Getting inside Climate Pledge Arena will be the first step to discovering just what $1.15 billion pays for these days.

Kraken and arena officials want all 17,000-plus fans attending Saturday night’s home opener against the Vancouver Canucks to have a seamless time arriving at the venue and passing through its security lines. That will take a bit of preplanning given COVID-19 realities and expected traffic from vehicles converging on the event.

“As somebody that used to go often to KeyArena for basketball and other events, I can tell you the arena and surrounding neighborhood have really changed a lot,” said Kraken vice president (sustainability and transportation) Rob Johnson, a Seattle City Council member circa 2016-17 when traffic and parking dominated many of the debates ahead of the arena’s overhaul being approved. “There is dramatic new transportation infrastructure around the neighborhood that didn’t exist five years ago.

“I think our No. 1 piece of advice is ‘Make a plan.'”

Among recent changes: The addition of the State Route 99 tunnel. Also, completion of the Mercer Corridor Project — expanding Mercer St. and reconnecting its side streets. Plus, the addition of “intelligent traffic signals” — through a Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique system — installed at 32 intersections along Mercer from 3rd Ave. W. to I-5 that can gauge heavy traffic flows from sporting events and adjust timing of signal lights accordingly to speed things up.

There’s also the Light Rail expansion connecting northern stations to downtown and upgrades to the Monorail for a 90-second transfer from Westlake Station to the arena site. The Monorail received a $7 million private-funded upgrade from the Oak View Group arena developer and will run every 3-4 minutes until an hour after the game.

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Kraken ticket purchases come with free transit passes embedded for gameday use on Light Rail, the Monorail, King County Metro buses, Sound Transit express buses and even the West Seattle water taxi. Ticket buyers can access the passes by downloading a Kraken + Climate Pledge Arena smartphone application.

Johnson said he’s been encouraged by seeing ample use of Park-n-Ride lots since the Light Rail connection to downtown opened this month. He hopes to see about 20% of fans using public transit, which would be up from 15% back when the venue was still operating as KeyArena before closing three years ago. 

As for the remaining 80%, he hopes those driving to games take advantage of parking features within the team’s app to price out nearby lots and pre-book spots ahead of the game. Johnson said bookings can be done for lots near the arena’s adjacent Uptown neighborhood — also known as Lower Queen Anne — and downtown near the Monorail stop.

Any planning ahead should also take into account the Highway 520 bridge connecting Seattle to the Eastside will be closed that day, while a Sounders home game is also scheduled.

“We don’t really know how that’s going to manifest for traffic congestion, having two (sports) events,” he said.

Kraken senior VP (communication and marketing) Katie Townsend echoed Johnson’s sentiments about fans planning things out ahead of time. She warned that the usual places fans used to park a decade ago around the arena may no longer exist and urged fans to download the team’s app and use the parking feature.

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“What we don’t want is people swirling around Climate Pledge Arena in their cars trying to get lucky,” she said.

Townsend also advised fans to be prepared to show proof of vaccination for arena entry. The team has suggested downloading the Clear Health Pass within that company’s health care app for expedited entry via a QR code.

Otherwise, fans can do manual entry by bringing their original vaccination card or a photo or copy of it. Children ages 12 and 13 must be verified manually while the rest between the ages of 14 and 17 can use the app. 

Arena doors open 90 minutes before puck-drop.

“We want everyone coming here to enjoy themselves and remember the experience,” she said. “This will be the best way for them to do that.”