If you consider yourself Pacific Northwest denizen by any stretch of the imagination, there are landmarks which define our landscape; Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, and two freeways which resemble something that would make even Bram Stoker cringe.
PICTURED: just another day on the i5. I need a drink.
It’s almost hard to believe that this week marks the beginning AND the end of a landmark which symbolized Seattle for nearly a quarter-century: the Kingdome. Here’s a little history of one of the greatest icons ever in Puget Sound.
The idea for an updated stadium to replace the older-than-dirt Sicks Stadium was first floated in 1960, when Major League Baseball awarded two cities expansion franchises; Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri. At the time, the Seattle Rainiers played their home games in what was a decrepit, stinky and downright outdated Sicks, which was notorious for toilets not flushing when at max capacity. The new Seattle Pilots franchise played one year at Sicks before owner (and future MLB commissioner) Bud Selig relocated the team to Milwaukee in 1970, where they became the present-day Brewers.
NOT PICTURED: a state-of-the-art baseball stadium in 1970.
That left Seattle without a pro ball club, and if you were to ask any Seattle fan to imagine life without the Mariners or Seahawks…well, go ahead and do that. Good luck to you. In 1968, the voters of King County approved a $40 million bond measure to build a new stadium called the “King County Multipurpose Domed Stadium”.
I’m glad they finally shortened it, it sure saved the Seattle Times a few barrels of ink over the decades.
Originally, the new dome was to be built near Seattle Center, but that was rejected by a popular vote in 1970. Other proposed sites included Tukwila, Factoria, and even the freakin’ Bothell-Woodinville interchange. Ultimately, the King Street site was given the go-ahead, because the new Environmental Protection Act of 1968 laid down strict rules on professional land assessments for new construction, and the King St. site presented the least environmental impacts.
Construction began in November of 1972, despite protesters from the Asian community. On March 27th, 1976 the newly-christened Kingdome opened with a ceremony that drew 54,000. It was mostly that, a ceremony; with no sports team in Seattle yet to play games. The biggest draw that night was a speech from King County Executive John Spellman, along with marching bands, antique cars, and Boy and Girl Scouts.
Soon after, Seattle was named the host of their NFL expansion team, the Seahawks. The City of Seattle, still heated after Selig had moved their expansion team in the middle of the night (see: Clay Bennett), sued the American League for breach of contract, and was awarded a new expansion team named the Mariners.
Rich people sue differently than you and me.
The Seattle nine played their first game in the Dome on April 6th, 1977. The Seahawks played their first game in the new stadium on August 1st of ’76, a preseason loss to the 49ers. It was generally considered a football stadium that could be converted into a baseball stadium (much like Oakland’s Alameda County Stadium) and the Mariners suffered because of it, in fact the Kingdome didn’t sell out another baseball game until 1990!
We got to witness many great moments in the Kingdome. Ken Griffey, Jr’s first hit in the Kingdome was a home run, Edgar’s Double in ’95 (MY OH MY!), the NFL Pro Bowl in 1977, and Bo Jackson racking up 221 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in 1987. We got to even see the Sonics play there, as they split home games between the Kingdome and the old Mercer Arena from 1978-1985. The Sonics officially relocated to the new KeyArena in 1995.
We also got to see plenty of moments in music at the old Dome. Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Van Halen, and Metallica all played to thunderous crowds, benefiting from the Kingdome’s 250 feet high concrete roof which resonated quite soundly.
Unfortunately, every story has an ending. Then-Seahawks owner Ken Behring threatened to move the team to Los Angeles, but Microsoft co-founder (and current Seattle legend KNEEL AND PAY RESPECT!!!) Paul Allen bought the team in 1997, bringing with him a promise to build a new football-only stadium. The stellar play of the Mariners from 1995-1997 had already convinced the Washington State Legislature to approve new funds for a new ballpark, the soon-to-be Safeco Field.
We haven’t had our first game at “TMobile Park” yet, so I post this picture in memoriam.
On March 26, 2000, 24 years and one day since it opened, the Kingdome was imploded. With it went decades of memories; sports, music and iconography of the Pacific Northwest. It feels fitting that this week we remember the dual anniversary of Seattle’s concrete giant, and how it helped keep the city on the map and in our hearts.
~Ben On The Bull