The structure that houses Key Arena opened in 1962 as the Seattle Center Coliseum. It is
part of a larger exhibition complex known as the Seattle Center that was built to host the
1962 World's Fair. In 1967 the NBA awarded an expansion franchise to Seattle and the team
known as the SuperSonics settled into the Coliseum as their new home. As the years went
by the building began to show its age and by the early 90's it became apparent that the
Sonics would need a new home with all of the amenities of a more modern arena. In an
unusual move it was decided that the Coliseum would be closed for a year and it would be
remade into a state of the art venue. In the meantime the Sonics would use the Tacoma
Dome as a home base and in the fall of 1995 the Coliseum reopened its doors as Key Arena.

Outside the venue
Included in the Seattle Center complex are many unique exhibition halls as well as
Seattle's signature landmark, the Space Needle, just a short walk away. The architecture of
this building is certainly unique, with a pyramid shaped roof and plenty of glass,
spectacular landscaping and colored pavement. The main plaza is on the west side of the
arena where there is a small marquee displaying ads for the current and future events. In
another unique move, the Sonics have their team store on 1st St. in a building separate
from the arena...or so it seems. After one is finished checking out the shop there is an
underground passageway that takes you right into the arena concourse.
The concourses
"The Key" is a four sided building in the shape of a pyramid, though the incline of the slope
is not as sharp as most buildings of that shape and one can enter the building through any
of the four sides. In at least one of the entrances there was a mural with several monitors
showing the fans entering the venue from outside. This is a two concourse building with
stairs to take one up to the upper level. At many points in the upper level one can get a
good view of the action in the lower concourses. From the lower concourses one can look
outside the building as well, which is attractively landscaped and bears a sloped limestone
and fieldstone veneer and lots of glass. For the most part the concourses are wide and
bright and filled with plenty of souvenir and concession stands. At the main entrance is a
large sculpture taking up the entire wall, which is some sort of huge musical string
instrument. Strum your fingers along the strings and an array of light and shooting water
will entertain you.

Of course being Seattle there was no shortage of espresso stands here and with
Starbucks now being the majority owner of the Sonics ."The Key" is already being
nicknamed "The Coffee Pot" by the locals.

The Bowl
Two main seating levels with a level of suites separating the two. There are club seats at
the top of the lower sideline with its own exclusive concourse which we found nothing to
write home about. The eight sided scoreboard sits above center court and simultaneous
scrolling ad panels ring the arena above the suites interspersed with dot matrix boards
showing game stats and out of town scores and other miscellaneous ads. Interesting to
note that the setup for hockey is much different from what we normally see in most arenas.
Here they simply roll back the seats at one baseline and leave the other intact for either
sport. This creates a look similar to what we see at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena where
the center scoreboard bcomes somewhat off-center.

Banners/Retired numbers
Above the arena bowl are the banners. On one sideline there is a huge "GO SONICS"
banner centered amidst a pair of Seattle Thunderbird (WHL) championship banners. What?
No 1916 Metropolitans' Stanley Cup banner? We were hoping that there would be
something in the building to honor the first US based team to win the Cup but none to be
found. At the other sideline is where jerseys honoring Lenny Wilkens, Jack Sikma, Freddy
Brown, and current head coach Nate McMillan hang alongside the Sonics' division,
Conference and '79 NBA title banners. Also interesting to note that Wilkens' banner is for
his time as a player and as a coach and at times in Seattle did both at once.

Extra Points
During the first half we sat behind a pair a college age kids one of which had a funky 70's
haircut. We didn't think much of it of course until a bunch of grammar school children
converged on him looking for his autograph. It was then we realized that the funky haired
college kid was none other than Gonzaga's sharpshooting star guard Dan Dickau. We
exchanged pleasantries and went about our ways as he disappeared to somewhere else
for the second half.

Overall, a great place for a game and very nice arena. Not an overwhelming venue but one
we'd have no problems checking out again. We came away much more impressed with the
renovation of the arena in Seattle than with the similar job done in Oakland at the New


Architecture 7
Food and team store
Scoreboard and electronics
Fan support
Location and neighborhood
Banners and history
In game entertainment
Concourses/fan comfort 6
3 Space Needle; 3 Dan Dickau sighting

Total: 64

Key Arena



March 30,

Los Angeles