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March 22, 2023

City seeks private partner for replacement of Memorial Stadium

A/E Editor

Photo via Seattle Public Schools by The Equalizer [enlarge]
The west side of Seattle’s Memorial Stadium is pictured in 2014. The grandstands are set to be demolished.

The city of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools are seeking proposals from private parties interested in investing in, redeveloping, operating, and maintaining a new Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center.

The 76-year-old current stadium is located at 401 Fifth Ave. N. in the northeast corner of the Seattle Center campus. The vision is to replace the facility with a “new a state-of-the art multi-purpose sports, educational, and entertainment stadium” that, according to a news release, would be more open to the Seattle Center campus and better integrated with its arts and cultural life.

Seattle Public Schools owns the stadium which is built on land gifted by the city. It is currently used for graduation ceremonies and high school athletics for schools in the area. The RFP states that the selected private partner would invest in, design, build, operate, maintain, and manage the new stadium. The school district would continue to own the property and would have priority of use. Bids are being accepted until May 2. Interested proposers need to attend a mandatory conference on either March 30. or April 3. The RFP ran in the DJC this week.

Memorial stadium was designed by George W. Stoddard and opened in 1947. It is dedicated to the memory of Seattle youth who gave their lives in World War II and has a memorial wall inscribed with over 700 names of the city's war dead at its east end. The RFP requires the memorial wall be maintained and restored. It is expected that the rest of the stadium's concrete, “view-obstructing”, walls and grandstands will be demolished. The RFP also requires the new stadium to have at least 8,000 seats (current capacity is 12,000), an upgraded water distribution system, and new LED lights and synthetic turf. The replacement project will also complete August Wilson Way with an east-west pedestrian and bike connection across the Seattle Center campus and create new public space linking the International Fountain with the stadium.

Memorial stadium is not landmarked but SPS intends to nominate the facility ahead of the planned replacement. It is expected that Memorial Stadium will not be designated as a landmark.

The replacement project is expected to cost upwards of $100 million. $66.5 million will come from a voter approved levy, passed last year. $21 million has already been pledged from the city and the City Council has expressed its intent to identify an additional $19 million no later than 2026. Gov. Jay Inslee has also proposed $4 million for the project in the state's capital budget, subject to the Legislature's approval this session. The RFP says that the selected private partner would need to provide additional funding that would enhance commercial and public opportunities.

The RFP is a long time coming. Discussions to replace the stadium, which the city says is worn and outdated, go back decades and several design concepts which re-imagine the facility have previously been developed, most recently in 2022 by Populous who designed the nearby Climate Pledge Arena.

“Our shared vision for this facility means more than an improved athletic field — it represents developing a state-of-the-art facility capable of hosting a wide array of events and creating countless more Memorial Stadium memories for our communities,” Mayor Harrell said in the news release. The release also states that the new stadium design needs to be student-centered and focused on serving students from all backgrounds.

In addition to the stadium replacement proposal, proposers may also submit a project alternate to redevelop or use some or all of an additional parcel located to the east of the stadium (currently mainly used for parking). Proposed uses must be complementary to Memorial Stadium and Seattle Center and provide full compensation to SPS and benefits to students and youth.

The winning bid is expected to be named by May 22. At that point the chosen private investor, SPS and the city – with support from Seattle Center Foundation – will launch a community engagement process for input from students, families and the greater community about the new stadium's planning and design.

It is anticipated that the selected private investor will take a lead role and be responsible for the planning, design, permitting, construction, and long-term operation and maintenance of the new stadium, as well as accept full responsibility for all construction costs, including any cost overruns. It is also anticipated that in consideration for a substantial private investment, the selected investor will receive use rights to the facility when not needed for SPS or city events. To aid this, SPS is proposing to lease the new stadium site to the city who will subsequently sublease the property to the private investor.


Emma Hinchliffe can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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