An oft-stated hope among local amateur hockey officials has been that the arrival of a Seattle NHL team would spur an increase in construction of desperately-needed indoor ice surfaces across the region.
That’s now happening with an announcement Wednesday that the Sno-King amateur hockey association has partnered with a private developer to build a 72,500-square-foot, two-ice-sheet arena in Snoqualmie by early summer of 2020. Sno-King executive director Dave Blanchard said in an interview his association expects to double its membership ahead of the Seattle NHL team’s October 2021 debut and that the venue — projected to cost between $20 million and $25 million — will serve about 1,600 additional youth players and 1,000 more adult players on the Eastside.
“We are full, so we’ve always been trying to find a place to expand to,’’ Blanchard said. “But with the NHL coming we felt that the timing really became valid.’’
Last July, Sno-King facilities manager and former NHL player Jamie Huscroft warned that even a new three-ice-sheet practice facility planned by the NHL Seattle group won’t be enough to adequately serve what he feels will be an “explosion’’ of demand for amateur hockey locally within five years. Youth and adult programs, he said, were already bursting at the seams with capped memberships and long waiting lists and demand for ice has tended to grow two-or-threefold in places like Texas, Florida and Arizona after the arrival of NHL teams there.
“It’s not going to take long for them to fill those three sheets of ice,’’ Huscroft said of NHL Seattle at the time. “We’re going to have to start building more.’’
Now, about 11 months later, those additional sheets are indeed starting to get built.
Combined with the three sheets at the $80 million NHL training center, set to open at Northgate Mall by 2021, the latest ones from the Snoqualmie project means five additional rinks will be added near-term within a region currently served by seven such surfaces.
Blanchard agreed that “all the leagues now are pretty well close to capacity’’ and that Sno-King has been at capacity for three years. As such, the nonprofit association — which operates arenas in Kirkland and Renton — had been focused less on growth and more on serving its existing membership until the NHL team became official back in December.
At that point, Sno-King embarked on a search across the Puget Sound region for an expansion site and partnership. And it found a partner in the Razwick family, which owns the final parcel of undeveloped land on SE Douglas St. in the Snoqualmie Ridge business park where the new arena is to be built.
Jeff Razwick, a spokesman for the family that in 1980 founded Snoqualmie-based Technical Glass Products before selling to the Allegion conglomerate last year, said in a release that: “Supporting Sno-King by providing a building for their new home in Snoqualmie is one way we can contribute to the community. This will be a huge benefit to local youths and adults interested in hockey and figure skating, and the new arena will provide the ice space needed for everyone to get out there and skate.’’
The partnership will see the Razwick family build the arena’s shell starting this summer, using local firms Nelson Architects, Northway Construction and Kidder Matthews. After that, a Sno-King design team consisting of HTG Architects and Gausman & Moore from Minnesota and Keller Rohrback will begin work on the interior.
Once completed, Sno-King would become the arena’s only tenant through a long-term lease.
“By putting a facility in Snoqualmie, we’re now within 30 minutes of peak-hour drive times to anyone on the Eastside,’’ Blanchard said. “So, it’s really a great spot for us to locate a new arena and to be able to serve all the people. So, from Bothell to Renton, on this (eastern) side of the lake, all the way out to the mountains, that’s our market area.’’
The lack of ice sheets in the region has long been cited as a key reason why aspiring hockey players often feel compelled to move out of state. Washington Capitals star T.J. Oshie, a product of Everett youth hockey, used to have to be driven an hour each way from his Stanwood home to an arena in Mountlake Terrace before relocating to Minnesota at age 15.
NHL Seattle president and CEO Tod Leiweke said his group is thrilled about Sno-King’s expansion ahead of what he expects will be an unprecedented surge in local amateur hockey memberships.
“The future arrival of the NHL into our area is already generating increased interest in ice hockey and figure skating programs on a regional level,’’ Leiweke said.
The new Snoqualmie facility will also be in proximity to hotels and restaurants, which should help it draw out-of-towners for tournaments that will boost revenue and recoup construction costs.
Blanchard said Sno-King will also actively seek sponsorships within the venue, much like the planned NHL training center at Northgate Mall is doing.
“There will be a lot of opportunities for them to have naming rights and to name different aspects of the arena,’’ he said. “Each rink will be named separately. They can name the locker room area, the lobby and the building itself can be named … we’re really hopeful that businesses get excited about it. It will be a great community asset.”