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Disney Proposal of 1988

Twenty years after the close of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the fairgrounds, now an arts and cultural center called Seattle Center, was starting to show its age. Then Seattle Mayor Charles Royer enlisted Walt Disney Imagineering, along with design and economic consultants, to reimagine the Center. The plan took a decidedly business approach as it sought to eliminate marginal operations and bring on significant new attendance generators. The effort also addressed the backlog of deferred maintenance and diminishing ability for the Center to meet expenses.  

The consultants ultimately presented five plan options that called for actions such as adding a “craft” museum and village, family amusement park, entertainment center, children’s museum, theater and play area, a conference center (where Seattle Children’s Theatre now resides) and additional parking garages. Some of the options included demotion of Seattle Center Armory, Memorial Stadium, the Fun Forest (now Artists at Play) and Flag Pavilion (redeveloped as Fisher Pavilion in the early 2000s). There would be lots of open space on the grounds surrounded by these facilities, offices, retail, a residential complex and a hotel. 

Capital investment levels varied from $150 million over 20 years to just maintain current conditions to $335 million to fulfill the most ambitious plan, which then Seattle Mayor Royer presented in May 1988. The Seattle City Council and community at-large roundly rejected the idea a “pricey, plasticized version of Disneyland,” while most agreed that existing structures required repair – and that a long-term plan was needed. Out of the Disney proposal, though, came a process by which the City and citizen groups began devising a plan to renovate the Center. Seattle City Council approved “Plan A” laying out minimal changes and investment. The choice came with a realization that programming – not buildings – account for the Center’s success. A group of local architects volunteered their time to come up with an alternative proposal, and the Seattle Center 2000 Plan began to take shape. 

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About Seattle Center: 

Connect to the extraordinary at Seattle Center, an active civic, arts and family gathering place in the core of our region. More than 30 cultural, educational, sports and entertainment organizations that reside on the grounds, together with a broad range of public and community programs, create thousands of events on the 74-acre campus and attract over 12 million visitors each year. At Seattle Center, part of Uptown Arts & Cultural District, our purpose is to create exceptional events, experiences and environments that delight and inspire the human spirit to build stronger communities. Activities at the Center generate $1.864 billion in business activity and $631 million in labor income.