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Simon Property Group Adds Hockey Complex to Northgate Mall as Seattle Yearns for NHL Team

The Three-Rink, 180,000-Square-Foot Facility Is Part of a Radical Makeover at a 68-Year-Old Mall
October 11, 2018

Simon Property Group's redevelopment of Northgate Mall will include ice rinks, corporate offices and retail and restaurant space related to Seattle's bid to land an NHL team.

Simon Property Group, Inc.’s plan to add office and retail space -- along with three ice skating rinks -- to Northgate Mall is more than a radical redesign, it’s at the heart of Seattle’s dream to get a National Hockey League franchise.

Simon, the nation’s largest mall operator, and NHL Seattle -- the group working to attract an NHL franchise to the city -- said the privately funded, $70 million initiative involving 180,000 square feet of space will become an anchor tenant. The maneuvering, along with a $700 million renovation of KeyArena near the Space Needle a couple miles away, provides a glimpse into the real estate machinations behind any city's attempt to win a professional sports franchise.

"If we are awarded an NHL franchise, creating a one-of-a-kind training facility that can serve as the home of hockey in the Pacific Northwest for youth and adult hockey is critical," said Tod Leiweke, chief executive of NHL Seattle.

Simon filed plans with the city earlier this year to redevelop the mall, which was one of the country’s first modern shopping centers when it opened in 1950. The mall, which is in the city about eight miles northeast of downtown, is one of numerous Simon properties across the country undergoing major redevelopment in the wake of America’s shifting retail environment.

Simon said it wants to add a 200-room hotel, more than 1.5 million square feet of housing, a fitness center and abundant green space to the 69-acre site. Plans also call for razing 60 percent of the mall.

The makeover has spurred commercial and residential redevelopment in the neighborhood, including several new multifamily complexes and a planned elevated light rail line that will connect the mall to the University of Washington, downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport when it opens in 2021.

As part of its new NHL Ice Centre, Simon will add three NHL-regulation ice rinks, a state-of-the-art practice facility, corporate offices for NHL Seattle hockey operations and restaurant, bar and retail space. The rinks could also host youth hockey and figure-skating tournaments as well as providing public ice time for recreational skating.

There are no permanent ice rinks within Seattle city limits, though seasonal rinks open during the holidays.

Lance Lopes, NHL Seattle’s project leader, noted that the development is a critical component of the makeover of not just the mall -- which was last renovated in 2007, according to CoStar data -- but the surrounding area.

He said the city has built parks, a community center and a new library in the past decade as part of its push to turn the Northgate neighborhood into a pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented urban center.

"In the past decade, the city has made major civic investments" in the neighborhood, he said, adding that Simon also dedicated land a decade ago to help create urban creeks and tributaries in the neighborhood.

Earlier this month, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league’s executive committee unanimously recommended that the NHL expand to Seattle. The NHL Board of Governors is slated to vote on the proposal in December.

The league added a franchise in Las Vegas, the Vegas Golden Knights, that began play in the 2017-2018 season, bringing the NHL to 31 teams. It was the league's first expansion since it added two teams in 2000.

Last month, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve the $700 million, privately financed renovation of KeyArena near the Space Needle, which will serve as the hockey’s team’s home venue.

More than 32,000 fans placed deposits on NHL season tickets last spring.

Seattle has never had an NHL franchise, but it did have a professional ice hockey team called the Seattle Metropolitans, which played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 to 1924. The club won the league championship in 1917. The Seattle Totems were a minor-league professional hockey franchise that folded in 1975.

"Now it’s time to go to work," Leiweke said. "Our team stands ready to begin the next phase of this process."

Rob Smith, National Retail Reporter  CoStar Group   
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