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SEATTLE MEMORIAL STADIUM (updated 11.06.11)
A Brief History & Comment
 
Aerial Photo of Seattle Memorial Stadium
 
 
Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Washington, is located in the northeast corner of the Seattle Center grounds. It was the venue for much of the opening ceremonies for the Century 21 Exposition, a World's Fair held in Seattle in 1962. It was the home field for the Seattle Majestics, a women's American football team back in 2008 and 2009.
Majestics in Acton

The stadium currently seats approximately 12,000 people. This was expanded to 17,000 during 1974-75, while the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League played at Memorial Stadium before moving to the newly constructed Kingdome. Similarly, an A-League reincarnation of the Sounders franchise played at Memorial Stadium before also moving to a newly-built stadium, Qwest Field.

In 1948, Memorial Stadium was built in memory of all the former Seattle high school youth who gave their lives in WWII. In dedication a memorial wall was built with all of the names of the fallen individuals.
 
 

The facility is not operated by the Seattle Center itself, but is owned by the Seattle School District and still serves as the "home field" for football games played by high schools within the district. The stadium is used periodically for concerts, such as in connection with festivals, like Bumbershoot, being held at the Center. In addition Memorial Stadium is most commonly used for coed and men's flag football, year round. Three generations of Seattleites remember it as a place where they played or watched a legendary game -- whether it was football, soccer or some other sport. As P-I reporter Dan Raley explained a few years ago, Memorial Stadium hosted the Turkey Day game, which during some years was the biggest football game around.
 
 
Here are some other interesting things you might not know about Memorial Stadium:

1948: President Harry Truman speaks at Memorial Stadium, which also was the site of the first local television broadcast -- a tie football game between West Seattle and Wenatchee.

April 21, 1962: Memorial Stadium hosts the opening ceremonies for the World's Fair.

1967: Memorial Stadium becomes the first high school stadium in the country to have artificial turf.

November 22, 1975: Blanchet High School beats Garfield High School 42-35 in a four-overtime football game that historians consider the best Washington high school sports event of the 20th century. Future University of Washington record setter Joe Steele threw the winning touchdown. Current City Councilmember Bruce Harrell was a starting linebacker and captain for Garfield, and later played in the 1978 Rose Bowl with Steele and others from that game.

1995: Memorial Stadium becomes home of the United Soccer League's Seattle Sounders.

It has seen generations of Seattle students cheer for their school teams. It was the site of the opening-day ceremonies for the 1962 World's Fair. It hosted dignitaries such as former President Truman, not to mention destruction derbies and Bumbershoot bands. It has stood for 60 years. BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO ABOVE: Memorial Stadium as seen from the air on Dec. 1, 1948. Built to honor local youths who lost their lives in WWII, it is now the largest school athletic complex in Seattle. But now, Seattle High School Memorial Stadium is facing possible demolition. Under one scenario, it could be razed to make way for a new basketball arena. In another, it would be flattened and replaced with grass and underground parking as part of the Seattle Center's revitalization plan. Two longtime Seattle activists want to save the stadium, which was dedicated in 1947 as a tribute to students who died in World War II, by having it declared a landmark. They filed their nomination Friday with the city's Historic Preservation Office. "As long as I'm on it, nothing is going to happen to that stadium," said Guy Gallipeau, 77, of Seattle. Gallipeau helped save the building from demolition 15 years ago by leading a parade of veterans through the City Council chambers. "All these guys showed up with their red jackets and medals, and the city didn't want anything to do with it. They dropped the whole idea right then and there," Gallipeau said. This time, he has teamed with Bob Hegamin, 79, a retired Seattle City Light worker, and a perennial candidate for city office. As a city landmark, the stadium could be protected from demolition except under rare circumstances. A landmark may be demolished, for example, if the historic preservation director declares the building a health and safety hazard. Gallipeau said it is urgent to take steps to save the stadium now. "The pressure is on," he said. A Seattle Center task force recommended in May that the stadium be demolished as part of overhauling the fading campus.  In the meantime, the new owners of the Seattle Sonics and Storm included the Memorial Stadium property on their list of possible sites for a new basketball arena. Next month, they are expected to announce whether Memorial Stadium made the short list of possible arena sites for the Oklahoma-owned team. "Our real estate people are examining all the potential sites in the region and preparing a report, then they will narrow the search to a handful of sites," said Jim Kneeland, a spokesman for the new team owners. He said the final sites would be announced last November. Kneeland said the Memorial Stadium site was recommended by Mayor Greg Nickels' office. The main advantage is its Seattle Center location, the traditional home of the Sonics. The disadvantage is the area's traffic. "Each location has its pluses and minuses. Ultimately, a formula will be used to determine the final site," Kneeland said. But all the interest in the stadium property worries Gallipeau, a World War II and Korean War veteran, and a former security officer at the Seattle Center. He's concerned that the city and Seattle Public Schools might be negotiating in secret already, he said. Well, we all know now that what he said was all BS anyway.

