Memorial Stadium; Ah the Truth Comes Out (Updated)
From the article:
"The unveiling this week of a $676 million proposal to overhaul Seattle Center was met by ambivalence from the Seattle School Board, which holds the deed to Memorial Stadium, the venerable facility that would be replaced by an outdoor amphitheater and sports field under the proposed redesign."
Who uses it?
"The stadium has served as the home field for many of the district's high schools over the past six decades. The district's 4A schools -- Ballard, Franklin, Garfield and Roosevelt -- are the primary tenants (Cleveland, which is 3A, also uses the facility).
"Ron English, the district's general counsel and property manager, said the board had yet to reach a decision about the redesign.
He said Nellams' proposal was vague and short on specifics. English said the board had yet to analyze the proposal closely and wanted to have more information before it proceeded in any direction.
"A lot of the details are still being fleshed out," English said. "The district has to take a long look at the whole thing to make a decision. They presented a master plan, but they only had three short bullet points and we're still in the very early stages with this."Some issues:
"Hairston said the facility generates between $150,000$200,000 in revenue in rental fees annually, and about $2 million from the adjacent parking lot. It is unclear how the district would replace that revenue should a redesign occur or if it would have propriety over the proposed garage." (Note: I had heard $700,000 on the parking lot; the district makes a lot more than that.)
"Another matter is scheduling and whether the district would have to relinquish some control to the city in the matter of renting out the facility. It also appeared under the plans released by Nellams that nearly four acres of the property would be lost to open space."Previous post:
So yesterday, I and a few other folks attended the City's presentation to the Board of the ideas generated by the Century 21 Committee about Seattle Center. The presenter, Robert Nellams, could not have been more deferential and pleasant. He made it clear the City knows who owns Memorial Stadium (the district does). He wants to work with the District and he realizes how important the dual issues of the stadium as a memorial to WWII Seattle high school dead and continuing use by high school football and soccer teams. Great. But there were a couple of things that negated all that good will he attempted to generate.
One, he stressed over and over "possibilities" and "options" and yet, showed only one of these. (Sherry Carr noted this and he said that they had taken the 4 options from the Committee and rolled them into one.) Right then, you have to wonder about how open to suggestions and options the City really is.
Two, call it a land grab or a loss of land or what you will; under the plan put forth, out of the 9 acres the District owns, they would lose 4 acres. I was startled at the end of the presentation when this question got asked and answered in the affirmative and even asked a couple of other people if they heard the same thing. They did.
So right there, I can't be for this particular option. The District lost the Queen Anne High land AND didn't even get full price for it. We can't go making some deal with the City for Memorial Stadium where we don't keep the land. I don't care what we get out of it.
I found out some interesting information like only the District, the Science Center and the Space Needle own their own footprints at Seattle Center. The parking lot that the District owns is a ka-ching! operation, netting the District nearly $700,000 a year.
The City's plan has the stadium reorienting from east to west to north to south (he said district staff suggested this). It would keep its ability to seat 5,000 for games and 5-12,000 for concerts. Only one side would be covered. The other side would have stands and become an amphitheater when there were no games. The covered side would have retractable seating so in the summer that side would become a stage that faces out to the field/amphitheater.
The field would be a green lid and underneath would be the parking garage. (This is where the District would lose land, I think.) The parking garage would be a hub for deliveries, buses, cars, etc. (No one asked if the district might lose revenue if it were a transit hub; maybe they would make more?)
Questions from the Board (and good for these people - they asked very good questions, not all of which had great answers):
Steve S. - will they be able to play both soccer and football? Yes, it can happen and happen safely. Underneath the covered stands would be locker/dressing rooms.
Peter M. - what about safety? If it were rainy and both sides for a football game chose to sit on the same side, what about keeping them divided? (I know; people should be civilized and behave themselves but when you have souped up high school kids, it's not always easy and not desirable to have them sitting next to each other.) Mr. Nellams was not specific and said they could think of things to do for security. Pretty vague.
Someone (I'm not remember who) asked about timing. Mr. Nellams said it would be great to get it on the ballot by November. There wasn't much reaction from the Board.
Michael deB. - two issues; the integrity of the WWII memorial and moving the wall and reconfiguring the stadium because then it would in a direction that gets much more wind (and it can get cold there). Mr. Nellams said the wall could be placed in a more prominent and desirable spot. He didn't have an answer about the wind question.
Some WWII vets attended and they don't want anything changed. The entire stadium to them IS the memorial, not just the wall. They have a point. They also have a point that if the Denny's in Ballard is a landmark, then so is Memorial Stadium and that landmark status would protect it.
Is Memorial Stadium like a solid old gray-haired grandma in looks? Sure and I know Memorial Stadium could look more attractive (and I know there is a backlog of maintenance there as well). The renderings look attractive and, of course, for the District, as I understand it, it would be a free redo.
However, can't some compromise be found? It is right in the Seattle Center and it should be a great public space for all. But the City should have more than one option available and the District should not be cajoled or bullied into anything based on the so-called greater good. It is a memorial first and foremost and it is the place where many student-athletes play for their high school. It has endured as such and the City built a major area around it shouldn't change that fact.
Mr. Nellams did say, in terms of the Center School, that the City enjoyed having them there and wanted them to stay. Now, of course, this seems like a difficult thing given how much renovation the Center House is going to have. The District is in, I believe, year 8 of a 20 year lease with the City for the Center School to be in the Center House.
I talked to a couple of Mr. Nellam's aides after the presentation and they said that they did not believe the Center School would have to move out during renovation (now whether they would want to is a different thing) AND that the City was going to pay to rebuild the Center School's area as is (meaning as a high school). Of course, given that they don't feel Center School needs to move out, maybe they will just build around it and it is is what it is. (While I think Center School is a good little school, I do not believe for such a small school that we can afford to put more capital money into it.)