Year-End Awards: Best Facility Debut

By Bret McCormick

Best Facility Debut: Climate Pledge Arena


When it opened in October, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena got plenty of attention, and rightly so — never before has a sports venue been as clearly associated with a social message, and this one is as simply stated as it is significant: Save the planet. 

The ice the Kraken play on is made from Seattle rainwater.populous

Noble as that goal might be, ambition alone would not have been enough to earn the roughly 18,000-seat arena the distinction of Best Facility Debut in 2021, given the heady competition from the opening of several other gleaming new arenas in North America, especially for NHL (UBS Arena on Long Island) and MLS teams (Q2 Stadium in Austin; TQL Stadium in Cincinnati; and Field in Columbus).

But Climate Pledge Arena — its title references naming-rights holder Amazon’s corporate sustainability challenge, as well as the venue’s focus on making as gentle an environmental impact as possible — is not just a statement, but an actual weapon in the fight to fulfill its mission. Owners Oak View Group and the Seattle Kraken say the venue will be the first carbon-neutral arena in the world. The ice that the Kraken play on is created from collected Seattle rainwater; the all-electric power (no gas at all) is summoned from solar arrays scattered around the arena as well as from Amazon’s solar farm. That’s important because the venue has the most LED of any arena in the world, over 28,000 square feet, creating immersion throughout. And the Kraken pays public transportation vouchers for fans who use some of the city’s transit options to get to the arena.  


Size, in square feet, of the living wall featuring more than 8,500 plants and 27 species that serves as the building’s entrance.

Beyond the LED walls, the subterranean venue is brought to life by a 1,681-square-foot living wall filled with more than 8,500 plants and sustained by a vertical hydroponic system made from recycled plastic bottles and designed by ME Engineers. And even the DAS system that CommScope installed required 80% less energy, space and cooling, resulting in savings on materials, equipment and energy. 

The original roof of KeyArena was preserved and included in the design of the new arena beneath it for historical designation reasons. That, too, was an act of sustainability, as part of a steadily growing movement toward renovating existing buildings in response to the escalating environmental and financial costs of constructing from scratch. Just that portion of the construction project — holding up the roof — was an incredible engineering feat, praised as a first of its kind by the industry veterans that led the work. The 44-million-pound lid was propped up for over a year while the new arena was built beneath it.  

There is one other important mission for Climate Pledge Arena: In the best case, the name inspires curiosity about the cause, and the building inspires visitors to implant sustainability practices in their own lives.

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