Seattle Center arena roof now ‘floating’ as work goes on beneath

Seattle Center arena roof now ‘floating’ as work goes on beneath
KIRO 7 got a look at the construction progress at the Seattle Center Arena in January 2020 ahead of the arrival of NHL Seattle in 2021. (KIRO)

SEATTLE — They call it the "floating phase" of construction.

As workers rebuild what was once KeyArena at Seattle Center, they now work beneath the 44-million-pound roof, supported by 72 temporary steel columns and a reinforcement structure.

>> PHOTOS: An inside look at the construction progress

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The old buttresses and concrete girders that held the roof since it was built for the 1962 World's Fair are severed, as crews excavate below to make way for a larger arena.

Saving the building’s signature roof has always been key to the arena’s design.

"To me it's a lot like a Star Wars hovercraft," said Ken Johnsen of Oak View Group. "It's just sitting there hovering and eventually it will land on the arena."

Developers brought reporters into the site on Tuesday for the first time since September to see progress on building a new arena for concerts and Seattle’s still-unnamed NHL team.

Professional hockey games begin in the new arena in October 2021, and developers say they're on track to be finished with the arena sometime in the summer of 2021.

2019 was largely spent excavating 600,000 cubic yards of dirt, a phase of the project that should be done by the end of February.

2020 will be more about building up, including adding steel framing for the arena’s walls.

“From here things are going to happen very, very quickly and we’re looking forward to building it back,” said Greg Huber of Mortenson Construction.

The work is privately financed.

Johnsen of Oak View Group said the estimated project cost is about $930 million.

“We’re not changing the budget right now,” he said. “We’re right where we need to be.”