building, then you make a pretty building. A rectangular block is not a pretty building, or even that difficult to design, kids make rectangular block buildings out of legos, doesn't take too much expertise.

    This design is reminiscent of the office buildings in East Germany during the cold war.

    Looked at on end, this design is almost an exact replica of the controlled atmosphere concrete apple warehouses in Eastern Washington.

    This arena would look like a dump within ten years. There is nothing innovative, or attractive about this design.

    This arena is an eyesore. Depending on the interior lighting it will especially be an eyesore at night.

    The design is for a building designed to have the cheapest cost, there is no concern at all for beauty.

    A publicly funded professional sports facility should have the vast majority of its space dedicated to the playing surface, and the seating. This design does not.

    The design is ugly. A friggin rectangular block. A cheap "box of glass" with no redeeming qualities. Cheap and ugly.

    Look at it yourself, and then tell me this is not a rectangular block, and ugly.


    Posted Mon, Jan 28, 4:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    One could take the mult-story parking garage on Lander street, put glass exterior walls on it, and one would have this design. Parking garage kitsch?

    This design has nothing to do with its location, Seattle, or the Northwest.

    Most NBA games are played in the evening in the Seattle winter. That means that patrons will not even be able to see the outside. Oh, but the interior lighting will force those outside to have to see this ugly rectangular block. It will be garish at night. Especially if the talked about LED light treatment to the exterior occurs.

    You bring up the NHL, this design does not even include an NHL practice facility. It does include an NBA practice facility. The individuals, who commissioned this design, want to own an NBA team, not an NHL team. So the client driven design is for an NBA arena. The NHL talk is marketing. The NHL is not even given much thought in this design. Proper inclusion of NHL design features would add cost to the building; and obviously the only concern with this design is to have the lowest cost; so, no NHL design features.

    This design is terrible.


    Posted Tue, Jan 29, 7:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    "It does include an NBA practice facility."
    See--you do know more about the proposed arena as I was unaware of that fact.
    It doesn't surprise me that much though. A regulation ice rink is over twice as large as a basketball court (200' vs. 94'). I believe most NHL teams have practice rinks in different facilities altogether--often in suburban locations closer to where the players live.

    "So the client driven design is for an NBA arena."
    I will agree with you there. It's obvious Hansen's foremost interest is with the basketball team, but an NHL franchise to split building operation costs would certainly behoove him.

    I think the design is so basketball-centric in fact, that the form of a jet-engine thrust into the ground might be the closest thing the league will get to an arena that matches the team's moniker (SuperSonic Stadium?).
    (Certainly the arena will actually be named for corporate interests and the they may want to stay away from any composite materials lest it be associated with the Dreamliner).

    Anyway, there's a reason hockey arenas have long been referred to as 'barns.' They are big, dumb buildings by definition. With the possile exception of the Saddledome in Calgary, they are almost all similar boxes with something protruding at the top.


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