Skanska Hunt — a joint venture between global construction firm Skanska, which helped build MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and AECOM Hunt — has been named the general contractor for the $700 million KeyArena renovation.
Proponents behind what will now be a $700 million renovation of KeyArena say the increased project cost is largely attributable to upgrades implemented to make the venue a “top-third” revenue producer for both the NHL and NBA.
On a day they announced a new Skanska Hunt joint venture as general contractor for the two-year renovation, Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and Seattle Hockey Partners (NHL Seattle) president and CEO Tod Leiweke said the planned arena size, sightlines and amenities will compare with top facilities in both leagues. Beyond the upgrades, which will see the project grow an extra 50,000 square feet to 750,000, the Leiweke brothers also said part of the $100 million price jump is from mitigation efforts aimed at causing as little disruption to the surrounding neighborhood as possible.
“The brilliance of this building and what they’ve designed is that … if you’re the NBA, and you want to move to Seattle at some point or another in the future, you do not have to spend a billion dollars on a new arena,’’ Tim Leiweke said. “You walk into an arena and maximize your revenue streams as if you were moving into your own arena, without spending a billion dollars.’’
Leiweke repeated his past assertion that he isn’t “getting ahead of” NBA commissioner Adam Silver on a possible expansion or relocation timeline, but merely preparing should a team become available.
Under the revised plans, the seating capacity jumps by several hundred to 17,400 for NHL and 18,600 for NBA while the venue will contain separate permanent locker rooms for teams in both leagues and the WNBA’s Storm. The project will dig an additional 15 feet — 58 feet total — below the arena’s current floor and expand the walls further outward below its existing roof to maximize the square footage.
The Skanska Hunt venture brings together global construction giant Skanska, builder of MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, with AECOM Hunt. Engineering and architectural firm AECOM recently acquired the Hunt construction company and the pairing has overseen projects that include Mercedes Benz Stadium and Philips Arena in Atlanta, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
AECOM was also the company that produced a 2015 report for the Seattle City Council stating that — contrary to previous assertions — it was possible to renovate KeyArena for NBA and NHL use without touching its iconic roof. The report proved the catalyst for city officials to explore renovating the venue rather than sticking with a proposal by entrepreneur Chris Hansen to build an entirely new arena in the city’s SoDo District.
The current $700 million pricetag is well beyond the $285 million AECOM had initially estimated as a cost for a remodeled NBA/NHL facility. But part of that initial forecast was for a minimalist renovation, working under the assumption that mostly public money would be used instead of the 100 percent privately-funded construction since approved.
The AECOM report also did not account for Seattle’s escalating construction costs in the four years since it began exploring the arena issue in mid-2014, while much of the other increase is from the sheer extravagance the OVG design has taken on.
Leiweke went in to some of that Tuesday, discussing a glass-roofed lounge for premium ticketholders that will allow views of the Space Needle. He reiterated that all cost overruns are being covered by his partners, which include investment banker billionaire David Bonderman as well as James Dolan and his Madison Square Garden Co. in New York.
Even the way dirt will be excavated from the project site is now driving up the cost. Leiweke said his group met with contractors after reviewing roughly 160 public submissions by local stakeholders — some worried about noise and vibration the ongoing work will cause.
“They’ve looked at a very different way to get that dirt out of there so that we minimize the impact on the community,’’ he said.
An ongoing environmental impact study on the proposed renovation has an Aug. 30 target date for completion, followed with a city council approval vote expected in mid-September. After that, an NHL executive committee studying a Seattle expansion request could approve awarding a team here in October — with a board of governors vote to ratify it potentially coming by December.
Construction would begin no later than early November, ahead of any ratification vote, so the renovation can be complete by October 2020 in time for that year’s NHL season opener.
Several local community groups and stakeholders, including the Uptown Alliance, Pottery Northwest and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), had representatives at Tuesday’s news conference. OVG and the NHL Seattle group have held ongoing meetings with stakeholders before and during an ongoing environmental review process — including a recent sitdown with owners of two apartment complexes across from KeyArena expressing concern about construction impacts — to mitigate unresolved issues ahead of any construction beginning.
“We’ve been working hard in the community to try and build trust,’’ Tod Leiweke said. “And the resident organizations are going to go through some hassle here. But we’ve said to those resident organizations — SIFF … our friends at KEXP (radio station) and Pottery Northwest, ‘Trust us.’ We are building this in the most responsible way possible. But more importantly, we are going to be your partner for the next 50 years.’’
Mitigating issues ahead of time is crucial for the NHL bid. Any delays caused by one of the resident stakeholders appealing the environmental review would likely prevent the renovation from being completed in time for the NHL team to begin play during the 2020-21 season.
That message has apparently been drilled home to the general contractor as well.
“We understand that the Seattle Center and surrounding neighborhood must continue to be a vibrant destination throughout the construction process,’’ said Tim Smith, senior vice president of AECOM Hunt, which has designed venues for 13 NHL teams and 14 NBA squads. “With this in mind, many of the engineering solutions we have been working on for the Seattle Center arena are specifically targeted to create efficiency in construction while simultaneously mitigating impacts to both residents, businesses and traffic.’’