Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke beamed while guiding a couple of media guests on a private, impromptu tour Thursday through the nooks and crannies of his team’s new $80 million training center.
For nearly an hour, Leiweke and dozens of team employees, sponsors, media personnel and invited guests — including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan — had watched Kraken players stage an unofficial workout at the Northgate Mall facility’s main practice rink. It was a sneak preview of the Kraken Community Iceplex, which opens its doors to the public Friday and throughout the weekend with an open house and public skating opportunities.
But after all the speeches, interviews and glad-handing were done, Leiweke seemed just as enthused pointing out the commercial hot dog roller cooker behind a facility snack counter. And the computerized system of boiler-room pipes sending a liquid concoction beneath the venue’s three ice rinks to control their temperature. Also, the 700 pairs of skate boots neatly aligned on shelves in a rental counter storage room, near a new Blackstone Fireball automatic sharpening machine capable of handling two blades at once.
“It’s a beautiful sight to see,” Leiweke said, taking it all in and displaying outward relief that a major team project is officially done.
Well, not entirely. The team’s planned “32 Bar & Grill” restaurant overlooking two of the rinks is about six weeks from completion, meaning it won’t be ready when Kraken’s training camp opens Sept. 23.
But the rest of the project — which raced three years ago to get its construction permit application piggybacked atop a much larger one for Northgate Mall in order to be built by this season — is ready for Kraken workouts and roughly 1,000 fans daily in the stands. Those stands beside the main rink have a warm look, with a finished wood casing now covering previously planned aluminum benches.
That’s just one of the upgrades made within the two-story, 180,000-square-foot venue over 19 months of construction. During that time, the project endured a state-imposed COVID-19 construction shutdown, then a mishap last January in which errant debris from an adjacent, separate demolition project damaged the Iceplex roof where the restaurant will be located.
The restaurant underwent a name change after the team was sued in April by a Seattle dive bar claiming trademark infringement.
So, as Leiweke stood outside an upper-level team store for a Champagne toast with minority team owner Jay Deutsch, Kraken chief operating officer Victor de Bonis and officials from primary venue sponsor Starbucks, the appreciation of a journey’s end was palpable. “When you spend so much time on something like this, you imagine what it’s going to look like,’’ Leiweke said. “But then you see the actual project and, well, it gives me goose bumps.”
Leiweke had earlier said during an on-ice speech to the crowd, standing alongside Kraken general manager Ron Francis, that he felt close to tears. Kraken chief legal counsel Lance Lopes, watching from the stands, said he well understood those emotions given obstacles overcome just trying to incorporate the venue last minute within the Northgate Mall redesign being planned by its Simon Property Group owner back in October 2018.
“I’m not sure people appreciate how hard it is to get something built in three years in the city of Seattle,” Lopes said. “We were so fortunate that Simon Group was in the last stages of its permitting process, and so we basically got in right underneath their submittal at the eleventh hour.
“They’d already done years of work to get things all organized and lined up. They’d been involved in getting the Master use Permit for this project for years.’’
By incorporating its Iceplex proposals within the Simon Group plans, Lopes said the Kraken “cut off years of work it would have taken us to get this project through that (permitting) process. And then from there, we just worked with the city very industriously to get this done on time.”
Among Kraken players skating Thursday were Will Borgen, Jordan Eberle, Connor Carrick, Nathan Bastian, Carson Soucy, Jaden Schwartz, Cale Fleury, Joey Daccord, Morgan Geekie, Alex Wennberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, Carson Twarynski, Brandon Tanev, Haydn Fleury, Jeremy Lauzon, Philipp Grubauer and Alexander True. For many, it was their first time in Seattle since being selected in July’s expansion draft. Tanev, Oleksiak, Haydn Fleury and Eberle were a part of that event.
The unofficial practice was light, mostly going through nonphysical line rushes. Tanev was denied on a breakaway by goalie Daccord at one point, and Wennberg made several crisp passes to the middle working with Geekie. Carrick also beat goalie Grubauer on a wrister from the slot toward the end of the session.
Kraken senior vice president Todd Humphrey, who had overseen Iceplex construction on the team’s behalf since it began, watched some of the workout while otherwise hustling about the complex.
“This is going to be such a home for hockey and ice sports,” Humphrey said. “And the community’s just going to get to help develop both the team and the sport.”
Like Leiweke, Humphrey had his own expectations of what the finished project might look like. But he said the little things impressed him most, such as the colors and sharpness of the Kraken logo embedded below center ice on the main practice rink.
“It’s so exciting to see it live,” he said. “Because as I look at a Starbucks-branded Zamboni drive across a Seattle Kraken logo, it just feels so Seattle to me. And I think with the whole building, we intentionally made it feel like Seattle with the wood you see and the colors. I’m so proud of what we’ve built here.”
Seattle Times reporter Marisa Ingemi contributed to this report.
Kraken Community Iceplex opening weekend
Venue opens to public at 3 p.m. Friday
- Friday: Various skating sessions run from 3:30-8:30 p.m.
- Saturday: Various skating sessions run from 12:35-9 p.m.
- Sunday: Various skating sessions run from 8:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m.
Go to krakencommunityiceplex.com for details and parking/arrival information.