One million people have visited Kraken Community Iceplex in the one year since the team opened the $90 million, three-sheet facility Sept. 9, 2021.
More than 50,000 have attended public skate. More than 3,800 have participated in learn-to-skate and more than 1,000 have participated in learn-to-play programs.
“Seeing kids and families walk through the doors and the rink bustling on a Saturday morning, I think, is really what the Iceplex stands for, and just seeing it come to life is incredible,” said Katelyn Parker, player development coach at Kraken Community Iceplex. “I feel very lucky to come to work here every day.
“There is still the new-rink smell, which is very good after a year, especially with all the activity here. Yeah, it’s a huge accomplishment. It kind of goes fast. When you think about where we were last year and where we are now, it doesn’t really seem real.”
Seattle did not have a regulation hockey rink open to the public within the city limits for about 40 years.
But then the NHL awarded an expansion team to Seattle on Dec. 4, 2018, and the ownership group invested in a first-class facility to grow the game and serve the community.
Kraken Community Iceplex was built in about 18 months — amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic — in a shopping area about eight miles north of Climate Pledge Arena. It opened in time for the Kraken’s inaugural training camp last season.
Not only is it the Kraken’s headquarters and practice facility, it is home to more than 150 youth hockey players and more than 120 Kraken Hockey League teams. Its learn-to-skate program is the largest in the state of Washington and the fifth largest in the United States, according to the Kraken.
The building also has a team store, a restaurant and a Starbucks, but not just any Starbucks. It is one of the Seattle-based company’s “Community Stores.” Starbucks says the stores help uplift communities in locally relevant ways, such as partnering with local nonprofit organizations.
A percentage of the profits from the Starbucks at Kraken Community Iceplex supports the One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena, as well as other local nonprofit organizations. More than 16,400 customers at the Starbucks have generated more than $80,000 in donations to One Roof.
The foundation has provided financial assistance for learn-to-skate and learn-to-play programs, while supporting field trips and other events for groups to come to Kraken Community Iceplex.
“One of the big goals for the facility was not only to serve youth who grow up in greater Seattle, but to make some real inroads into lower-income neighborhoods in the city and make sure that they felt like this was a place for them as well,” said Kyle Boyd, director of fan development for the Kraken.
Boyd said that has come to life most in a 32-week program for Pre-K and Kindergarten children, who have half days of school and fill the rink at 2 p.m. He said kids developed strong skating skills and will go on to participate in other programs.
“The more you can do to make sure everyone can feel like they’re a part of that fandom, whether they come from this community, that community, this background, that background, you have a more sustainable fan base for the future, which is really exciting,” Boyd said.
Parker said the facility has reached people who wouldn’t have been able to experience hockey otherwise, whether they have come to watch a Kraken open practice, tried a public skate or participated in a program.
“To be able to help introduce families and kids to the sport is incredible and something that I don’t think any of us take for granted, because we’re making an impact on our community,” Parker said.
This is just the beginning.
When Kraken Community Iceplex opened a year ago, COVID-19 restrictions were in place. For example, the Kraken could allow only about half as many fans for practices as they wanted, and everyone had to wear a mask. Now those restrictions have been lifted.
The numbers should go up from here, and so should the impact.
“All those numbers, to me, highlight future fans, people who once upon a time may have not cheered for an NHL team or had a favorite NHL team but who have come into our building and our facility and now feel like they’re on board with our club and can support our future growth,” Boyd said.
“For the learn-to-skate, young kids, in 10 years, those are going to be some of our passionate teenage fans. For the people who came in and did a public skate with their family, they’re going to go to a game one day and experience what Climate Pledge Arena is like. For people who are just walking around the street wearing the merchandise, those are fans who are going to share their fandom and a passion for our club with friends and family.
“I really think about how we’re going to use the facility, but the facility also is a testament to what introducing hockey through a facility can do for fandom and for a club’s future fan base.”
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