Seattle defeated Everett 4-3 in the first game played at the new Kent ShoWare Center on Jan. 3, 2009. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

Seattle defeated Everett 4-3 in the first game played at the new Kent ShoWare Center on Jan. 3, 2009. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

A look back: Thunderbirds made Kent’s ShoWare Center debut 15 years ago

Western Hockey League team moved to town in January 2009 from Seattle Center’s KeyArena

Fifteen years ago, on Jan. 3, 2009, the Seattle Thunderbirds made their debut at the brand new ShoWare Center in Kent.

“From thrilling goals to unforgettable victories, accesso ShoWare Center has been the heartbeat of countless memories,” according to a ShoWare Center Facebook post on the 15th anniversary of the T-Birds’ first Western Hockey League game in Kent. “Thank you to the passionate fans, dedicated players, and everyone who has made these years truly special! Here’s to many more years of excitement, camaraderie and unforgettable experiences.”

The Thunderbirds moved from the then-KeyArena (now Climate Pledge Arena) at Seattle Center to the ShoWare Center, a more intimate venue, owned by the city of Kent. The team signed a 30-year contract with the city to be the anchor tenant.

Seattle defeated the Everett Silvertips 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 6,125 at the $84.5 million arena. Players loved the difference between the ShoWare Center and KeyArena.

“We pulled up to the rink and there was a buzz around the rink,” said Greg Scott, a left wing in his fourth season with the team, according to a January 2009 Kent Reporter article about the debut. “There were no parking spots at about 4:45 (p.m.) at the main lot. It was way different than the KeyArena vibe.”

Fans kept the buzz going during the game.

“It was unreal,” said then-Seattle center Brenden Silvester, who scored the first goal at the ShoWare Center. “It’s a great facility. It looked a lot better than the Key, which looks a little empty. Being in this rink, it’s more packed and more loud.”

The T-Bird players entered the ice through a ring of fire during player introductions, with an onslaught of cheering from the fans, according to a 2009 Kent Reporter article.

“Those flames were hot,” Silvester said.

Players were pumped to play in front of a sellout crowd.

“I can’t tell you how great of an arena this is,” Scott said. “The atmosphere was the best I’ve been in for a while. We fed off the fans’ energy, and they fed off of ours.”

Players were excited even before they took the ice.

“The whole dressing room, everybody had smile on their faces,” Scott said.

After playing with the T-Birds, Scott signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, but never played in a NHL game. Now 35, Scott has spent his career playing in Russia and Sweden. Silvester didn’t play beyond the Western Hockey League.

At the ShoWare Center debut of the T-Birds, several people held up signs seeking extra tickets as fans swarmed to the arena nearly two hours before the game started.

Then-Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke dropped the puck to start the game at 7:15 p.m.

“Go back to Seattle,” one Everett Silvertips fan shouted at the T-Birds as the teams left the ice after a scoreless first period.

The ShoWare Center officially opened Jan. 2, 2009 when thousands of people toured the arena at the city of Kent’s grand opening party.

History of ShoWare name

The naming rights were purchased in 2008 with a $3 million payment over 10 years ($300,000 per year) by ShoWare, part of VisionOne Inc., based in Fresno, California, which offers offers box-office services, including online ticket sales and distribution for events at numerous venues. The company handles ticket sales for the Kent arena.

What is known as accesso (lowercase) Technology bought VisionOne in 2014 and in 2017 extended the naming rights with the city through 2029 at the same rate of $300,000 per year, which added accesso to the name.


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The ShoWare Center when it opened in January 2009. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

The ShoWare Center when it opened in January 2009. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

Seattle Thunderbirds players and fans at the debut of the team in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

Seattle Thunderbirds players and fans at the debut of the team in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

A sellout crowd of 6,125 watched the debut of the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2009 at the ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

A sellout crowd of 6,125 watched the debut of the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2009 at the ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, accesso ShoWare Center

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