It’s official: the ShoWare Center at Kent

From left

From left

Expect to see the ShoWare Center name and logo popping up – inside and outside of the city of Kent’s brand-spanking new arena.

On Tuesday, Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke and officials from the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team made it official with the unveiling of the new logo for the arena Tuesday with a video display of the logo on the center scoreboard.

When the ShoWare Center at Kent – formerly the Kent Events Center – opens Jan. 2, the ShoWare Center name will be on emblazoned on the scoreboard and ice sheet, as well as on the building’s facade. The city might even paint the name on the arena roof by early next year, but that’s contingent upon whether the dollars are available in the construction budget.

“This will beckon people,” Cooke said of the new name and arena, during Tuesday’s unveiling. “There will be something for everybody in the ShoWare Center.”

ShoWare will pay the city $3.175 million under the 10-year contract, a rate of slightly more than $300,000 per year, for the naming rights to the events center.

ShoWare is part of VisionOne Inc., based in Fresno, Calif. ShoWare offers box-office services, including online ticket sales and distribution for events at more than 300 venues. The company will handle ticket sales for the new Kent arena.

“We’re excited about our partnership with ShoWare beginning when a guest purchases a ticket,” said Beth Sylves, director of sales and marketing for the ShoWare Center. “It’s going to be easy to use and Web-based. Most tickets will be purchased on the Web site, but we will take phone orders and have a box office (to open in mid-December).”

City officials plan a public open house from 4 to 9 p.m. Jan. 2. Residents will be able to tour the arena during the free event. City officials are still finalizing the entertainment details of the open house.

“There will be a variety of performances as well as food sampling,” said Ben Wolters, city economic development director.

The 6,025-seat arena is under construction at 625 West James St. Costing $84.5 million, the facility will be the new home of the Seattle Thunderbirds, a Western Hockey League semi-professional team that now plays at KeyArena in Seattle.

Single-game tickets for the Thunderbirds games from Jan. 4 through March 15 in Kent went on sale Wednesday at

“Sales will be steady as the word spreads,” said Russ Farwell, general manager of the T-birds, on Tuesday. “The tickets came out just in time for Christmas.”

Farwell expects to know by next week whether the arena will be ready in time to host Thunderbirds games on Dec. 27, 28, 30 and Jan. 3. Single-game tickets for those dates will go on sale Dec. 10 when it is determined if the games will be played at the ShoWare Center or KeyArena.

“Everyday it gets closer and you get the feel of what it will be like,” Farwell said, after he saw the inside of the arena Tuesday. “It’s impressive.”

Construction of the events center remains on schedule. The Thunderbirds and SMG, the arena operators, plan to move to their new offices at the events center Dec. 22. The arena is slated to open Jan. 2.

“I see nothing in the way of hitting those dates,” said Ben Golding, project manager for Mortenson Construction, the Minneapolis-based company building the facility, in an interview Tuesday.

Construction workers continue to finish the 20 private suites. Special lighting for the arena’s outdoor plaza along West James Street will be one of the final projects, Golding said.

City officials will know whether construction costs stayed within the budget when all of the bills come in by the end of January, Wolters said.

“The bottom line is the budget will be tight,” Wolters said. “But it’s looking good we will be within our contingency budget.”

The City Council voted 4-3 in July to approve a $5.9 million construction budget increase for the events center.

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. And there is the $3.1 million ShoWare is chipping in for the naming rights.

Cooke said the arena will be a regional destination and an economic shot in the arm for Kent.

“It’s a major economic development,” Cooke said. “We estimate that 400,000 people will come here (in 2009). Even during these tough economic times, people come to venues that are more affordable for families.”

Besides the Thunderbirds games next year, the Harlem Globetrotters perform Feb. 18 at the ShoWare Center. SMG officials have yet to announce any other events, but ice shows, a variety of conventions, as well as local high-school graduations all are expected to be part of the venue.

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