Is the Climate Pledge Arena Tour Worth It?
The Venn diagram of people who go on the very first public tour of Climate Pledge Arena looks something like this: a circle of curious out-of-towners and retirees, a circle of sports fans, and dot for a lone journalist reporting a story. That's how I find myself standing outside entrance 10 on a cold, blustery, January 31 afternoon.
It's clear this is the very first public tour at the arena because the employees—decked out in olive-green bomber jackets or navy zip-up vests—keep telling us it is: as my fellow tour-goers and I are ushered inside, as we check in at a pair of kiosks to receive lanyards with a seed-paper badge, and as we meander for 75 minutes through the bowels of the arena.
"We've been working for a month," one employee confides, "just like every day you're going over and over and over and over." Another says he led two or three practice tours per day for three weeks straight in the run-up to the opening.
My tour guide is Joe. He has an enviable mane of hair, a horseshoe mustache, and the kind of practiced-animated public-speaking voice that makes it clear he's done this sort of work before (later he lets slip he was with the Underground Tour which...checks out).
Does it all feel a touch cheesy and scripted? Yes. But I quickly decide I prefer Joe's unabashed, make-us-love-him enthusiasm to anything else. His commitment to making this fun is what makes it fun. So does the $55 I shelled out for a Washington-resident "drink with a view" ticket (more on this later)—my wallet and I are committed to having a good time, too.
Going on the Climate Pledge Arena tour
There are four main sections to this tour: an intro about Climate Pledge's focus on sustainability, the performer areas, the locker rooms and press areas, and wrap-up about arena amenities.
It's pretty clear that most of our nine-person tour group is here for parts two and three. After 10 minutes of sustainability stats in the main concourse and Pitchbook Suites, we head into the artists' green room, which resembles a spiffy apartment building common room. "There's going to be a lot of areas where you want to sit down. Please do not sit down in any of the areas," Joe says with good-natured sternness before any of us can ease into one of the oversized sofas or lounge chairs.
Through a connected dressing room and down the "VIP tunnel" lined with stage photos of past performers, we enter a loading dock that apparently doubles as storage space for unused hockey nets and basketball hoops. The tour pace is brisk and practiced but not rushed.
At the Amazon Music Lounge, a glorified recording studio and hang space, Joe again instructs us not to take photos or to touch anything. Like that Jimi Hendrix record on display or the litany of electric guitars mounted on the walls. He does a little scripted back-and-forth with Alexa (of course), cueing a playlist of ear-cringing volume, and then we're on to the press room. Decor is decidedly less fancy: plastic tables and folding chairs. Here, we're allowed to sit.
The group visibly perks up as we enter the sports side of things: first a visitors' locker room staged with jerseys from hockey players like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, then the Kraken locker room (no photos are allowed here either), a walk down the tunnel onto the ice/court (this day, things are set up for a Seattle University basketball game), and into the Storm locker room (again, no pics allowed).
Joe allows us considerably more time in each of these rooms to poke around and gawk. One WNBA fan asks if the Breanna Stewart name plate is a sign that she's agreed to stay in Seattle (narrator: it is not), and another tour-goer wonders what the empty glass case in the Kraken locker room is for. Apparently their future Stanley Cup.
A group of us whip out our phones as we pause outside black double doors. "We believe some time in the near future we will be able to come in and take a tour of the Seattle Sonics locker room when they return home," Joe says. The space already sports a "NBA Locker Room" placard. What a tease.
The tour winds down with a walk onto the press catwalk, a shoulder-to-shoulder counter situation high above the floor, and a peek in the owners' suite, where Jerry Bruckheimer pops up on the TV screen to thank us for taking the tour. It's back to CPA's sustainability message with a stop at the living wall and a bit about the locally sourced ethos of the arena's food.
We take group photos because, you know, we're the very first public tour. Then those of us who plunked down the extra $11 for a "drink with a view" ticket follow Joe's tour guide wingman Jim to the Space Needle Lounge.
The reality is there's not much "view" in "drink with a view"—just a distorted glimpse of the Space Needle through a windowed ceiling. A bartender takes our blue drink tickets, shaking up well Manhattans and pouring wine into recyclable metal cups.
A group of friends seems to enjoy this part more than my solo compatriot and I do, awkwardly sipping our respective Coke and red wine blend in silence. Though, admittedly, it does feel good to finally sit down.
The final verdict
If you're a sports fan—or an Amazon stan—this tour is worth considering. The behind-the-scenes access accounts for 95 percent of that; the corny-but-endearing nature of my tour guide makes up the rest of it.
But steep ticket prices—$44 for a discounted (aka Washington resident) ticket and $55 for a discounted drink with a view version—turn this into a pricey outing that I likely won't consider repeating without good reason. By comparison, tours at Lumen Field are just $18.
The other consideration is kids and timing. Kraken and Storm locker rooms are closed on game days, meaning this tour is way less appealing if you book during a home game day. And with 75 minutes of walking and standing (again, not much sitting), it's best suited for those without small children in tow.