Amazon backing Seattle arena climate initiative

Amazon secured naming rights for Seattle’s downtown arena that will house the new NHL team as well as the WNBA’s Storm, but the company’s name will not appear anywhere on the building.

Instead, the arena will be called Climate Pledge Arena and will feature several green initiatives.

“I think this is going to be a transformative moment in our industry,” Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, told ESPN. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, and get through the complications to pull it off. It wasn’t easy. But to the credit of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, they said, ‘We’ll act like a naming rights partner, but let’s do this the right way. I don’t need any more branding. What I need is to go save the planet.’ It was brilliant.”

Climate Pledge Arena is trying to become the first arena in the world to earn net zero carbon certification by the International Living Future Institute.

Among the unique features:

• Ice for hockey games will be made from recaptured rainwater. Leiweke said there will be a “massive tank hidden underground next to the building” that can collect rainwater from the roof, but the team is also figuring out a way for people in the community to bring in rainwater from their own backyards.

• All events will be “zero waste” — a decision, Leiweke said, that was inspired by singer Billie Eilish. Leiweke said that a few months ago as Eilish planned her latest tour, she asked every arena to eliminate as much single-waste plastic as possible. “I was like, I can’t believe she got an entire syndication of arenas to come along and finally address this issue,” Leiweke said. “I was so in awe that she made this part of the deal. When we were debating this, I said if she could do it for a night, couldn’t we do this for 365 nights?”

• At least 75% of the arena’s food program will be sourced seasonally by local farmers and producers. Viable unused food will be donated to community food programs.

• The arena will have all-electric operations. Carbon emissions and sustainability performance of all events will be measured and publicly disclosed.

A rendering of Seattle’s new Climate Pledge Arena. NHL Seattle

“This will be the most complicated engineering feat of any arena, ever,” Leiweke said. “But we can do it. It’s not going to be cheap. But we understand exactly what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to find a way to really focus on trying to heal this planet. We’ve got to step up here and try to help the Earth, because it’s sick.”

The cost of the building has been estimated at more than $900 million. The 18,100-seat venue is expected to host 200 events each year, including concerts and the NHL and WNBA games. The building is under construction on the Seattle Center campus on the site of the former KeyArena that was the primary home of the Seattle SuperSonics.

Oak View Group decided to restore the original 44-million-pound roof. It was billed at the time as a move to restore a historical artifact, but Leiweke said it was also to reduce the embodied carbon of the building; the roof restoration inspired planners to embrace the full green initiative.

There have been some delays in construction, mostly because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the building is expected to be open in time for the NHL Seattle team’s debut in 2021-22.

“We still have some work to do until we know what date will work on this building,” Leiweke said. “To some extent, it will be affected by the pandemic. We’re on the pandemic’s timeline; I don’t know how to predict that yet. That said, we feel certain we’re going to be fine with the NHL and we will be able to do some of the WNBA season, depending on what happens with them on their scheduling.”

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