Todd Humphrey could barely contain his enthusiasm as he strolled the upper level of what will soon be the Kraken’s full-time training facility and headquarters.
The team’s senior vice president is overseeing operations at the future Northgate Mall site, which will contain three indoor ice rinks and team lockers, training rooms, a medical facility, media center and corporate offices. But there’s more than that coming by next summer, as Humphrey noted while walking across a second-story platform and rounding a corner to a concourse slated to become the venue’s restaurant and bar area.
“This is where the bar will be,’’ Humphrey said walking toward the middle of the concourse. “So, if you’re sitting right here, you can look out at the main rink and you’ll have a clear view of the giant video screen across the way.’’
The video screen, at the opposite end of the building near its front entrance, is where the team plans to show all 82 of the Kraken’s regular-season games both home and away. Fans can either sit in the 1,000-capacity grandstands of the venue’s main NHL rink or in the upper restaurant area and take in games as if watching it at a supersized sports bar.
There will even be a broadcast center in an area behind the bar, where a crew could provide in-house play-by-play commentary separate from what would be heard on radio or television. Details haven’t been finalized, but Humphrey said it will be different from anything in other NHL cities.
“We’re always looking at ways to try things that have been done the same way over and over again,’’ he said. “We want to bring new experiences that fans haven’t seen before.’’
For now, even with prior COVID-19 precautionary shutdowns, the venue remains on track for a mid-July first-phase opening next summer of the main rink and player locker and training rooms. The team wants those items in place by the time the team starts drafting players next summer so staffers can prepare for September training camp ahead of time.
By September, second-floor team offices overlooking the main rink are to be finished as are two adjacent rinks and the restaurant and bar. The team will allow fans to attend most training camp workout sessions and in-season morning practices, likely free of charge.
In-ground therapeutic workout tubs – embossed with the Kraken logo – have already been installed in the floor of what will become the team’s training room. Players will have a private parking area directly across from their locker-room entrance.
But it’s the public spaces the team hopes can prove a true difference-maker.
“I think the fact that we’re going to bring hockey into the city of Seattle is exciting,’’ Humphrey said. “I mean, the Kraken are going to bring it to Climate Pledge Arena, but this facility is going to make the game available to everybody in the surrounding area.’’
Humphrey said he envisions nights when fans can partake in an open skate while watching Kraken game broadcasts on the giant screen.
“We’re really imagining that this can become a second place where people can come and watch the game,’’ he said.
Humphrey also hopes getting to see a professional team practice up close will expose more fans to the game.
“You have 1,000 seats, 200 seats up in the bar and restaurant. So, we’re giving 1,200 people an ability to watch that day in and day out.’’
Kyle Boyd, the Kraken’s director of youth and community engagement, agreed the venue is a key focal point of team outreach efforts. Boyd said he hopes to have hockey clinics and seminars taking place within the facility for interested fans.
“I think the community’s going to be really excited about getting to walk in, learn about the team, learn about the game,’’ he said. “They can be exposed to the basic elements, all the way up to in-depth discussions about tactics, practice plans and all of that. They’ll be able to learn about hockey and professional sports in general.’’
Boyd admitted it’s been a challenge during the pandemic trying to set some of those programs up with local parks department officials and various community groups and liaisons.
“We’re definitely thinking about how to have these conversations virtually, over Zoom, connecting with families, communities and neighborhoods,’’ he said. “So, it’s been a little bit slower than we probably would have liked, but people are being very creative.’’