First time at Coliseum: Dazzled.
First time at Kingdome: Awed.
First time at renovated Hec Ed: History.
First time at Mariners stadium: Reverential.
First time at Seahawks stadium: Say WHAT?
First time at renovated Husky Stadium: Relieved (an earlier effort fell down).
First time at Climate Pledge Arena: Sensory overload.
Of all the recent or remade sports venues in Seattle, Climate Pledge Arena hits all the senses. On blast.
By sight and sound, by taste and intimate feel, the newest is the most intense.
To have an extravagant entertainment palace slide between the lawns and trees of a public park — the only such adjacency in North America — should be a jarring contradiction. Yet, it works.
From the multitude of food and drink offerings to the elaborate audio and video lushness, the new digs draw out one universal word: Wow.
Because the roof is slung low and rises gently to a single peak, there’s no real notion to the newcomer what lies beneath, and now, below grade. Saturday night, Seattle re-discovered what had been lost with the Sonics, and what 13 years of technology improvements and $1.1 billion can do to amplify an entertainment experience.
After a fitful pursuit that goes back to the 1970s, the National Hockey League finally arrived in Seattle. And came in second to the building and its rowdy occupants.
“It was electric all night,” said Seattle Kraken captain Mark Giordano. “The fans, that’s right up there with anyone. I mean, there wasn’t too many moments where it was silent. Actually, there wasn’t any, to be honest.”
He was being nice. Things did go quiet, right after the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period scored two goals in three minutes to curb the enthusiasm of 17,151, some of whom paid up to $600 a ticket to be part of Seattle sports history.
The 4-2 defeat (box) was not a surprise to those who followed the expansion team’s 1-3-1 road start, which established that this thrown-together roster has hard time sustaining a good thing.
“It’s a tough league to not keep the gas on for 60 minutes,” said Vince Dunn, who had the honor of scoring the joint’s first goal, but also had the turnover that gave the Canucks’ Conor Garland a solo breakaway that goalie Philipp Grubauer could not handle for the go-ahead score. “A lot of these games, we’ve given ourselves a really good chance to win.
“But it’s not good enough. We have to find a way to close things out.”
For fans who haven’t been following hockey and were here for the spectacle and the $16 beers, they were probably surprised that the script didn’t have a happy ending, since it looked to be shot inside a giant TV studio. Roving videocams seemed to put nearly everyone in the house up on the giant video screens above the ice.
That included Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and wife Ciara, who beamed happily upon being discovered. Included in the video program were Wilson’s teammates, Bobby Wagner and DK Metcalf, along with Seattle luminaries such as the Storm’s Sue Bird and rapper Macklemore.
But the star of the night was the arena, whose interior resembles nothing like the joint that housed the Western Hockey League Seattle Totems until 1974 and the Sonics until 2008, and gave its stage to nearly every big-name musical act from Elvis Presley to Pearl Jam.
“It was rockin,'” said Bo Horvat, the Canucks captain who scored twice. “They got loud a couple of times there, especially when they scored. But I thought we did a great job keeping our composure and not letting it get to us and responding.”
So much for the home-ice advantage.
Kraken fans hope that advantage won’t take as long to build as the arena. Its previous iteration, KeyArena, shut down in 2018 to allow demolition to begin. The incredibly complex and expensive engineering feat that preserved the roof, a landmark from the 1962 World’s Fair, and installed sophisticated system for premier musical acts, still isn’t done, with numerous finishes held off to allow the Kraken to get off the road.
The team is also in need of finishing.
“We had in my mind probably three or four Grade-A chances after it was 2-1, so I like that mentality out of our group,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “It didn’t work out tonight, but we’re not going to do anything other than look at the things we can fix.
“It’s a pretty sour taste that we don’t walk off with a win tonight.”
Even the coach acknowledges the sensory experience. But, hey, it’s just the first home game of many. No rush.
It’s been since 1924 that Seattle and its Metropolitans last had a shot at the Stanley Cup. That suggests we’re a patient bunch.