NHL Seattle may not have officially released the Kra—team’s name yet, but that hasn’t stopped the franchise from making headlines lately. Last week, new renderings of its future Seattle Center arena surfaced, and today, construction began on the team's training facility and headquarters. But the most unexpected news arrived on Tuesday, when the hockey club announced that it will provide fans with free public transit to home games, a move that should help alleviate anticipated traffic congestion in the city.
"We expect around 25 percent of fans to use public transit in our first year," said Rob Johnson, vice president of transportation for NHL Seattle and former Seattle City Council member.
The plan's logistics haven't been totally sorted out yet. According to Fast Company, game ticketholders would likely be able to download a free transit ticket via the team's app or a link. Details aside, the hockey squad becomes only the third professional sports organization in the country to offer transit benefits to fans. (The NBA’s Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors have similar programs.) Its public transit commitment includes a partnership with Seattle Monorail Services, which will use up to six million dollars in private capital investment to make improvements and upgrades to Westlake Station. Currently, the monorail can transport passengers from the station to the arena in 90 seconds. In a deal signed with the city back in September, Seattle Monorail Services agreed to have all the Westlake Station upgrades done by September of 2021, before the first puck drops.
Efforts to speed up the monorail boarding and offloading processes include separating ticket scanners and ticket purchasing booths to prevent line bottlenecks as well as using all eight monorail doors during boarding. The Westlake Center mall may also remain open longer to allow the use of escalators and a second elevator to get passengers to the street.
The bottom line? Before games, NHL Seattle projects that ticketholders’ trips from the station to the arena’s front doors will only take five or six minutes. Post-game, 25 percent of the arena will be able to reach Westlake Station within 40 minutes by monorail.
The franchise said this was phase one of a three-part plan to streamline the fan experience—the rest will be announced in the coming months. The club’s arena is still very much under construction—basically a roof over a giant dirt hole—but the public got a glimpse of what its interior will ultimately look like on Friday, when NHL Seattle and architectural firm Rockwell Group released the new renderings. The plans depicted seven luxury spaces, including private lounges, a food hall, and contemporary bars and craft beer spaces with Space Needle views. Is it 2021 yet?