Jun 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Amazon gives green makeover and new name to Seattle event center

KeyArena in Seattle, WA, in June 2020, next to the Seattle Center.
Seattle's KeyArena, on right, will be renamed the Climate Pledge Arena in summer 2021. Photo: Amy Harder/Axios

An events space in downtown Seattle will be revamped as the Climate Pledge Arena after Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced Thursday he secured the naming rights to the venue, known now as KeyArena.

Why it matters: Developers want to make it the greenest venue in the world, so the outcome will serve as a case study for other large event spaces. It’s also the latest way Bezos, facing pressure over Amazon’s big carbon footprint, is trying to go on the offense with this issue.

What they’re saying: Bezos said in a press release that instead of naming the arena after Amazon, “we’re calling it Climate Pledge Arena as a regular reminder of the importance of fighting climate change.”

The intrigue:

  • The venue will be powered by 100% renewable energy (easy to do in hydropower-rich Washington state), and not use any natural gas, according to a video touting the project.
  • To incorporate all of the new green features, the arena will need to be mostly torn down. But the "original 44 million pound roof will be reused in the construction process to significantly reduce the embodied carbon of the building," an Amazon spokesperson said.

Bezos broke the news on Instagram, alongside a rendering of the new name.

What we don’t know: Amazon hasn't yet disclosed how much the changes will cost, and it remains unknown when the venue will even be usable again given that large, indoor crowds are going to be the very last part of society to return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Where it stands: Bezos announced Amazon’s Climate Pledge — to become carbon neutral by 2040 last September. Since then, the company and executive in his personal capacity have taken numerous steps on the matter.

  • Earlier this week, Amazon announced the creation of a $2 billion venture fund that will stake companies working on climate-friendly technologies in transportation, storage, food, power generation, waste and more.

Yes, but: Some Amazon employees, along with environmental groups, have been increasingly critical of what they describe as not aggressive enough action on climate change and cloud-services deals with oil companies that counteract their climate-change rhetoric.

Go deeper: Amazon announces new $2 billion climate VC Fund

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