SEATTLE MEMORIAL STADIUM
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
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
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.
1944: City begins transfer of ownership of Civic Field to Seattle School
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
1962: School Board leases Memorial Stadium to Century 21 for World’s
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
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
Stadium stalemate finally broken in Seattle Center