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  • Benjamin Evensen

KeyArena – Seattle Redhawks

Photos by Benjamin Evensen, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86


305 Harrison St

Seattle, WA 98109

Year Opened: 1962

Capacity: 17,072


Seattle’s Second School

Editors Note: The Climate Pledge Arena stands in the footprint of the former Key Arena, with the roof being the only portion of the former arena being preserved.


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. Key Bank hasn’t paid for the naming rights in years but the Key Bank logo is still on the top of the roof.

Food & Beverage 1

When you leave your seat and walk around KeyArena, many of the concession stands are closed and take a long walk to get to. They are very expensive for a mid-major school as Coke products are $4.50 for a bottle, candy is $5 and the only food available are chicken strips, burgers, sandwiches, etc. that cost $12.50 and upwards. The only positive thing is the very short lines.

Atmosphere 3

KeyArena has played host to the NBA Finals, WNBA Championship, 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 runners-up in 1958. There is only a banner hung temporarily at the east entrance for the Final Four year.

The seats are mediocre and a little old, but the fans are into it and can be loud. 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 upper level is curtained off leaving just the lower level and suites open to the tune of about 8,000 seats. Seattle has averaged around 2,000 fans in recent years so the emptiness isn’t ideal.

While the fan interaction is nice, the arena feels a bit dated at times, and just too big for the type of game you are watching. But it could be a lot worse and the history of the building is a plus.

Neighborhood 5

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.

Fans 2

Seattle University will likely never pass the other local more nationally known school in popularity in the Seattle area, the University of Washington, . 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 20% full most games. With open seating, the midcourt sections are always pretty full. The crowd seems to mainly consist of alumni and their kids, the players’ families, and the small group of alumni called the “Madgrads” who sit by the visitor’s bench and heckle the opposing team throughout the game.

There is a student section that was completely empty and many games have been like this playing at an off-campus arena.

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.

Access 2

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 $15 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 to 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. Most of the parking garage does not have any full-time security, but if you are smart about hiding your valuables, you should be okay.

Getting into the arena can take a bit of a walk as it is in Seattle Center. The ticket booth is also only on the east entrance, so unless you have your ticket already it can be a walk to the entrance. It isn’t that bad, though.

Return on Investment 4

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. It is $10 for a general admission ticket which are supposed to be the areas behind the basket. For $20 you get tickets to the midcourt section. They also pass out ‘buy one ticket to any future game, get one free’ coupons.

There is a secret though. The ushers do not check tickets at all and unless you try to sit courtside, you are free to sit anywhere.

The problem is the food being so expensive. It is a better idea to eat before the game.

Extras 3

As for the rest of what KeyArena offers during a Seattle Redhawks game, there is a small team shop booth inside the arena. The shop has a few jackets, shirts, and hats for men, women, and kids, but the selection is slim.

The halftime entertainment is always something interesting and in 2014 one of the Black Eyed Peas performed.

There are lots of fan challenges for prizes during timeouts while the cheerleaders and dance team also perform.

Final Thoughts

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 minus the food.

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. The arena just needs to hang some banners for Seattle U and brag about their rich history, no matter how old it may be.

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