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Completed in 1947, Memorial Stadium is among the older buildings at the Seattle Center, and it still serves its original purpose. Located in the center’s northeast corner, the stadium was built originally for Seattle high school sports teams in honor of Seattle youth who had served and died in World War II. Construction began in 1946 when the grandstand of Civic Field, which had previously occupied the site, was demolished. The building has been little altered since its original construction.
Planning for a stadium for the Seattle School District began in 1944, when the city of Seattle began procedures to transfer ownership of the existing Civic Field to the district. The deed, however, stipulated that the site would be used as an athletic facility forever—or at least until the land and the sports facility were solely owned by the Seattle School District. The new stadium was dedicated in November 1947.
Memorial Stadium consists of reinforced concrete covered grandstands straddling either side the playing field. The grandstand roofs are perhaps the most striking part of the structure, with support columns under the offset peaks of the roofs, and significant cantilevers, anchored by concrete walls, extending over the stands and seemingly reaching towards the field. Each grandstand has a seating capacity of 6,000 for a total capacity of 12,000. The west end of the stadium is an open landscaped hillside and the east end includes an electronic scoreboard and a one-story building that houses locker rooms and facilities. The east end also features entry gates on either side of a Memorial Wall, designed by artist Marianne Hanson, which bears the names of 762 Seattle public school graduates killed in World War II. Lighted fountains in recessed niches flank the wall. Restrooms, food concessions, and circulation areas are located under the grandstands.
The stadium was designed by George W. Stoddard. A native of Detroit, Stoddard graduated with an architectural engineering degree from the University of Illinois in 1917. In 1920, following service in World War I, Stoddard and his father, Lewis M. Stoddard, opened architectural offices in Seattle as Stoddard and Son. By 1929, Stoddard established the firm of George W. Stoddard and Associates, and in 1955 formed a partnership with Francis E. Huggard. Stoddard retired in 1960, and died in 1967. Besides noted designs for houses, schools, colleges, clinic buildings, hospitals, and banks, Stoddard designed the covered addition to the University of Washington Stadium (demolished) and the Green Lake Aqua Theater (demolished), both with covered stands reminiscent of Memorial Stadium.
As one of the largest civic assembly spaces in the city, Memorial Stadium has hosted several significant public events, including a speech by President Harry S. Truman in 1948 and the opening ceremonies for the Century 21 Exposition on April 21, 1962, which included a telephone call from President John F. Kennedy. With a nod to the massive spectacles held in the ancient Roman Colosseum, during the fair the stadium was filled with water and hosted hydroplane races.
Most of the time, however, Memorial Stadium has been the setting for high school athletics for the Seattle School District. In 1967, it was apparently the first school district in the nation to install “Astroturf.” Although Seattle area high school football teams are regular users of the stadium, the facility has also been the setting for major musical performances and, between 1994 and 1998, it was the home of the Seattle Sounders of the American Professional Soccer League.
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