Big plans for ShoWare Center grand opening

The new ShoWare Center at Kent opens Jan. 2, and city officials have been planning for the traffic the center is expected to see. - Charles Cortes/Reporter
The new ShoWare Center at Kent opens Jan. 2, and city officials have been planning for the traffic the center is expected to see.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/Reporter

It will be a bit of a three-ring circus Jan. 2, when city officials throw a grand-opening party at the ShoWare Center at Kent. The event is free.

Live cultural performances, a Harlem Globetrotters basketball clinic and the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team will operate simultaneously on the spacious floors of the arena, giving folks here a sense of just what Kent’s newest venue can host.

“The highlight will be the building itself,” said Michelle Witham, city community and public affairs manager.

The tours will include the center’s locker rooms, the Zamboni ice machine garage and private suites.

ShoWare Center workers will divide the arena floor into thirds so people can see the multiple uses of the facility.

Kent saxophonist Darren Motamedy, as well as dance teams and drama students from Kent-area high schools will provide entertainment throughout the evening at the $84.5 million arena on West James Street.

Seattle Thunderbird hockey players will occupy the ice portion of the floor and be available to sign autographs. The T-birds will play 25 games at the 6,025-seat arena over the next three months. They debut at their new home against the Everett Silvertips 7:05 p.m. Jan. 3.

A member of the Harlem Globetrotters promotion team also will conduct a basketball clinic on another section of the floor. The Globetrotters perform Feb. 18 at the arena.

Local high school dance teams and drama students will appear on a stage on the final section of the floor.

Kentridge and Kent-Meridian high school students will perform scenes from their joint production of “Fame.” Kentlake High students will perform scenes from their production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Motamedy, an elementary music teacher in the Kent School District as well as a professional musician, will play late in the evening to help close the grand opening.

People will be able to buy food and drinks at the arena’s concession stands during the open house.

City officials also are planning a “surprise” opening ceremony at 4 p.m., Witham said. Details of that ceremony will be kept secret until the grand opening.

The city has invited numerous state and local elected officials to the open house, but Gov. Christine Gregoire has declined the invitation because of other commitments, Witham said.

Most of the project funds to build the arena will come from the city issuing bonds to 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.

ShoWare, an international software company that specializes in online ticket sales, is paying the city $3.175 million under a 10-year contract for the naming rights.

In addition to hockey games, the ShoWare Center will host concerts, high school graduations, ice shows and other events.

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