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Symetra First Shift: Initial Seats Installed at Climate Pledge Arena

Stand up and cheer: Kraken and music fans will soon be sitting pretty for hockey, concerts, family entertainment and more

By Bob Condor

Before taking her own shift as a family medicine doctor Friday, Jennifer Avila-Smith teamed up with her hockey-fan husband, Chris, and hockey-fan-in-the-making daughter, Isabella, at Climate Pledge Arena to be part of installing the first seats at the future home of the Kraken. Hence Dr. Avila-Smith’s scrubs under her personal protective equipment entering the brand-new arena.

 “Just walking in and seeing the changes, it just so much more real,” said Avila-Smith, who along with her husband attended concerts, roller derby and the circus in the old arena on the Seattle Center campus. “We’re so excited and looking forward to it. Being able to bring [our daughter] and friends and family, it’s just that much more exciting.”

Chris Smith did the honors of affixing the final bolts to secure the first four seats in Climate Pledge Arena’s eastside upper bowl, in Section 202, where the Smiths will watch Kraken home games as season ticket holders beginning this fall. Chris Smith bolted the seats like a pro.

Kraken team broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh (side note: we are just six months away from hearing his radio calls) described the moment as “the easiest home improvement project of his life.” For his part, Chris Smith confided he was smiling ear-to-ear behind his mask when he sat in one of those seats to see his game-night view for the first time in person.

FYI for fans: The rink is currently in the process of specialist workers laying down 13 miles of piping as part of the arena’s ice plant system, which will be freezing rainwater collected from the historic roof of  Climate Pledge Arena, stored in a underground cistern. 

Chris Smith’s handiwork was proceeded by hard work from a subcontractor crew with expertise in installing the framework and seats. Adam Engel was on hand unbox the four seats and move them into place for the final bolting. Engel and his crew mates will hand-carry each boxed seat to its location (Friday in the east upper bowl) during the next months.

Engel, who has installed seats in five NHL stadiums and three major sports arenas among other projects, says carrying the seats one-by-one is not the hardest part of the job. Drilling and epoxying the metal studs holding long beams for seating rows is what’s most challenging.  The first seven hundred seats were installed Friday.

For fans wondering about the comfort level of the new seats, Symetra executive Trinity Parker was on hand to confirm a happy fact: “The seats are awesome,” she said Friday while seated in conversation with Fitzhugh. “I could just stay here.”

Parker attended the big day as part of Symetra’s role as first founding partner and exclusive life insurance partner for the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.  Look for more firsts to come in our Symetra First Shift. In fact, Parker had a personal inaugural experience of her own.

“It’s my time here [inside Climate Pledge Arena],” said Parker, senior vice president of marketing, communications and public affairs for Symetra. “It’s amazing, the first seats in, that much closer to bringing [professional] hockey back to the Northwest.

Before Dr. Smith departed for work and then a family vacation, she imagined her first Kraken game at Climate Pledge Arena, now fortified with actually sitting in the seat she will occupy. She said the family will “get there early as possible and make a fun outing of it all,” including any planned events before the game (be assured there will be plenty of activities).

Chris Smith mused on who would join the family in the fourth seat, but the Smiths confirmed Isabella will be on hand. She has her own mini-stick and ball from the Kraken retail store at Chandler’s Cove. The family lives two miles from the Sno-King Renton ice rink.

“She can learn to skate early,” said Dr. Smith, who practices at Valley Medical Center in Covington, about 20 miles south of Seattle. “Who knows, maybe be a hockey player herself. She does well with [the stick and ball].”

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