Memorial Stadium and the land it stands on are owned by the school district. The land was deeded by the city to the district in 1946 for $1. Whenever the district decides it no longer wants the stadium, the ground reverts to city ownership. According to King County Assessor records, Seattle Public Schools owns the property, which, along with the parking lot, is valued at $46.8 million. The parking lot is especially profitable to Seattle Public Schools. It generates about $700,000 a year for the cash-strapped district, which isn't interested in giving up the land without significant compensation. The stadium is used six or seven hours a day, every day, said Al Hairston, athletics coordinator for Seattle Public Schools and an advocate for the stadium. "Sometimes, when you look at it at night with all the lights on, it is a beautiful place," Hairston said. "If you could give it a face-lift, it would really be a unique place unto itself. "The stadium is used regularly for high school football games; nearly 5,000 fans gathered to watch O'Dea challenge Rainier Beach. Several adult sports teams and soccer groups also use the stadium. There are four other school athletic complexes in Seattle, but none holds more than 1,000 fans. Memorial Stadium seats 17,000. The place definitely needs some maintenance, but the structure is in sound condition, Hairston said. "As long as we have high school sports, we will need that stadium."
 
Construction started in 1946, and it was dedicated on Thanksgiving 1947. "This has to be stated over and over again, and bears repeating yet another time," Gallipeau said in his nomination. "The stadium is the war memorial and was dedicated as such. It is the hallowed ground of a generation that did not take their responsibility lightly." Gallipeau said he feels a kinship with the fallen soldiers. "I went right from high school into the Army, just like these kids did. It could have happened to me as well as it happened to them. They deserve the memorial," he said. A memorial wall outside the stadium lists the names of 762 Seattle high school students who died in World War II. It was dedicated in 1951.

The stadium was designed by Seattle architect George Stoddard, who died in 1967. He was best known for his work on stadiums, hotels, clinics and banks, including the Green Lake Aqua Theater in 1950, the Harlan Fairbanks warehouse on Elliott Avenue and the south stands at Husky Stadium. Anyone can nominate a building for landmark designation, but certain criteria and dozens of details about the building are required. Often someone with expertise in architecture or historic preservation is hired to write the nomination. It may be difficult, but not unheard of, for novices to successfully nominate a landmark. "We have had a number of people who have successfully prepared nominations in the past," said Karen Gordon, the city's historic preservation officer. "It depends on the quality of the nomination paper, and how thoroughly the nomination is researched." To be designated a landmark, buildings must be at least 25 years old and have some other significance, such as being associated with an important historic event, an important person, a distinct architectural style, or prominence because of its size, age or location.  The Seattle Center already has several designated landmarks, including the Space Needle, the Kobe Bell and the Horiuchi Murals, and the Center House. It can take several months before the designation is made, and the decision can be appealed. Memorial Stadium has never been nominated before, Gordon said. "We believe it is eligible for consideration," she said.

