Saturday, October 23, 2021

Climate Pledge Arena Construction Hampers Vera Project’s Pandemic Return

Starting next week, music fans and jersey-up Kraken supporters will descend on Climate Pledge Arena for the first time after years of anticipation. There is excitement in the city as the billion-dollar sports and entertainment complex prepares to open its doors and host the inaugural season of the new NHL franchise.

Game day foot traffic should be a boon to nearby bars and restaurants, but not everyone is thrilled with their new neighbors in the shadow of Climate Pledge Arena.

For the past 14 years, the Seattle Center has been home to The Vera Project, an all-ages music venue and youth center that empowers youth to be active participants in Seattle’s music community. As the non-profit music hall attempts to bounce back from a pandemic that has battered music venues around the world, its push to reopen has been hampered by a slate of construction-related issues, the show said. And has been able to reduce the number of programs, said Ricky Grabowski, the Vera Project’s executive director.

“We can’t have young people in space,” Grabowski said. “There are so many potential issues of being in the middle of this active construction site that we cannot in good faith hold our members meetings or have our volunteer meetings or committees on site.”

Last month, The Vera Project sent a letter to Climate Pledge Arena and Seattle Center detailing a number of complaints, including obstruction of access to their venue, construction noise that disrupted day-to-day work and their recording studio. also prevented the use of In the form of a confrontation with construction workers. The letter, which Grabowski called after months of talks and attempted a “half-measure” to address the group’s concerns, outlines various safety issues and damage to its location due to construction vibrations. At one point, a piping problem caused the Vera Project to blow 110-degree steam while a group of young people were recording a podcast, forcing an evacuation.

After being closed for 16 months during the pandemic, the Seattle music venue began reopening in July, though construction issues would delay the return of The Vera Project until September. Grabowski said that during that first showback, the venue’s emergency exits were blocked four times, a violation that could have prompted the fire marshals to shut them down.

“We have such serious issues that we need to basically mitigate between each show to make sure that the next one is going to be possible,” he said, adding that the construction vehicles under the Vera Project— The road-level main road has been blocked. Sometimes the entry point. “When things are like three of our first five shows, you start to slow down a little bit and try to figure out what’s really going on.”

The Vera Project sought an unspecified amount of financial restitution from the Climate Pledge Arena, although Grabowski said the complex “refused to entertain the conversation.” The September letter cited potential losses of more than $200,000 if the nonprofit was unable to resume its full programming slate this fall, which Grabowski said it has not yet been able to do. .

A Climate Pledge Arena spokesperson wrote in a statement, “We recognize that some of our neighbors have been greatly impacted by the construction work on the Climate Pledge Arena and the Seattle Center campus, and we work relentlessly to communicate with and support them. Is.” . “We consider the Vera Project a partner and we have supported their work during the pandemic. We have ideas for a potential ongoing partnership and believe the brand new arena and the revitalized Northwest Court Yard and Dupen Fountain will ultimately benefit all of us in the years to come. “

Seattle Center Ombudsman for the Area Project, Eddie Burke, acknowledged that construction on North Plaza “has affected him greatly because of his location.” Burke, formerly KeyArena’s facilities manager, said in a statement that they have met with Vera project reps every other week since October 2018 and have “consistently communicated about construction impacts.”

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Burke said the Vera Project’s recent complaints led to “several large meetings” with construction managers and representatives from the area, Seattle Center and The Vera Project to “plan out ways to reduce their inconveniences”, primarily focused on accessibility issues. Seattle Center has earmarked and paid for staff to help Vera patrons find their way into the venue during events.

“We’ve been hardworking, responsive and understanding,” Burke said.

While arena construction is on track for completion ahead of its first concert next Tuesday — an October 19 date with home-state rock heroes Foo Fighters and Death Cab for Cutie — that doesn’t mean the Vera project will be completed. will be clear from According to a Seattle Center representative, some of the projects most directly affecting the venue are overdue maintenance and a redesign of the Dupen Fountain, which is located “right outside Vera’s front door.” With the construction of that area of ​​campus already affected, Seattle Center took the opportunity to simultaneously move forward with “much-needed” work. The work is set to resume in February after the completion of the first phase this month.

The Vera Project isn’t the only resident arts organization at the north end of the Climate Pledge Arena. Representatives from neighboring KEXP and SIFF Film Center said they understand the toll on Vera, but they have not been affected, partly because of the pandemic and remote working. KEXP’s Gathering Space remains closed to the public and a spokesperson for the Seattle International Film Festival, which reopened its film center for in-person screenings two weeks ago, said staff were facing similar noise and access issues. Despite facing, the theater is optimistic about the “extra foot traffic and potential risks” the arena will bring.

KEXP’s morning host and programming director John Richards, whose station is consulting on Kraken’s in-game music selection (not their only joint venture), had only positive things to say about his relationship with the arena.

“[Vera’s] Stuck in a terrible location for this build,” Richards said. “For us, [Climate Pledge Arena has] It was great They have told us when it will be louder. …they have helped when the mitigation was not working. They are communicating with our team about when things are going. “

The Vera Project isn’t the first Seattle music venue to take issue with an up-and-coming field and hockey team. This spring, U District Punk/Metal Den Kraken Bar & Lounge filed a $3.5 million trademark infringement lawsuit against the team after it announced a similarly-named restaurant inside its Northgate practice facility, prompting the team to change its name. thrust up.

As a community arts nonprofit with a DIY ethos, Grabowski said the Vera Project doesn’t have the means to take legal action against Climate Pledge Arena. But more than a financial restoration, Grabowski said he wants to make sure the process doesn’t set “a precedent on campus” and give the arena outside influence to bring light rail to Sound Transit 3 in the years to come. Another round of mitigation talks has already begun for the next major construction project.

“ST3 has a significant potential to displace us permanently,” Grabowski said, noting his general support for the line. “The current plan that we’ve seen looks like it goes straight down Republican Street next to us and underground under our building. … That’s where our biggest fear is.”

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