Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Center Collaborate on a New Vision for Memorial Stadium
New Stadium will Bring Student Athletics, Arts, Culture and Entertainment Together,
with Greater Opportunities to Further Educational and Racial Equity
SEATTLE (March 20, 2023) – Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the City of Seattle have issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a private partner to replace Memorial Stadium with an innovative new, multi-purpose sports, educational and entertainment venue. The project will focus on expanding the ways the stadium serves students from all backgrounds, and will be more open to the Seattle Center campus and integrated with its arts and cultural life.
SPS and the City will review proposals from potential private partners to invest in, design, build, operate, maintain and manage the new stadium, with SPS continuing to own the stadium and maintain priority use. This approach helps SPS pay for the development of the new stadium and eliminates the Seattle School District’s costs to maintain and operate the facility. It also provides for a significantly enhanced facility beyond what it could develop on its own for a full range of athletics, graduation ceremonies and other events for future generations. The City and community, too, will benefit from a new multi-use stadium which will transform the heart of the Seattle Center campus, support a broader range of cultural events, and create new open spaces and Seattle Center operations facilities.
Public funds for the project currently include $66.5 million approved by Seattle voters in last year’s SPS capital levy, as well as $21 million from the City, plus another $19 million which the Seattle City Council expressed its intent to identify no later than 2026. In addition, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed $4 million in the state’s capital budget which is subject to State Legislature approval this session.
The shared vision for the new stadium will provide for further advancement of educational and racial equity, including opportunities to deepen engagement with Seattle Center’s resident arts, cultural and sports organizations. In support of this vision, SPS and the City seek a private partner to bring creative approaches to help advance the longstanding partners’ commitment to education and their objectives for fostering workforce development with career technical training in fields such as cultural, culinary and performing arts; science; journalism; sports and sports management.
“Memorial Stadium – and the Memorial Wall, dedicated to honoring alumni who lost their lives in World War II, has historical, experiential and emotional resonance for Seattle Public Schools,” said SPS Superintendent Brent Jones. “An enhanced stadium would allow the District to provide students with a modern facility for cultural performances, athletic events, commencement ceremonies, and social and educational opportunities. The School District is eager to demonstrate how this partnership can benefit students and families while improving integration with the Seattle Center campus.”
“Replacing Memorial Stadium with a new facility is a win for our students, their families, and our entire community,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “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. This project captures our One Seattle approach to collaboration, innovation, activation, and opportunity, and I look forward to the work of this partnership moving forward.”
Several design concepts which reimagine of the 76-year-old Memorial Stadium – built on land the City gifted to the District – have been developed over the years as thought-starters, allowing for significantly greater integration with the Seattle Center campus and achieving the goals of Seattle Center’s Century 21 Master Plan. The RFP requires a design which removes the current stadium’s massive, view-obstructing walls; completes August Wilson Way with a long-awaited east-west pedestrian and bike connection across the Center’s campus; creates new public space linking the International Fountain with the stadium; and restores the Memorial Wall.
“The City’s agreement with Seattle Public Schools creates a rare opportunity to build a first-class venue prioritizing public schools, right in the cultural heart of the city. The rebuilt stadium will host numerous athletic, academic, cultural, and community events which will benefit the entire city for generations to come. The public-private partnership includes substantial private investment which will ensure a fiscally prudent approach for taxpayers. This project has been a long time coming,” said Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez.
Following its selection, the private investor, SPS and the City – with support from Seattle Center Foundation – will launch an inclusive community engagement process for input from students, families and the greater community about the new stadium’s planning and design. The process, guided by a commitment to racial equity, will be informed and inspired by the voice of students of color to further educational justice.
“As a proud graduate of The Center School at Seattle Center, I know how important accessible, high-quality public facilities are for Seattle’s children to succeed,” Seattle City Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis said. “I am proud of the coalition that came together to support my proposal to secure funding for Memorial Stadium in this year’s budget. “Together, we will meet our commitment to the students of Seattle Public Schools and our community as a whole.”
“Community, connections, and opportunities for play and the display of student excellence – these are the things our students and families crave. Meeting these needs directly contributes to the success of Seattle's students and the vibrance of our city,” said Seattle Public Schools Board Director Vivian Song-Maritz. “I am excited to continue our 76-year-old partnership to rebuild and revitalize Seattle Public Schools’ Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center.”
“This is our moment to imagine an exciting new future for Memorial Stadium – one which will better serve our students, the public, and contribute to the incredible community here at Seattle Center,” said Seattle Center Interim Director Marshall Foster. “Now is the time to seize this opportunity.”
“The Seattle Public Schools funding, along with the City’s financial commitment mark an important next step toward realizing this visionary civic project,” said Seattle Center Foundation Executive Director Jane Zalutsky. “The Seattle Center Foundation looks forward to helping rally philanthropic and private support to achieve our collective vision of a world-class, multi-purpose event facility in the heart of Seattle Center for students and communities in our region.”
Work on creating a new stadium first began in 2017 with a partnership agreement between SPS and the City. In 2021 a Letter of Intent was signed outlining the shared goal of replacing the athletic stadium with a best-in-class, multi-use facility, which was followed by a Memorandum of Agreement signed in October 2022.
About Memorial Stadium
Seattle Public Schools’ Memorial Stadium is a successor to Civic Field, built in 1927 as part of the City’s Civic Complex.
In 1946 the City of Seattle deeded the land to SPS to build, operate and maintain a new athletic field. A voter-approved school levy and bonds (issued in 1942 and 1944) provided funding for improving school buildings and the construction of today’s Memorial Stadium, completed in 1947.
The stadium was selected as the site for a World War II memorial by a group of community leaders appointed by Seattle Mayor William Devin to pay tribute to the nearly 800 SPS alums who lost their lives in the war.
Revenues from Thanksgiving Day football games played in the stadium from 1947-1949 paid for the Memorial Wall, designed by Garfield High School student Marianne Hanson.
Over its 76-year history, Memorial Stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the Seattle World’s Fair and thousands of concerts and community events.
Today, Memorial Stadium is used for numerous school events annually – attracting thousands of students and community members each year for high school athletic events, graduation ceremonies and community events, such as Bumbershoot.
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