Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams and Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke are committed to making the Seattle/King County Health Clinic bigger and better.
SEATTLE — Top executives at the Seattle Center and the Seattle Kraken have apologized for miscommunication regarding the cancellation of an annual free healthcare clinic, while saying the complications were “materially misunderstood.”
In an interview with KING 5, Seattle center manager Robert Nellams and Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke promised to do the Seattle/King County Health Clinic bigger and better than ever when it returns to Climate Pledge Arena.
The clinic has become a staple of the former KeyArena site, serving 3,000 to 4,000 people over four days, providing vision, medical and dental coverage they could not otherwise receive. It was so important that its inclusion in the schedule for a new arena was part of the memorandum of understanding with the city in 2017. A final integration agreement, which was part of the ordinance allowing private construction, said organizers. and the Oak View group would schedule the clinic on “mutually agreeable dates” at least 12 months before an actual event.
This is just one of the nuances of this complicated agreement. Seattle owned and operated KeyArena, but does not own the Climate Pledge Arena facilities and was able to use KeyArena as its annual host because there were no NBA or NHL teams in the building. The WNBA and NHL have contract lock-ins for game nights, which reduce availability, and Nellams said the pandemic limits the ability to secure the necessary equipment and establish the staging of such an event. .
Still, Nellams said a week in October was part of a “soft wait” until everything could be figured out. Then OVG booked the Zac Brown Band and The Who to fill the week in question.
“We didn’t do everything we could to communicate to the Climate Pledge what we were ready to do when we were ready to do it,” Nellams said.
He added that OVG, and conversely the Kraken, offered the Kraken Community Iceplex as a solution, but Nellams said the building footprint wouldn’t work for the clinic. The Iceplex measures 172,000 square feet. KeyArena was just under 400,000 square feet and Climate Pledge is 800,000 square feet.
“The biggest misunderstanding is about the complexity of the clinic itself and what it takes to set up a clinic and how many pieces need to be lined up and in place for the clinic to move forward,” Nellams said. , who added the late opening of Climate Pledge in October made it more difficult to work out logistics, like where and how to get dental equipment. “We’re renting this. You’ve got too much equipment, too much stuff. Too many people working there.”
Nellams continued, “There are playoff games for the WNBA, there are preseason games, you know, the building has to keep moving forward, and there was uncertainty on that date. I think both sides could have communicated better, but realize there is a sea change that has happened here.”
The planning snafu was criticized by clinic executives.
“The fact that (the Zac Brown Band and The Who) are playing it means almost 4,000 people will not get health care this year. If I were those band members, I think I might want to know.” , said Karen. Hays, one of the clinic’s organizers.
Dr. Rick Arnold started a petition to save the clinic.
“They took advantage of people who have very little voice,” Arnold said.
Leiweke said he knew there was “a lot of emotion around it.”
“The clinic is actually coming back, we’re going to be deeply involved,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is be community activists and serve that community. Our record speaks to that. So I think somebody took a unique shot. That’s disappointing.”
Nellams and Leiweke said a free vision clinic will be held at McCaw Hall this year. The health care clinic will be held, along with medical, dental, and vision care, in April 2023 at McCaw Hall, Exhibition Hall, and other Seattle Center offices. The two leaders said they were working on a specific week for a return to Climate Pledge, which will be an annual date, starting in 2024.
“Instead of having a debate about all these things that we’re talking about now, who did this? Who did that? We really should have a debate about why we actually need to do a clinic in the first place,” says Nelams. “It’s a sad commentary on our society right now. That’s why we’re doing a clinic. Our hope is that one day in the future we won’t need to do clinics because we can take care of our people in such a way that they are worth caring about.”