First showing of new arena design not exactly a slam-dunk
The first architectural drawings of a proposed $490 million Seattle sports arena were released Friday and show a broad public entryway with covered stairs rising to a high wall of glass.
Seattle Times staff reporter
New arena designThe public will have a chance to comment on the design of a proposed new sports arena in the Sodo neighborhood. The Downtown Design Review Board will question the architects and take public testimony.
6 p.m. Dec. 11, Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave.
Drawings of a proposed $490 million Seattle sports arena show a broad public entryway with covered stairs rising to a high wall of glass, a contemporary design reminiscent of the entry to McCaw Hall.
The design team for investor Chris Hansen released the architectural drawings Friday, saying the group wanted to create a new Seattle landmark that fits into the urban character of the Sodo neighborhood south of Safeco and CenturyLink fields and pays homage to the city's maritime history and industry.
"Over the coming decades, this arena will be viewed as an integral part of the neighborhood and city, knitted into the fabric of Seattle architecture," said Brad Schrock, senior design principal for 360 Architecture.
Also included were two other alternatives, one that appears as a large glass oval and another rectangular building with a louvered roof.
The arena designers, 360 Architects, show the main entryway of the preferred design at First Avenue South and South Massachusetts Street with high, flat, geometric roofs that cover a public plaza and stairway rising from the street.
Other views of that design show windows wrapping the top floors of a rectangular building that would allow fans and concertgoers to look out at the city skyline and the cranes along Elliott Bay.
The designers say they plan to incorporate environmentally sustainable features into the arena, although those aren't detailed in the drawings.
"We believe the many public-transportation options available and proximity to downtown can result in one of the lowest carbon footprints of any major league facility in America," said Anton Foss, principal with 360 Architecture.
The initial responses of some local architects to the arena drawings were underwhelming.
While cautioning that the renderings are preliminary, Seattle architect and critic Mark Hinshaw said some of the views of the proposed arena seem like "boxes with a tight lid" that could be any number of public buildings.
"One thing that seems missing is any kind of dramatic roof expression that we have seen with a number of landmark buildings — particularly ones that involve large audiences.
"None of the three suggest an uplifting, 'muscular' profile that reflects the energy and spirit of the activity inside," Hinshaw said.
The public will get a chance to comment on the early design proposals at a Dec. 11 meeting of the Downtown Design Review Board. A five-member citizen panel made up of architecture and development professionals will question the project designers and decide if the proposal fits within the city's downtown design guidelines.
"This isn't a subjective call based on their feelings, but whether the project meets the adopted guidelines and is ready to move forward to the next step of permitting," said Garry Papers, senior land-use planner for the city Department of Planning and Development.
Seattle architect and potential mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck said he wanted to see more details about how the designers propose to make the construction and operation of the arena environmentally friendly.
"There are sustainable stadiums, and that's what we should be demanding in an important public facility like this. They can have substantial environmental impacts. They're huge," Steinbrueck said.
Steinbrueck is a paid adviser to the Port of Seattle, which has objected to the Sodo location because of potential traffic impacts to its nearby operations. He said that releasing plans for the new arena at that site further perpetuates the notion an arena will be built there.
"This should in no way be assumed a done deal," he said
The city is conducting an environmental review of the Sodo location that also will consider a Seattle Center site, though Hansen has said he's not interested in building anywhere else.
Longshore workers have filed a suit against the city and county for not completing the environmental review before entering into the agreement with Hansen. A hearing is set for February.
Seattle architecture critic, Lawrence Cheek, said he's skeptical any new arena design will be as graceful and interesting as KeyArena, built for the 1962 World's Fair and the home of the Seattle SuperSonics for 41 years.
"It's appalling that Seattle continues abandoning major civic buildings after just 20, 30 or 40 years," said Cheek. "I don't think anybody misses the Kingdome or the old Central Library, but KeyArena is a superb building, and it did not deserve to be orphaned."
At an initial Design Review Board hearing earlier this week on conceptual drawings for the arena, board members questioned how the architects would ensure the Sodo neighborhood remains active, even when events aren't scheduled.
They also questioned how fans would get to the arena on First Avenue South when most of the public transit is on Fourth Avenue South and separated from the arena by multiple train tracks.
The architects said they planned strong pedestrian connections along First Avenue South and a public promenade on Occidental Avenue South.
Hansen approached the city of Seattle about building a new sports and entertainment venue in 2011. After months of secret negotiations with Mayor Mike McGinn and a sports consultant hired by McGinn, and subsequent revisions by the Seattle and King County councils, a deal with Hansen was finalized in October.
The agreement calls for the arena to be built with up to $200 million in public bonds.
Revenue generated at the facility would repay the bonds and would go toward a $40 million transportation fund to make improvements in the industrial Sodo neighborhood.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or email@example.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.
Information in this article, originally published Nov. 30, 2012, was corrected Dec. 3, 2012. A previous version of this story incorrectly described Lawrence Cheek as an architect.