AKA: Kingdome, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures - stadiums

Designers: Arai Jackson Architects + Planners (firm); Drake, Donald, Construction (firm); Kiewit, Peter, Construction Company (firm); Loschky Marquardt and Nesholm (LMN), Architects (firm); Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson, (NBBJ) (firm); Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, and Robertson, Incorporated, Engineers (firm); Transpo Group (firm); Steven N. Arai (architect); William James Bain Jr. (architect); William James Bain Sr. (architect); Clifton J. Brady (architect); John Valdemar Christiansen (structural engineer); Donald Drake (building contractor); Helge Joel Helle (structural engineer); Clifford Jackson (architect); Perry Bertil Johanson (architect); Peter Kiewit (building contractor); George Henry Loschky (architect); Judsen Robert Marquardt (architect); Floyd Archibald Naramore (architect); John Frank Nesholm (architect); John Bower Skilling (structural engineer); Robert Robertson Sowder (architect)

Dates: constructed 1972-1976, demolished 2000

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201 South King Street
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104

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The proposal to build a domed, multi-sport stadium in Downtown Seattle coalesced in the late 1960s, at a time of general American prosperity. Local leaders floated the idea to build a large stadium to coax major leage football and baseball to locate franchises in the city; an American city, by the late 1960s, could not claim national stature without major-league professional sports franchises providing frequent entertainment and a community rallying point. The proposal to build the stadium accompanied a series of twelve bond propositions proposed in 1968-1970 designed to expand the city's infrastructure and public amenities, called "Forward Thrust." While King County voters passed the bond issues for the stadium, arterial highways, fire protection and sewers passed, a crucial vote for building a heavily subsidized metropolitan transit system disastrously failed.

Building History

Forty million dollars from one of the "Forward Thrust" bond propositions that passed in 02/1968 provided most of the $67 million needed to build the King County Multipurpose Domed Stadium (Kingdome). Of the 242,988 votes cast on the long-discussed stadium, 62.3% said yes to 37.7% no. The firm with the winning bid for the King County Domed Stadium consisted of three aligned architecture and engineering firms, Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson (NBBJ) of Seattle, Skilling, Helle, Christiansen and Robertson of Seattle, and Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury, headquartered in New York NY. The short-hand name of this three-firm team was "Naramore Skilling Praeger," but it actually consisted of these three established businesses working together.

Each partner brought distinct strengths to the table. NBBJ had a large portfolio of large-scale commissions obtained during the 1950s and 1960s in the Puget Sound area, but had never designed a professional sports facility. To improve its credentials for the competition, it associated with Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury which had designed both Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens, New York. Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury also had the advantage of its patent for a convertible multi-sport stadium design for baseball and football awarded to partner, John W. Waterbury, filed in 1960 and awarded a year later. The engineers for the project, Skilling, Helle, Christiansen and Robertson, had developed an international reputation for their work, particularly for thin-shell concrete roofs. Jack Christiansen (1927-2017) would be the lead engineering designer on the KingDome's innovative roof design constructed of thin-shell concrete. When Shea Stadium opened on 04/17/1964, many architects admired the advanced multipurpose football-baseball facility in New York, and this positive publicity for a ultramodern, flexible, two-sport facility, steered King County officials to engage Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury to undertake a cost study in 1966 for its new multipurpose stadium project.

Ground was broken for the KingDome on 11/02/1972. Robert R. Sowder (born 12/29/1928 in Kansas City, MO) of NBBJ supervised the design of the Kingdome, working closely with Christiansen. NBBJ's George Loschky, who would later co-found the Seattle architectural firm of Loschky Marquardt and Nesholm (LMN) in 1979, was also deeply involved in the design process. Donald Drake Construction and Kiewit Construction participated in the actual construction of the stadium. The first contractor, Drake Construction, had a series of disputes with King County during the building of the Kingdome over constuction dealys. King County Executive, John D. Spellman, fired Drake (and later won a $12.8 million law suit over Kingdome construction) and hired Peter Kiewit Construction, the firm that finished the job in 05/1976. Gail Taylor, Office Engineer, Ray Biggs, Project Manager, and James Gorman, Project Engineer, ran the construction site in 1974 for Drake Construction.

As engineer and architect Rainer Metzger has pointed out, the cost of the Kingdome was very economical. He wrote: "Perhaps to a fault, the Kingdome exploited the economy of thin shell concrete to meet its voter-approved $40 million budget. Other stadiums of the era had much larger budgets: the 1966 Houston Astrodome cost $1440 per seat and the 1975 Louisiana Superdome cost $2,382 per seat (both stadium roofs were of steel construction). In 1976 the Kingdome was constructed for $750 per seat." (See Rainer Metzger, "Jack Christiansen Thin Shell Concrete in the Pacific Northwest," Column 5, vol. XX, p.10.)

In order to keep the Kingdome viable into the 21st century, the Kingdome Department of Stadium Administration commissioned Loschky, Marquardt and Nesholm (LMN) to produce a master plan completed in 1990. This master plan was intended "...to support the concerns of its primary neighbors: Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, the Waterfront, and the Industrial Area in their efforts to preserve and enhance the quality of life in their districts." According to the Kingdome Annual Report 1990: "The plan was divided into studying: facility, site, transportation & parking and neighborhoods. The smorgasboard of ideas presented in the document anticipates growth and changes in the Stadium's environs, such as transportation patterns, development of market rate residences, commercial and retail space, and the construction of the proposed new Seattle Arena. The plan presents and prioritizes improvements to the Kindome's facility and site, such as parking lot development, additional restrooms and elevators, landscaping and other important additions. In the Master Plan's Financial Summary, alternatives are offered to finance the proposals of the document." (See King County, Kingdome Annnual Report 1990, [Seattle: 1990], p. 5.) A new Seattle arena was projected to the south of the Kingdome in this plan. LMN collaborated on this 1990 Kingdome Master Plan with the Transpo Group, a transportation planning group based in Kirkland, WA, Bonnie Burke and Associates, Arai/Jackson Architects, and the Avita Textile Company.

