The KeyArena

The KeyArena (also known as The Seattle Center 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 KeyArena/Coliseum would be closed for a year during the major renovation. Construction began on June 16, 1994. During the 1994–95 season, the Seattle Sonics played their home games at the multi-purpose Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, about 30 miles (50 km) south.

The project included 58 luxury suites located on a private concourse, 13,000 seats for center stage concerts, 17,000 for basketball and 12,000 for hockey.  There are a total of 22 concession stands, along with a Club restaurant and bar for premium seat patrons.  Valley Electric’s role was to ensure that the building systems security systems addressed NBA standards and current codes.

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 Sonics at the expense of the junior Thunderbirds. The floor was just barely large enough to fit a regulation 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 hockey configuration, hanging over one blue line instead of the center-ice faceoff circle.

This project was a complete remodel of the existing arena, with the original building demolished and rebuilt for a total construction cost of $73 Million.  This is the home of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and former home of the NBA Seattle Sonics, and the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds (hockey).


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