Refurbishment of Climate Pledge Arena is Huge Success


Funded and implemented by Amazon, the living wall at Climate Pledge was designed to highlight the beauty Washington’s flora has to offer. (Habitat Horticulture)

If there’s one word to describe Climate Pledge Arena, it’s “gimmicky.” I love it.

The Washington State Coliseum — now, Climate Pledge Arena — was erected for the 1962 World’s Fair. Today, it forms a key part of the historic Seattle Center along with the Armory, MoPop, and, of course, the Space Needle. After more than 50 years in service, the much-loved landmark underwent renovations from 2018-2021. Keeping its iconic exterior, but ditching its former title, KeyArena, the multi-purpose indoor complex has attained various accolades—including “Structure of the Year” from Structure magazine—and is now home to various beloved Seattle teams: the Storm, the Seattle University Redhawks, the Rat City Roller Derby, and, of course, the Kraken. 

I visited last December, when I first saw the Kraken play. The game itself was depressing (we lost to the Panthers 5-1), but that’s not the subject of this review; this is a reflection on my experience at the new arena, at least while in ice rink mode.

The first noticeable part of the building is, of course, the designated-landmark exterior. Aside from the somewhat-irritating neon green signs at the top, visually screaming “CLIMATE PLEDGE ARENA,” it’s clear why this arena has stood the test of time. It’s a bit difficult to comprehend fully from the outside, but the four-part roof and different facades were thoroughly impressive and fittingly retro-futuristic given the arena’s World’s Fair origins. 

The interior of the complex is its main appealing factor, though. The above-ground section has your obligatory restaurants and shopping areas, which were simply alright, but I am a sucker for modern design and LED screens, of which the CPA had plenty. Its underground architecture is utilitarian in many places, resembling the concrete facades of the Armory, which toe the line between minimalistic and seeming rushed at times. It largely succeeds in feeling clean and simple, keeping the subterranean feel without the associated damp grunge or claustrophobia.

Over 1 billion dollars have been invested in the redevelopment of Climate Pledge Arena, which was first constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair. (SportsPro Media)

There’s also a wall describing the history of the original arena and facts about its construction and greenness. It describes the titular “Climate Pledge” under which the new facility was constructed, creating the first net-zero carbon emission arena in the world. In the context of a sports arena it felt a bit out of place, almost as if it were designed for an Amazon lobby — and yes, I recognize that the refurbishments occurred under Amazon ownership — but I can’t subtract any points for having a wall covered in plants. Also, I personally enjoy that there are disclaimers to not touch or eat the plants (I can only imagine what crowd testing led to the latter part of the warning).

The main stadium is not revolutionary but is still impressive. The sheer size of it is striking, especially from where we were seated near the rink; the ceiling’s enormous glass windows reached far above into the outside sky from our vantage. The light system is incredibly comprehensive, from spotlights to projections on the ice rink, and the two big screens were used inventively to fill in gaps in time and allow people to watch the game when it shifted to a difficult-to-see spot. 

Aside from the somewhat-irritating neon green signs at the top, visually screaming “CLIMATE PLEDGE ARENA,” it’s clear why this arena has stood the test of time.

Finally, I have to give props to the Kraken’s showmanship as well. Their production is just the right amount of ludicrous and overly-showy to the point where it circles back around to being enjoyable. When the lights dipped and a giant kraken tentacle lowered from the ceiling, dubstep blaring as the players skated into the rink, I just couldn’t help but hold a mile-wide smile — it was just pure fun. 

Overall, I was impressed by Climate Pledge Arena, and I plan to come back and would recommend it to anyone. 

I did have two complaints, though. One was the lack of snack vendors. Sure, there are a few places that dole out pretzels and cheese, but all of the food — chicken, pizza, hot dogs and the like — was on the above-ground level. My second is that the pretzels had the appearance, taste, and texture of cardstock. 

The ice cream was unnecessarily good though; legitimately, it was some of the best vanilla-chocolate swirl I’ve ever had. Easily worth the price of admission.