Here’s a window into the Kraken’s first season — where fans can get a glimpse of a game for free

Going to a Kraken home game had been Caroline Duncombe’s idea of the perfect first date.
So, the fact that the 25-year-old University of Washington PhD student had to perch atop a ledge on her tiptoes to catch a glimpse of Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer wasn’t putting her off at all. Duncombe and Gilad Touboul, 25, her companion for Thursday night’s contest against Buffalo, were among a handful of Kraken fans watching from what has been colloquially dubbed “Tightwad Terrace” through the street-level wall of northern windows at Climate Pledge Arena.
A $1.15 billion renovation left the arena’s rink surface some 53 feet below ground, and the incline is steep enough that people passing by at street level can stand on a short ledge and catch a limited glimpse of game action for free through the glass. The best view is actually of the rink’s north end video scoreboard, where street-watchers can follow the game live while also seeing the reactions of a majority of patrons inside the arena bowl.
“I live two blocks away from the arena, and I actually walk by it every day as I walk home from work,” Duncombe said. “There’s always people around it, hanging around and waiting in line. It’s been very busy lately because of the Kraken games and the concerts.”
On one of her walks, she’d noticed “this huge crowd” peering through the glass and figured she’d give it a try. She and Touboul had other plans for the evening, but she had suggested catching part of the game as they headed past the arena.
“She was mentioning how this was sort of on her wish list and that she walks by a lot,” Touboul said. “So we saw it tonight and thought we’d check it out.”
The arena has curtains that can seal off the view from the outside for concerts where lighting might be impacted or afternoon games when the sun’s glare might disrupt participants inside. But routinely closing off the glass windows seems a nonstarter given they cost millions to install, and having natural light pouring into the venue was viewed as a feature attraction during its reconstruction.
The crowds outside were much bigger and stayed longer during the Kraken’s home opener Oct. 23 against Vancouver. During that game, some fans stepped down off the ledge and trampled across a 10-foot bed of plants to position themselves against the glass.
From that vantage point, they had a clear view of the entire rink and the game, as if they were inside. The problem was, Kraken fans a few feet away in seats on the other side of the glass had paid roughly $250 apiece for the same view.
Security staff is now positioned outside the glass to prevent outdoor fans from leaving their ledge perches. Ostensibly, the staffers are preventing plants from being trampled on, but — judging by the occasional hostile stares out at the freebie crowd from fans inside the building — the Kraken are also protecting fan experience and ticket values.
“If we let them go up against the glass, you know they’d be banging on it,” one of the security detail members said. “So we can’t let them do that.”
So the security team politely but firmly advised the dozen or so people gathered at any given time during the game that they can stand on the ledge all they want as long as they keep out of the plant bed.
But the minute those staffers left for a short break, one fan crossed the garden and pressed his smartphone up against the window for a photo. Other fans hollered out tongue-in-cheek warnings that he’d be “arrested,” so after pausing to view several seconds of game action he quickly scampered back to the ledge.
Before the security staffers returned, he proudly showed off a photo of the complete rink and game below. He declined to give his name.
His work colleague, Alex Irigoin, 27, who lives in nearby South Lake Union, said they had been in the neighborhood having pizza and decided to check out the arena during a game.
“This is my first time being over here,” he said. “If we could be in there watching it’d be nice, but you still get to see in and see the environment. And you can hear it, which is awesome. And honestly, you’ve got the JumboTron right there. I can imagine during a playoff game that you’d get a lot of people out here trying to watch, because you can still feel it, hear it, and it’s free.”
John Shurson, 67, who was visiting from Eugene, Oregon, for work, agreed that the experience felt somewhat like watching a giant screen at a sports bar with the additional perk of having a crowd of 17,000 people on the other side of the glass.
“I mean, you don’t get the same sound that you would on the other side, but it’s still very, very nice.”
The noise from the crowd was audible enough on a flurry of missed Kraken scoring chances early in the second period. UW student Duncombe suggested the Kraken should build temporary bleachers outside the glass so outdoor fans could have a slightly better view than the postage-stamp-sized glimpse she had of netminder Grubauer standing in his crease.
“I think the goalie looks pretty good,” she quipped.
Otherwise, she looks forward to the day she can go inside to watch.
“I would hope so if I can afford it,” she said. “But this is like a good cheat seat. As a student, it’s a good way to get in on the action without actually having to pay for it.”
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

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