Seattle Storm to build practice facility in Interbay

Seattle Storm to build practice facility in Interbay

Seattle Storm to build practice facility in Interbay

Mayor Jenny Durkan signed legislation in October that paves the way for construction of an indoor sporting facility in Interbay that will serve as a practice center for the Seattle Storm.

Durkan said the practice facility was needed because the four-time WNBA champions do not have their own practice facility. Currently, the team practices at Seattle Pacific University and are constrained to their scheduled gym time.

“Seattle, we’re better than that,” Durkan said in the virtual press conference, adding the Storm are the most-decorated professional sports team in the city and are active in the community. “They are our hometown heroes. … They gave our city so much hope during COVID.”

Durkan said Seattle supports its sports teams, and the Storm have been good community partners through the years.

“We’ve seen this city almost move heaven and earth for our male sports teams,” she said, adding she was happy to sign this legislation for the Storm.

As it turns out, putting the Storm’s plans into motion did not require moving heaven and earth, just amending a size provision for indoor sports facilities in the Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing Industrial Center. Durkan’s legislation last week increased the size from 10,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet.

At the press conference, Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder said the Storm will use all of the site, 1616 W. Bertona St., for its practice facility and parking.

“While the Emerald City has been our home for 21 years, the WNBA has changed,” she said. “So the practice facility is no longer a nice to have, but a gotta have.”

Gilder said Friday that the business arrangement between Seattle Pacific University and the Storm for players to practice at SPU has worked well, but the Storm has to adjust to the changing landscape of the WNBA if it is to be competitive.

“What’s changed is kind of the what it means to be a WNBA franchise,” Gilder said, adding franchises are starting to rethink what kind of profile they want to have.

With the rise in the salary cap, top players have more flexibility to choose where they want to play, Gilder said.

“So, if you want to keep a Breanna Stewart in your market, you’re going to want to make sure your franchise is attractive to her,” Gilder said, referring to the Storm  forward and MVP of the 2020 WNBA finals.

Gilder said this will be the first WNBA practice facility designed and built specifically for a WNBA team alone, and not in conjunction with another team.

“This is a way to put a mark on the community and distinguish itself,” Gilder said.

While specifics of what the practice facility will entail are still being worked out, Gilder said it will be designed for the Storm players in mind, with ample locker room space and a place for the players to relax.

“It’s going to have a feel to it,” Gilder said. “You know when you walk into a health club or gym, and you just know when you look that this is where the men play? There’s just a feel to it.”

She said, while men and boys will not be excluded from the facility, the Storm owners consider a practice facility built for their players a worthwhile investment for the team, Seattle and the WNBA.

“ The world is changing in women’s pro basketball, and the Storm wants to change the world of women’s basketball,” Gilder said.

Gilder said the independently owned Storm has been slowly building its empire since she and her two partners bought it in 2008. She said, at the time, the Storm were “the tail on the Sonics’ dog.”

“It was a tiny part of their business, and we were going to take this flea and make it the dog in our business, and we have the responsibility to invest, not behind the curve, but in front of the curve,” Gilder said, adding the practice facility is the latest step in their efforts to do that.

The building will also be for the community, she said. According to the development plan, the facility will serve the Seattle Storm and a “youth-focused basketball skill development center with programming specifically focused on girls and under-served communities typically excluded by financial or transportation constraints.”

Gilder said the plan is to get the building up as soon as possible, and the team has hired Queen Anne developer Maria Barrientos, BarrientosRyan LLC, as the development manager. Gilder said, as soon as city officials approved the change to the zoning, they submitted the preapplication that night.

Gilder said she hopes the facility will be a positive addition to the Interbay community. Not only will building the center create additional jobs, it will replace a vacant lot bordered by RV’s, across from the Storm’s current offices on Thorndyke with a nice-looking facility.

“It’ll change the feel of the neighborhood,” Gilder said.