During its 24-year history, professional and college teams in football, baseball, basketball and soccer played in the KingDome. The North American Soccer League's Seattle Sounders played the first game in the new multipurpose stadium, on 04/09/1976, an exhibition match against the New York Cosmos, which the latter won with its superstar, Pelé (born 1940 in Brazil), 3-1. The Sounders utilized the KingDome from 1976 until the team's dissolution in 1983. The National Football League (NFL) granted Seattle its franchise on 12/05/1974. and the Seahawks played in the facility from 08/01/1976 until 01/09/2000. Major League Baseball awarded Seattle its Mariners franchise in 1976, with the team playing its first game here on 04/06/1977. The National Basketball Association's Seattle Supersonics, formed on 12/20/1966, played in the KingDome from the 1977-1978 to the 1984-1985 seasons. Many other collegiate sports events were held in this facility, including the NCAA Men's Basketball Division I Regional Tournament games in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1993, and its Final Four games in 1984, 1989 and 1995.

Building Notes

During construction of the Kingdome in 01/1973, steel towers that were to form the structural core of concrete supports toppled, causing a chain reaction knocking down other supports, and injuring one worker. The Kingdome was 250 feet tall, and 660 feet wide, enveloping a volume of 67 million cubic feet. 52,800 cubic yards of concrete and 443 tons of structural steel comprised the building. It occupied a 9.1-acre site, its roof covering 7 acres. In 1990, for baseball it had a 120,000 Astroturf surface for baseball, and a 80,000 square foot Astroturf field for football. The turf was 1/2" thick with a 5/8-inch pad beneath.

In 1990, the Kingdome had the following provisions for concessions: 34 permanent stands, 113 portable foor and utlity carts, 4 lounges, and 3 restaurants/clubs. It had a Diamond Vision screen for fans, as well as 400 television monitors spread out through the facility and closed circuit television production facilities. Thirteen high-output speakers supplied sound to the stadium. At this time, the facility provided 48 wheelchair accessible seats on the 200 Level, and ADA compliant parking spaces, gates, elevators and executive suites. The building was heated by a natural gas system that could generate 40,000,000 BTUs of heat, and ventilated by an air-conditioning system capable of 4,122 tons of cooling capacity. The facility had 18 women's rest rooms, 16 men's, and 87 water fountains. (See King County, Kingdome Annnual Report 1990, [Seattle: 1990], p. 15.)

On 08/18/1994, two painting contractors working for the Long Painting Company, who were sandblasting the interior roof of the Kingdome, died when a crane cable failed, causing the bucket that held them to fall 250 feet to the ground. The two were Jorge Sanchez Turincio of San Diego, CA, and William Lynn Louth of Portland, OR. In addition, the crane operator, Charles Cox of Edmonds, WA, was injured by the falling arm.


Renovations had to be made to the King Dome from an early point due to persistent roof leakage problems. Improper sealing to the exterior enabled moisture to enter from the outside, and water vapor evaporating off of spectators on the inside also became trapped in the roof structure, further adding to the decomposition of roofing materials. During the 1980s, two separate efforts to stop the leaks failed to arrest the problem. A roof repair effort in 1993, removed the roof's original urethane foam insulation, replacing it with a mixture of cement grout and a silicone elastometric compound. This new coating did not adhere well to the roof's concrete members, and did not meet current state energy code requirements. In the process of replacing the urethane insulation with pressure washers, water leakage increased dramatically, allowing seepage to be collected in fiberboard roof tiles. Various other design flaws continued to allow water to collect in the roof tiles, causing added weight and deformation that resulted in the falling of tiles before a Seattle Mariners baseball game on 07/18/1994. During the 1994-1996 period, the stadium authority spent many thousands of dollars on court costs suing contractors for malpractice. Repair costs would top $70 million, more than the original price of the concrete structure.


During early 2000, demolition crews began to prepare the Kingdome for implosion. All valuable steel and metal was removed from the building, particularly in the gigantic heating and ventilation system. Jeff Hodson wrote in the Seattle Times on 02/03/2000: "Demolition crews are stripping the Kingdome with a vengeance. Since taking control of the stadium a week ago, workers have stepped up drilling and 'soft demolition,' the process of ripping out walls, seats and other materials left behind when the county vacated the concrete dome. 'Now that the building's wide open, we can bring in the big equipment and have free rein at it,' said Rich Riggs, operations manager for Aman Environmental Construction, one of four key subcontractors for demolition of the stadium that opened in 1976. So far, 11 large metal wall sections have been knocked down on the upper level, creating gaping holes in the top of the Kingdome, which will be imploded in late March or early April to make way for a new football stadium. Over the past week, contractors have taken down about 5,000 steel bleacher seats and ripped out about 13,000 plastic seats that were left behind. They were headed for a recycling plant. Workers need to drill more than 5,000 holes throughout the stadium for explosives." (See Jeff Hodson, "Kingdome coming undone," Seattle Times, 02/03/2000, p. B1.)

The King Dome was imploded on Sunday, 03/26/2000, by Controlled Demolition Incorporated, a Maryland demolitions company. The dome was just shy of its 24th birthday. At the time of its implosion, King County residents still owed $26 million on the stadium and its repairs.

PCAD id: 5365