Mortenson replaces Skanska-Hunt as Seattle arena cost rises

Mortenson has been appointed as the new general contractor for the Seattle Center Arena, with Skanska-Hunt stepping away from the project by mutual agreement amid reported friction with OVG-Seattle, the entity behind what is envisioned will become one of the world’s leading arenas.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on December 5 to transform what used to be the KeyArena after the US city was last week officially confirmed as the home of the NHL ice hockey league’s 32nd franchise.

Initially estimated at under $600m when OVG won a request for proposals in June 2017, the price tag has since spiralled, hitting $800m when the franchise was awarded last week. Skanska-Hunt, a joint venture between Skanska and AECOM Hunt, will now step away as contractor, while Mortenson will be joined by architecture firm Rockwell Group, which has been appointed to design the arena’s suite and club levels.

“Mortenson’s local Seattle office spent five months leading pre-construction efforts on the arena project and is very familiar with our approach and goals,” OVG’s senior construction executive Ken Johnsen said.

“Skanska-Hunt helped launch us, but I felt this project needed a dedicated single source team and we have mutually agreed upon a change. Mortenson is the nation’s pre-eminent arena builder and they are poised to complete this project in time for the Seattle Storm’s 2021 season. This decision is based on Skanska-Hunt’s construction priorities as well as the busy Seattle construction market.”

Stakeholders have maintained the project timeline, which foresees that the new team will launch for the 2021-22 season, will not be impacted by the decision. Skanska-Hunt has worked on the project since July, but it was first reported that changes were afoot at the weekend.

The Seattle Times newspaper said there had been friction between the company and OVG over project pricing, timeline, scope and repeated change orders. Skanska-Hunt had reportedly been asked to sign a Guaranteed Maximum Price document, but declined to do so.

Commenting on the appointment, John Nowoj, Mortenson’s senior vice-president, said: “We’re already deep into the transition process and look forward to assisting Oak View Group with its building of a world-class, landmark venue for our great city. Our company holds core to our mission: a commitment to excellence in economic inclusion and supplier diversity that will ensure we maximize the local impact and value of this tremendous project.”

Meanwhile, Rockwell Group will work in partnership with Populous, the previously announced architect of record, to provide world-class architecture and interior design services, specifically to the arena’s four club areas and suites.

The Times said this addition could yet push the arena’s price tag up to between $825m and $850m. David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group, said: “I am particularly excited to have the opportunity to breathe new life into a historic structure by re-imagining how a grand, multi- purpose venue can be utilised. Seattle is a world class city that deserves a world class arena and we are excited to be working with such great collaborators in Populous.”

The new Seattle Center Arena is the largest private investment in Pacific Northwest sports and entertainment history. When complete, the arena’s interior will expand to 750,000 square feet and will have a 17,400-person capacity for ice hockey and a 18,600-person capacity for basketball.

Image: NHL Seattle