Project architect Andrew Kesel watched Thursday’s groundbreaking at the Northgate Mall site of NHL Seattle’s future $80 million training center and pledged that his company’s stamp will be seen on it.
Kesel works for Generator Studio, the Kansas City firm that’s built other such NHL facilities, including the recently opened $86 million St. Louis Blues training center in Maryland Heights, Mo. Generator is known for designing spaces that reflect their communities, and Kesel said there will be a distinctive feel to this one.
“We’ve brought more of a Northwest sensibility to the architecture,” Kesel said in an interview after the half-hour ceremony featuring speeches by NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, council member Debora Juarez and others. “Rather than just rubber stamping a hockey venue all around the country, we really like to get in touch with the area the project’s going to be in, learn those sensibilities and try to bring that to the architecture.”
That goal isn’t always easy with what’s generally an aircraft-hanger sized building designed to hold multiple indoor ice rinks — in this case, three. But Generator has incorporated plenty of wood into the design to bring that local feel and some added warmth.
“It’s not like lots of facilities where it’s just a big metal barn,” he said. “I think we’re going to bring some intricate spaces, especially in the team areas, where it’s going to make it unique to Seattle because it’s simple but yet warm and inviting.”
What wasn’t simple was the demolition work, which Kesel termed far more complex than the suburban plot of vacant land the St. Louis complex started from.
“It was a wide-open site where you had vast amounts of space,” he said of the Blues’ facility, considered the most state-of-the-art in the league. “Here we were really challenged just by the constraints of going to Northgate. So, that made us kind of edit our design style for this facility.”
But with that phase now out of the way, the buildup is expected to take 14 months — exactly what the St. Louis facility did — with a targeted opening by May 2021. That’s three months ahead of when the Vegas Golden Knights expansion NHL team opened its facility in time for training camp before the 2017-18 season.
Beyond the three ice sheets, one with 1,000 seats and the other two with 400 apiece so fans can watch team practices and other events, the venue will also serve as a headquarters for NHL Seattle and its 200 employees. It will feature a top medical facility from team sponsor Virginia Mason, a full-service restaurant and overview bar and provide ice space for adult and youth hockey leagues, tournaments, birthday parties and corporate events.
Leiweke on the podium Thursday admitted the grandiosity of some of what the team is planning infrastructure-wise has taken time to emerge. But he noted that progress continues on the $930 million KeyArena rebuild, with transportation initiatives such as updating the Monorail and incorporating travel passes within ticket costs and now an “amazing development’’ training facility.
Leiweke said the Northgate project will be “an incredible facility for our fans’’ connected by Link Light Rail.
“This whole project has really been developed to serve,’’ he said. “And we start on that by saying we want to serve our players. We want to inspire players we are hoping to recruit. We want to retain players and we want word to get out that this — Seattle — is the place to play.”
As for community aspects: “We are deeply committed to growing the game here in Seattle, from elites to beginners and everyone in between. We want to serve the figure skating community and the curling community … and thousands and thousands of public skaters will come here and have great moments.”
Durkan, an avid curler, in her speech praised the coming Northgate Mall transformation as “absolutely amazing’’ and needed by the community.
Kyle Boyd, NHL Seattle’s community outreach director, told onlookers the team remains “deeply committed to making sure that youth, regardless of their background, continue to have access to hockey.
“Whether it be their ZIP code, race, gender, ethnicity, whatever diversity we have here in the city of Seattle, we hope to capture that in our hockey population.”