Northgate Mall will be the site of a new practice facility and headquarters for Seattle's expected NHL expansion team. Missouri-based Generator Studio will design the facility, just steps from a Light Rail stop to be added in 2021.
A new training facility for this city’s anticipated National Hockey League expansion franchise is to be built on the site of a massively-redeveloped Northgate Mall, steps away from a planned Light Rail station.
The NHL Seattle group is to announce Monday that its new training center — a minimum three-ice-rink facility to serve as the hub of team operations — will be at the 55-acre site, which is in the permitting process for a three-phase redevelopment. Lance Lopes, Seattle director for the Oak View Group — planning a $700 million renovation of KeyArena — confirmed a Monday announcement of the practice facility but not the location.
Two sports sources did confirm the Northgate site as the location, which had been long rumored given the facility is contractually obligated to be within Seattle city limits and there are few alternatives with the land size needed. The addition of the Light Rail stop by 2021 will allow direct access from northern suburbs as well as from communities to the south after a downtown transfer.
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The arena will be designed by Generator Studio in Kansas City, which has worked on NHL arenas in St. Louis, Tampa and St. Paul, Minn. A $68 million, 275,000 square foot practice facility currently being built by the company for the St. Louis Blues is considered one of the grandest of its kind — with four ice rinks and hopes of drawing a million visitors annually.
A Generator Studio employee confirmed their participation in the Seattle project, but Mike Kress, founding partner and chief architect for the company, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Kress a decade ago — while working for Crawford Architects — had been the senior project architect designing the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton back when NHL Seattle president and CEO Tod Leiweke was still in charge of the Seahawks, who use the venue as their practice facility.
More recently, he and Generator Studio worked on a loge and suites remodel of Amalie Arena in Tampa when Leiweke was CEO of the NHL Lightning.
For now, the Northgate Mall’s owner, Simon Property Group, has proposed an initial project phase that includes a three-story, 145,000 square foot indoor Lifetime Fitness facility at the corner of 5thAvenue NE and NE 103rdSt. The fitness center, to be built on an existing parking lot, would seem a natural location for the new NHL facility, given it is already proposed for “sports and recreation” use and has a sizable parking lot directly across from it.
Scott Battishill, a spokesman for Simon’s on the redevelopment said the company has nothing to add at this point. Battishill noted that preliminary approval was granted in August “to advance our efforts into a full application. … We are continuing on our course at this time.’’
None of the most recent proposals submitted to the city’s constructions and inspections department by Simon’s in August mentions anything about an NHL facility and the topic was not raised at public design review meetings. A source working within the city’s design review board said if any new proposal for an NHL facility is put forth, it would be easier to do it within a building already planning to have sports and recreation inside.
Still, it’s possible the facility could be located elsewhere at Northgate, just that it would have to go through additional review hoops to get approved. The three-phase Northgate renovation covers 33 of the 55 acres on-site and could take up to 15 years to complete. Plans submitted show the project demolishing some of the existing mall and creating more open spaces, with pedestrian walking and retail zones. The finished product would contain more than 1,200 residential units, 200 hotel units, 596,000 square feet of retail space and 768,800 square feet of office space, with an additional 5,300 parking stalls and an additional 342,000 square feet of open public space.
It’s possible the practice facility could be placed in some of that open space, where specifics about its use have yet to be clearly spelled out.
Timing is of the essence, since NHL Seattle hopes to have an expansion team begin play by October 2020 and would need a practice facility finalized before that. The league’s board of governors is expected to vote on approving the franchise Dec. 3 and 4 in Sea Island, Ga., but whether the team would launch in 2020 or a year later has yet to be determined.
One of the determining factors will be the ability to have KeyArena and the practice facility ready in time.