TIMELINE

1944: City begins transfer of ownership of Civic Field to Seattle School District.

1946: Grandstand of Civic Field demolished in preparation for new Seattle High School Memorial Stadium, to honor local youths who lost their lives in World War II.

1947: Stadium dedicated in November.

1948: President Harry S. Truman speaks to a half-filled stadium in June.
In November, the first "wide-audience" television broadcast is beamed to nearly 1,000 viewers around Puget Sound. They see a high school football championship game between West Seattle and Wenatchee.

1951: On May 29, War Memorial Shrine (designed by Marianne Hanson, 19, above) bearing the names of 762 Seattle schools graduates killed in World War II is dedicated.

1962: School Board leases Memorial Stadium to Century 21 for World’s Fair.

1963: Seattle Public Schools files suit against Century 21 for failing to return the stadium in satisfactory condition.

1965: Seattle Public Schools accepts $26,000 settlement for costs of restoring stadium after World's Fair.

1967: Stadium gets Astroturf, in time for Turkey Day championship game between Ingraham and Hale. It’s the first high school stadium in the country to have artificial turf.

1986: Fireworks spark fire that causes estimated $100,000 damage to turf.

1988: Walt Disney Imagineering Inc. development plan for the Seattle Center say the stadium site might be better used for underground parking with landscaped open space above.

1990: Consultants, city officials and citizens complete study on the future of Seattle Center; recommend retaining stadium.

1993: Jerry Garcia performs in August as part of a summer concert series.

1995: Becomes home of United Soccer League's Seattle Sounders.

1998: Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder in concert.

2001: Loretta Lynn performs at Bumbershoot.

2006: In May, Mayor Nickels' Seattle Center Task Force proposes demolishing stadium.
 
In closing a brief comment: Personally I feel that we need to preserve the stadium. Alternatives can be made for renovation and we most certainly need additional parking in the downtown area. Since parking is such a major issue a study might be performed to provide it under the existing field. This is not an impossible job by any means and the debt could be serviced over may years off the receipts alone and still provide the school district with it's much need $700,000+ a year. There are many methods of construction that could accomplish this task. Remove the parking in front of the stadium and replace it with a park/memorial and access to the underground parking. The Ticket Complex could certainly use a facelift and pregame use and meeting would be greatly enhanced. There is always use for a complex such as this. So dig a hole, build a multi level parking garage, and put a new state of the art field back on top of it. Renovate the entire complex, stick a fountain and memorial statue out front, provide some grass and seating and we end up with something that makes money and is an honor to our city. AND GETS USED! Sure would beat the look of the parking structures across the street that are making someone a ton of money.
 
Save the stadium...Dave Snead - MSHS Wildcat Football Webmaster
 
11.24.09 An Update:
 
I just read the following article...
 
Memorial Stadium stalemate finally broken in Seattle Center redevelopment
 
After years and years of study and negotiations, it looks like Memorial Stadium on the Seattle Center grounds will finally be torn down in an agreement between the city and Seattle Schools.
 
The Center’s master plan has long called for a new vision for the 60-year-old facility, which has been used for high school sports and was dedicated as a memorial after World War II:
 
Read the full master plan for the stadium and the Center. THIS IS STILL THE MOST RECENT (DWS 11.06.11)
 
"Calls to reintegrate this nine-acre parcel with the daily life of Seattle Center predate the1990 Master Plan; however, to date the School District and Seattle Center have been unable to create a plan that meets the needs of both parties. This proposal for shared use of Memorial Stadium offers a major break-through of the impasse, allowing us to envision a future where this property is an active contributor to the vibrancy of Seattle Center every day of the year."
 
While it paves the way for redevelopment of a large chunk of Center property -- including a new parking and transit center, a covered lid and lawn, and a smaller new stadium -- it also touches nerves with veterans, since the stadium was dedicated in their honor and in the memory of those who served.
(read article)
 
 
   
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