Sodo arena design tweaked, gets a preliminary OK

SEATTLE — The latest designs for investor Chris Hansen’s half-billion-dollar sports arena in Sodo show a gleaming, transparent box around a bladed, central turbine, with a grand stairway and entry plaza rising from one corner.

A bike valet could be beneath the stairway and a transparent “fin wall” could shield the plaza from First Avenue South, creating an outdoor concert or rally space, energized with a changing light display and signage for the future teams, according to the project architects.

The Seattle Downtown Design Review Board gave its preliminary approval to Hansen’s architectural plans Monday night. The arena project now moves to the permitting stage, with at least one more public meeting on the design planned for late spring or early summer.

Hansen’s design firm, Architecture 360, reoriented the arena entry plaza and stairway more to the northwest at the request of the Seattle Mariners, which continue to raise concerns about access to their parking garage, just north of the planned arena on Occidental Avenue South, and the safety of pedestrians attending arena events.

But the Mariners’ attorney, Melody McCutcheon, seemed to strike a more conciliatory tone than at previous design meetings. She said the team management remains open to the new arena using its property behind the garage for delivery access to loading docks at the new sports facility.

A representative from Amtrak also raised safety concerns about pedestrian access on South Holgate Street, at the south end of the arena, where three more rail tracks crossing the street are planned. Right now, the street has no sidewalks and is crossed by several working rail lines.

“Holgate is not only a street but also an active rail yard,” said Rob Eaton, director of governmental affairs for Amtrak. “Our primary concerns are for pedestrian safety.” Eaton suggested a pedestrian overpass to separate fans from traffic.

Members of the Downtown Design Review Board continued to ask questions about how the arena would interact with the Sodo neighborhood and whether the transparent wall that extends along First Avenue South and encloses the stairway and plaza was necessary.

“You’re making a great plaza but hiding it from the street,” said Gundula Proksch, an architect on the review board. She noted that even a transparent wall could block views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Architects for Hansen said they wanted to create a space that would allow for noise and activity in the plaza while still shielding neighbors on First Avenue South.