Seattle University re-upgraded to Division I in 2008, and only in 2012 did they fully complete the upgrade process. They are full members of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), and play their home games at KeyArena– just a few miles from their campus in downtown Seattle, Washington.
KeyArena was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair at Seattle Center. It is most famous for housing the Seattle Sonics from 1967 up until their move to Oklahoma City in 2008. It currently is home to the Seattle Redhawks, and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. It also hosts numerous concerts.
KeyArena’s age has been well documented before. It is old, and lacks the seating capacity for an NBA franchise (it seats 17,000). Once the Sonics left for OKC, many plans for the arena have been passed around, including renovating it to make it smaller, and even destroying it.
It may not be the right stadium for an NBA franchise, but KeyArena has an oddly special feeling to it for small time college basketball.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
When you leave your seat and walk around KeyArena, many of the concession stands are closed. However, when you do go to the open ones, there is a variety of things to choose from. The classics are there: hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, candy, popcorn, etc. There is soda, but only four to choose from: Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Sprite. There is beer on tap as well.
Some of the other open concession stands bring some unique Seattle tastes to the arena. Legendary Ivar's Seafood has an open stand, with their famous Clam Chowder, along with special meals of clams, shrimp, fish & chips, and more. Kidd Valley also has an open concession window, with burgers and the Seattle Mariners' classic garlic fries that you can find at Safeco Field.
The prices are about what you would expect at a sporting event. Overpriced, but not too bad compared to most sporting venues. The lines can be long just before tip-off and at halftime, but during the game the lines are always very short.
KeyArena has played host to the NBA Finals, WNBA Championships, and many other big events. It was home to the Seattle SuperSonics, who played 33 of their 41 years there. But those days are long gone, and so are all the visible signs of what KeyArena used to mean.
The rafters now hold only banners of the Seattle Storm's achievements, including two WNBA Championships. Seattle University hasn't accomplished anything in their short time since rejoining the Division I level, but they did make an appearance in the Final Four, and were runner-up in 1958.
The seats are comfy, but nothing too special. The PA announcer is very into the game, with enthusiastic ways to identify a player. The player intros before the game are worth seeing too, as the entire arena goes dark with spotlights and background music.
The large scoreboard above the court has fan-cams, replay, and animations for the team.
While the fan interaction is nice, the arena feels a bit dated at times, and sometimes just too big for the type of game you are watching. But it could be a lot worse, and Seattle U is trying their best.
KeyArena is located right under Seattle's iconic Space Needle, so if you have the money, a ride to the top gives you an amazing view. Famous Seattle burger joint "Dick's Drive-In" is located just a quick walk away from the arena (however, this is the one Dick's that is not actually a drive-in). The arena is very close to everything Seattle has to offer, including the waterfront, and Pike's Place Market. If you come with a few hours to spare before the game, almost everything Seattle is famous for is within about a 10 minute drive.
If walking is your only option though, there are numerous bars and restaurants all just a few blocks from KeyArena. There should be no problem finding something everyone can enjoy.
Seattle University will likely never pass the other local, more nationally known school, University of Washington, in popularity in the Seattle area. While the Redhawks have yet to find success in their short time at the D-I level, they struggle to sell tickets to their games. The upper deck of KeyArena is closed off, and the lower level is about 50% full at most games. The crowd seems to mainly consist of alumni and their kids, the players' families, and the small student section that comes to the home games.
However, the fans do follow the game closely. They are quick to show their disagreement with a bad call by a referee, and can become very loud when the game is close, or a player has an amazing play. While they may be small in numbers, the fans that come do appear to be into the game and have a passion for Seattle U.
Finding a parking spot is not an issue, as an arena that used to hold around 17,000 people 41 times a year still has the parking space. There are a good amount of lots, and a large parking garage right next to the arena. However, the prices can become a bit high for such a small event. You can expect to pay around $8-$12 just to park, which is about the same price as the ticket to the game itself. The pay machines are old and outdated, and when trying to pay the $10 fee to park in the garage with cash, I couldn't get it accept any of my bills. When using my card, it took about 5 minutes to try and get it to finally read and print my ticket.
The area can have a lot of theft too, so it is best not to show any valuables in your car, and bring what you can with you into the arena. The parking garage does not have any full-time security and even warns to protect your items. I have even seen the theft problem happen, as in 2006 at a Sonics game I attended, in the exact same parking garage, a car just two spaces from mine had their window smashed, and both the mother and daughter's purses were stolen. But if you are smart about hiding your valuables, you should be okay.
The tickets to Seattle U games are very inexpensive. Season ticket holders pay only $48 for their tickets. For a Division I basketball game, comfortable seating, and good food options, the price is well worth it. The school also offers many value packs to games. The "WAC Pack" is offered by the school, where you can get all eight WAC home games for $80. If you didn't do the math, that's just $10 a game.
As for the rest of what KeyArena offers during a Seattle Redhawks game, there is a very small makeshift apparel shop inside the arena. The shop has a few jackets, shirts, and hats for men, women, and kids, but the selection is slim.
They also have a "Kids Zone" set up with games and activities for young kids, and there is halftime entertainment at almost all games and a plethora of challenges for fans brought onto the court during timeouts.
Midway through the second half, there is an odd tradition of bringing all young kids and their parents out onto the court for 45 seconds to dance to a song called "Ice Cream and Cake." Around 50-60 kids and their parents, along with the cheerleaders and the mascot, randomly dance and jump around on the court during the song, then run back to their seats for the game to start again. It's something you just have to experience to fully grasp, but you can always find a few cute kids out there doing their own dance, or too terrified to move.
There also is a booth inside the arena where you can enter a drawing for free tickets to an upcoming game. You're chances of winning are pretty good, as usually only about 5-10 people even enter.
There is something special about a newer small school program like Seattle University. While playing in a former NBA arena may not seem like a good fit at first, once you see it, you end up having a good time. The tickets are cheap, and what you end up getting is well worth the price. Every year they add more and more to the experience of the games at KeyArena, and the team is getting a lot better too.
In the end, it is an inexpensive way to have a good time and watch good basketball. While KeyArena may be showing its age, it still is a historic part of Seattle's sports history.
While its official name is “KeyArena at Seattle Center”, it is more commonly known as “KeyArena” or by what most of the locals call it, “The Key”. Opened in 1962 as part of the World's Fair in Seattle, the arena has gone through many changes including an almost complete rebuild in 1994-1995. After its remodel is when the arena went from being known as the Seattle Center Coliseum and became KeyArena. Over the years, several different teams have called KeyArena their home including the SuperSonics (NBA), Storm (WNBA), Thunderbirds (WHL), Rat City Roller Girls (WFTDA) & the Redhawks (NCAA).
531 Queen Anne Ave North
Seattle, WA 98109
530 Queen Anne Ave North
Seattle, WA 98109
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Seattle, WA 98109
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Seattle, WA 98109
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