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December 18, 2008
The city of Kent, with its history as a modest, quiet enclave, is growing up and taking its rightful place in the family of important South Sound communities. And there is no better example of that maturation than the new ShoWare Center, designed by LMN Architects in association with PBK Architects.
The events center will draw people to the city and provide a lively new venue for sports, entertainment, concerts and trade shows. Instead of having to drive somewhere else, Kent now will have its own multipurpose space that will attract visitors from all over the Pacific Northwest.
Perhaps the greatest compliment to ShoWare Center is that “it reflects Kent,” celebrating the city’s energy and character. Instead of a cookie-cutter, big black box building, LMN Architects carefully considered the site, the neighbors and residents, and designed a building that reflects and connects the community that it is part of.
Simple materials are used in creative ways to make a dynamic and interactive space. Larger-than-life hockey pucks are strategically placed and lighted in the plaza to serve as meeting places and benches, announcing a point of pride for the city as being the new home of the Thunderbirds hockey team.
Not only is the new events center extremely flexible, with seating for 6,100 spectators for hockey and 7,800 for concerts, it also has a focus on green and sustainable features that will bring significant energy and water savings to taxpayers, as well as healthier indoor air for those who attend events.
It’s a building designed to look good over the long term while providing practical solutions for a wide range of events, continuing to make Kent a strong community leader and regional destination.
With a tight budget and an even tighter timeline, LMN worked collaboratively with its construction partners at Mortenson and city officials to meet the city’s design and construction schedule.
Everyone was at the table early on and working together. From the initial master plan studies and site selection to expedited permitting and fast-track delivery, all parties committed to support each other in a team approach.
Once under construction, LMN staff co-located on site with the contractor to help expedite the resolution of design or construction issues. The result was a 27-month process from start to finish that normally would take well over three years to complete.
Visitors to ShoWare Center will notice some striking differences between this building and the typical events space.
In particular, an angled stainless steel soffit provides a dramatic building face that will reflect the activity and excitement of a busy plaza and events space to patrons approaching the facility and community passersby. Meanwhile, LED-lit “energy lines” that illuminate the ground will lead event-goers to the main entry, as well as enhance the feeling of anticipation of upcoming events. Supersized graphics along the inside of the concourse walls will help visitors find their way, with jumbo section numbers and extra-large “people” symbols at restrooms.
The new events center facade opens up the public spaces to large amounts of natural light. The visitor doesn’t just disappear into the bowels of an artificially lit building without windows and light and no connection to the outdoors.
Glass surrounds the first-floor concourse level. Punched openings on the east and west sides of the second floor connect to the suite level. And the southwest corner of the upper-level club lounge has large windows with operable shutters made out of airplane hangar doors.
ShoWare Center is targeting LEED silver certification. It will be the first green new-construction events center project offering a climate-friendly design.
In practical terms that means 40 percent savings in water usage through a variety of water-efficient fixtures. Energy-efficient smart lighting, heating and cooling all will offer significant energy savings, including the ice-making equipment, which is predicted to reduce energy use 37 percent over the national standards. And the materials inside were selected to reduce off-gassing and make the indoor air far more pleasant.
The center is even committed to using nontoxic cleaning supplies so that the center is sanitary but not reliant on harsh cleaners. In an effort to protect Puget Sound and salmon-bearing creeks in the community, a gravel layer under the parking area will act like a sponge in heavy rains to hold runoff and provide a controlled release back into the nearby drainage system. Rainwater collected on the roof will be used to recharge the existing wetlands to the north and west sides of the building.
The center also has lots of bike storage and easy connections to public transit. It offers preferred parking for carpools and fuel-efficient cars.
A flexible venue
After listening to Kent residents and city officials, LMN was determined to design an events center that would be a symbol of community identity and pride. This will offer a home to a range of activities that are as diverse as the city itself and even provide community space to celebrate graduations and other civic events.
All in all, LMN working collaboratively with project partners and the city has designed a building that is singularly Kent. A building that fits well with its community, imparts a regional identity and provides a flexible venue for a variety of entertainment to serve the needs of the community and the region for generations.
Rob Widmeyer, AIA, is a partner at LMN Architects, where he primarily works on large-scale public assembly projects such as sports arenas, exhibition halls and convention centers. Tom Burgess, AIA, is a principal and project manager at LMN Architects, where he manages complex public assembly projects.