As the puck slipped past the San Jose Sharks goaltender to tie the score at 1-all, Ken Kido leaned back in his chair in the Seafirst suite above center ice.
“This is so nice, it’s incredible,” said Kido.
The Seafirst Bank senior vice president was speaking only tangentially about the action on the ice. He was talking generally about the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and specifically the bank’s luxury suite - one of 14 in the new facility.
“The bank has a skybox at the Indians Stadium, but it’s nothing like this,” he said.
Along the Arena’s concourse, Kido’s assessment was being echoed in other suites.
Bob Hamacher, general manager of KAYU, beamed as he complimented the sight lines (which are perfect), the decor (tasteful grays and purples) and the service (extremely efficient).
Luxury is a relative term and the suites, leased on five-year contracts at $20,000 per year by some of Spokane’s biggest companies, cannot be described as plush or gaudy.
Anyone looking for expensive paneling or gold-plated fixtures would be disappointed.
The 10 seats are cushioned and slightly larger than the standard arena seat. There’s room to stand around a table of hors d’oeuvres, counters for ice buckets of beer or sodas and a television broadcasting the event.
“The people couldn’t be nicer,” said Hamacher, noting that a hostess made regular rounds to check on their needs.
On opening night at the Arena, that may have been the greatest luxury of all. Outside in the concourse, the lines at each concession stand stretched so long they threatened to cut off traffic in the hallways.
Some fans spent more time in line than the Zamboni driver spent on the ice.
Inside the suites, however, refreshments were a brief stroll to the counter. Ticket-holders could be back in their seats before a hockey player could make it to the penalty box.
The facilities will be used primarily to entertain clients and reward employees, company executives said.
Seafirst, for example, is splitting its tickets among five divisions that chipped in to lease the suite.
“We’re going to figure it out as we go along,” Kido said.
Heidi Stanley of Sterling Savings said that company’s suite will become a business development tool. Branches throughout Eastern Washington will have a chance to come to Spokane with customers and entertain them at Arena events.
“The biggest challenge is making sure the suite is utilized correctly,” Stanley said. “You don’t want to miss an opportunity.”
While new to Spokane, suites have become a key feature in sports and entertainment facilities built in the last two decades.
They provide revenue for a stadium or arena when a community is trying to find financing, said Jeannine Kunz of CSL Consulting of Minneapolis. The firm was the Arena’s consultant on designing and leasing the suites.
Before the first ticket to the first concert or hockey game was sold, the suite leases provided a guaranteed income that bond companies considered in arranging the financing, Kunz said.
In return for the leases, companies holding the suites get tickets to all events.
Kevin Twohig, Arena general manager, called the suites “the cornerstones of the new facility.”
Hamacher said KAYU looked at leasing the suite as a marketing tool for the company and as a way of showing it supported the community’s effort to build the Arena.
Sitting in that suite Sunday night, he said he was happy with both the suite and the Arena.
“For the first night, it’s amazing how well things are going,” Hamacher said. “It can only get better.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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