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Evolution of an arena: How Sonics Arena has changed through the years

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Sonics Arena

By now we all have this visual in our minds of what Sonics Arena will look like. We think of the turbine engine inspired main building, the glass encased outer shell, and the big LED screens looking out over the main entrance plaza. What some of you may not know is that the arena has actually changed quite a bit since its inception. Let's take a look at the timeline. Click on dates for full design documents and click on images to embiggen.

November 30, 2012

We were first introduced to Sonics Arena way back in 2012. Back then, there were three different styles being considered.

Option 1

The first option was an egg-shaped design with 360 degree views. It had office buildings to the east and on the western side it featured a glass "wave," meant to invoke feelings of Puget Sound. Of the three options offered, this one seemed to feel the most arena-y.

Option 2

Option 2, in my opinion, looked like an aquarium. It had slanted roof panels, again invoking waves, and featured a grand plaza entrance with a glass awning.

Option 3

Option 3 was the preferred option and the one that would eventually evolve into the one we know today. The original design, however, was quite different. As you can see, the top was meant to invoke a ship. We also see a grand plaza entrance and awning, just like in option two, only this time with a large staircase leading to the main entrance.

December 12, 2012

Less than two weeks later, on December 12, 2012, we would get our second iteration of the arena. This version was affectionately (?) referred to as the "flan" design, because it closely resembled the gelatinous treat. It created more of a focus on the interior part of the building (known at the time as "the icon"), lighting it up and creating more window space in the wraparound area.

January 17, 2013

One month later, we got our first look at the turbine-inspired "icon." No more flan, hooray! We also notice that the awning is no longer and the grand staircase is replaced with a diagonal, rounded one. We also got our first look at the green roof and the "fin wall" that extended the length of the property down First Avenue.

February 22, 2013

By this point, Chris Hansen had an agreement to buy the Sacramento Kings. The latest iteration of the arena is mostly unchanged, except for some small exterior tweaks, some slight changes to the grand staircase, and our first introduction to the LED screens, at this point on the First Avenue fin wall. We also see several different lighting options for the turbine.

March 13, 2013

The turbine is now green, and there is a spotlight at the northern most point of the fin wall.

We also get our first interior renderings! We get our first look at the "Sonic Rings" and "pocket suites."

We also get this cool video!

March 14, 2013

We get our first look at the hockey configuration. Not much else new here. Hey, where are the benches and penalty boxes?

March 29, 2013

We get a more detailed look at the Sonic Rings. Each ring is set to have its own theme, from sports bars to "super fan" areas to family friendly.

The rings can also be tarped off for smaller events.

As sonicsarena.com put it, they wanted to create "not only the most unique building in the NBA… but also one specifically tailored to our unique culture and fans."

August 6, 2013

We see the turbine, still green, now with much more flush grooves. The outer area of the turbine now stands above the top of the arena. The green roof is changed dramatically and the First Avenue wall is gone, and there is now an office building attached to the arena on the eastern side, which will house team staffers, as well as a training facility. The grand staircase is gone with the main entrance now at street level.

September 17, 2013

The turbine is back to its original burnt amber color. We get to see it in the day and in the evening with lighting effects. We also see new "Seattle Arena" signage. The LED screen is back, now located on the western side of the office space, creating a viewing area in the plaza. There is also a smaller LED screen above the entrance. A new "wood wrap" envelopes the arena on all sides. This is our first look at the "drumlins" in the plaza.

Seattle Arena - Plaza View

September 3, 2015

After the Kings sale fell through, things slowed to a crawl. Plus, the arena was pretty much final. The only major difference between the last iteration and this one is that the drumlins were replaced by a "living machine..."

...as well as the introduction of the pedestrian bridge along Holgate Street.

So there you have it, the evolution of an arena. If you'd like to dig deeper into all the gory details, including things like wider sidewalks, plumbing and parking improvements, and more, you can find all of the design documents at the Design Commission's website.