City Council excited about Kent’s newest venue

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Kent City Council members praised the opening of the city-owned ShoWare Center at their regular Tuesday meeting.

The seven Council members attended the city’s grand-opening party Jan. 2 at the ShoWare Center as well as the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey opener on Jan. 3. They came away impressed with the arena, the thousands of people attracted to the events and the traffic flow.

“That’s one classy facility that everyone in Kent can be proud of,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson said at the meeting. “That’s something I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren about. It changes the face of Kent for the better.”

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people toured the events center at the grand opening, said Ben Wolters, city economic development director, in a report to the Council.

A sold-out crowd of 6,125 attended the Thunderbirds opener last Saturday night against the Everett Silvertips. The T-birds beat Everett 4-3.

“We’re already known as Sportstown, USA and this adds to that,” Councilman Les Thomas said. “While I was at the game in Kent, I had the feeling I was in Seattle or Portland. There were thousands of people on the streets of Kent.”

The Council elected in 2006 to pursue the building of an events center.

“At our retreat in 2006, we had a vision to become an unique urban center,” Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said. “We’re on track.”

The Council approved construction of the center in July 2007 on a 6-1 vote.

Most of the funds to build the $84.5 million arena will come from the city issuing bonds that will be paid back over the next 30 years from fees collected from events and activities at the facility.

In addition to city bonds, the state will pay nearly $21 million toward the arena through a Public Facilities District that allows Kent to keep 0.033 percent of the state’s share of the sales tax, or 3.3 cents on every $100 purchase, collected in the city.

“It’s been a team effort between city staff and contractors,” Councilman Ron Harmon said. “The design turned out spectacular and now the Seattle Thunderbirds play hockey in Kent.”

The T-birds moved to Kent from the KeyArena in Seattle. The city has a 30-year lease with the Thunderbirds, a junior hockey team with players ages 16-20 who will play as many as 40 games per season at the ShoWare Center.

The Council praised Wolters and his staff.

“Congratulations on a job well done by you and your staff,” Harmon said to Wolters.

Council members also gave rave reviews to the Kent Police for directing traffic at the T-bird opener.

“I live near the border of Kent (on the East Hill) and it took me eight minutes to get home,” Ranniger said. “The choreography of the dispersal of traffic by police was fabulous.”

“This is a final product we can all be proud of,” Mayor Suzette Cooke said .


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