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KeyArena Landmark Status Approved by Seattle Preservation Board

Seattle Coliseum rendering KeyArena

In a move that probably won’t impact any redevelopment plans, KeyArena landmark status was granted by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board — a move that may actually play a key role in the arena’s future.

We had covered the deliberations over KeyArena landmark status — discussions that didn’t seem to be causing any huge rifts between board members, city officials and reps from Oak View Group, the firm seeking to redevelop the historic arena for potential NBA and NHL use.

KeyArena opened in 1962 as part of the World’s Fair, but not as an arena — rather, it was built as the Washington State Pavilion. When the World’s Fair grounds were converted to the Seattle Center, the Washington State Pavilion was remodeled into the Washington State Coliseum, later known as the Seattle Coliseum. That transition from pavilion to arena was part of the original design. It was then gutted and expanded in 1995, serving as home to the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics.

KeyArena is unique because of its hyperbolic paraboloid roofline, as designed by Paul Thiry. That roofline, though altered in the 1994-1995 renovations, was singled out by the Landmarks Preservation Board as being architecurally significant. There are six criteria for landmark designation, and although only one criteria is required, the board determined all six criteria were met during a vote on Wednesday. Technically, three parts of the existing KeyArena building were designated as history: the roof, exterior walls and trusses.

The designation from the Landmarks Preservation Board doesn’t mean the building can’t be changed; it merely means there is a process to follow to seek alterations. It does make the building eligible for federal tax credits should a federal historic designation be granted as well.

Next up: Oak View Group is working with the city of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the KeyArena redevelopment, which should be presented in September. Among its notable proposals, Oak View Group has suggested preserving KeyArena’s roof while digging down 15 feet to expand the venue to 660,000 square feet. Still to be addressed: Chris Hansen’s existing MOU for a new arena near Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, which expires Dec. 3.

Rendering courtesy Oak View Group. 

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