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Experts give glimpse of what new Seattle arena might look like


Politicians and sports fans alike seem optimistic about the chances that a new arena for hockey and basketball in Seattle will get built. To figure out what it might look like, we turn to the experts in stadium design and construction.

A city and county overview of the estimated $500 million project promises a “state of the art” arena. Mortenson Construction vice president Jim Yowan says, for certain, technology is a crucial component.

“You’re really competing with people’s living rooms and their high-definition TVs and their connectivity, so fans today want to be in a space where they can bring their iPads and interact during the game,” he said.

Mortenson built the Pepsi Center and Coors Field in Denver and the Sprint Center in Kansas City. It also built the ShoWare Center in Kent and last year finished renovation of Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.

Yowan says each new stadium or arena includes a theme, signature or design unique to the city or area.

“Safeco [Field], for instance, takes advantage of views to downtown but certainly with the mountains and the water here, the forests, you would expect that to be reflected somehow in the design [of a new arena],” said Yowan.

James Poulson specializes in sports facilities as design director with AECOM, an engineering, design and construction firm with customers in more than 100 countries. AECOM is building the new home of the NBA’s Nets, in Brooklyn. He says any new arena must treat the fan “to a spectacular view of the court or the ice with great sight lines as well as comfortable seats and an up-to-date, state-of-the-art sound and video presentation.”

Based on other new arenas, you can expect a lot of exterior glass, allowing for an inviting look inside. The building will likely include retail shops open on non-game days too.

Potential investor Chris Hansen says he loves Seattle and he loves basketball and the NBA and Poulson loves that attitude. “I think his heart is really in this … and wants to bring [back] something that’s really near and dear to him and that’s a recipe for success in my book.”

From his Redmond office, Mortenson’s Yowan concedes some false starts in getting a new arena here. But this time, he notes, the politicians are lining up in support.

“Having been around a number of these deals in the past, it is very rare or unheard of for someone to come forward with $290 million of their own money and so that catalyst, in my mind, should be enough to get a deal done,” said Yowan.

As for the proposed SoDo location, Poulson calls it “gritty,” so near to industrial Seattle. “And I know that whatever is designed is going to have to be sensitive to that environment.”

Previous plans for stadiums in the area have considered soil conditions and earthquake risk as factors of concern. No trouble, says Yowan. Safeco and CenturyLink were built in SoDo and as for any concerns about rain disrupting a tight construction schedule, Yowan laughingly says that if contractors didn’t work in the rain in Seattle, they wouldn’t work much at all.

Yowan says he has not been contacted by Hansen but calls the proposed arena a “fantastic opportunity” that he would bid on with passion and enthusiasm.

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