Rob Lampman watched Wednesday as workers poured about 300 yards of concrete atop what will become the Kraken’s practice rink ice surface inside their Northgate Mall training facility.
“It’s just great to see this coming together, taking shape,” Lampman, the facility’s general manager, said of the rink and the projected $80 million venue, due to partially open in July and then full-on by September.
The Kraken’s practice rink was the second of three NHL-sized surfaces at the 167,000-square-foot complex that are having the concrete slab poured over miles of glycol cooling system piping and smoothed out all around its oval-shaped design. Workers poured the first rink Tuesday, then began the main Kraken practice rink at 6 a.m. Wednesday and were finished by afternoon. They used drivable trowels to flatten the concrete to make for the best possible ice for the soon-to-be-picked NHL expansion squad. The final rink gets poured Thursday.
Also on Wednesday, the Kraken announced some of the people that will skate atop the three rinks, all coaches hired to implement the team’s Youth Hockey and Skating Academy programs that will drive the bulk of operations at the venue when the NHL squad isn’t practicing.
Chad Goodwin, a former skating director for the Vegas Golden Knights and their youth program, will occupy the same position for the Kraken. Martin Hlinka, a former AHL pro and assistant coach of the NCAA Division I men’s hockey team at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, will run the facility’s youth hockey program.
David Kyu-Ho Min, a Bellevue native and former coach with the Eastside-based Sno-King amateur program, will serve as one of two player-development coaches. The other will be former college hockey player Katelyn Parker, a Bellingham native who spent the past three seasons coaching the University of Connecticut NCAA Division I women’s program.
“The entire community … will have the opportunity to utilize this ice and skate on this ice,” Lampman said. “It won’t just be utilized for the Seattle Kraken, but for everybody.”
Min, who was a Head Skills Coach and Assistant Hockey Director at Sno-King, will help develop what the Kraken hopes will be among the NHL’s biggest Learn to Skate and Learn to Play programs. Having played and coached locally for years, he has seen a growing demand from both youths and adults looking to try hockey for the first time.
“Some of the local clubs have been busting at the seams in terms of numbers and participation,” Min said. “At one point, at Sno-King, we had to turn down a lot of participants. So with three new sheets of ice coming in and then the NHL presence coming into town, I think it’s just going to take it to the next level.”
Registration is to begin early summer for adult and youth Learn to Skate and Learn to Play programs and for 8-under, 10-under and 12-under youth hockey. Programs are to begin this fall once the facility opens.
The outside of the facility is nearly complete — with no visible damage from a January mishap in which debris from an adjacent project toppled on to the west side of building. Inner walls have also been erected and are in the process of being filled in to delineate a planned Kraken Bar & Grill, team store, player lockers and workout areas, a medical center and offices for team executives and staffers.
As work continued Wednesday, Iggy Tarajos, the venue’s operations director, kept a watchful eye over the depth and texture of the concrete going atop the main practice rink. The previous day’s completed pour over an adjacent rink had gone about as well as possible.
“It was the smoothest concrete I’ve ever seen,” said Tarajos, a Buffalo, New York, native and one of the nation’s earliest certified ice technicians.
Tarajos, who managed ice at the longtime arena home of the AHL’s Portland Pirates starting in the 1990s and most recently oversaw AdventHealth Center Ice, a five-sheet facility in the Tampa Bay area, said a consistent surface is key to measuring and then drawing all the required hockey lines and faceoff circles on it later. The six-inch-deep concrete slab will be allowed to cure for a month, and then boards will be installed around the rink.
The ice gets poured in July, just before the Kraken selects players in the NHL expansion draft. An inch-deep layer of hot water goes atop the slab to form initial ice, followed by a white paint mixture that — once dried — will have the lines, circles and team logos painted on it.
From there, an additional inch of ice will be added to the surface with all the painted items visible beneath.
For Lampman, watching it all unfold from a balcony overlooking two of the rinks — where the restaurant and bar will go — seeing the concrete poured was a big step. The Kraken wants the practice rink, locker room and workout facilities ready for players within days of the July 21 expansion draft so they can acclimate to their new team.
Lampman said the project is “going extremely well” and should be finished on time. Once the July phase is done, the plan is for the remaining two rinks, team store and restaurant/bar to open around the start of training camp — typically in mid-September.
“We’re nearing the finish line,” he said.