It was 13 years ago this week that we blew up a perfectly good stadium, The King County Multipurpose Domed Stadium, or Kingdome, host to Seattle’s Seahawks and Mariners, major rock concerts, and various other events. The idea for a covered stadium started in 1959 when both Major League Baseball and The National Football League were salivating over the massive untapped market in the Pacific Northwest. Both of the stadiums already in place, Husky Stadium for Football, and Sick’s Stadium on Rainier Ave., (home to the Seattle Pilots for the 1969 season before they were bought by Milwaukee businessman Bud Selig to become The Brewers) were considered woefully inadequate. In their typically fickle way, voters rejected bonds for the proposed concrete dome twice before finally ponying up in 1968. Ground was broken in 1972, and the Kingdome opened it’s doors on March 27th of 1976. It was blown up to make way for a new Seahawks Stadium just one day shy of it’s 24th birthday.
Useless KZOK Kingdome Factoids:
The Seahawks were the first of the Dome’s major tenants to play a game there, against the San Francisco 49ers on August 1st of 1976. But the first sporting event was a North American Soccer league game between the Seattle Sounders and the Pele-led New York Cosmos, on April 25th of 1976.
The Kingdome hosted the NFL’s Pro Bowl in 1977, MLB’s All-Star Game in 1979, and the NBA All star Game in 1987, the only venue in America to have hosted all three.
Paul McCartney and his band Wings were the first of many rock concerts in the concrete cavern with decidedly less than desirable acoustics, on June 10th of 1976. 5 songs from that show made it into the concert film Rockshow. Paul would return to play there again in March of 1990. Paul’s old band The Beatles had been the first rock concert at the Seattle Center Coliseum (now the Key Arena) in August of 1964.
Led Zeppelin’s Kingdome show on July 17th of 1977 was the 4th from last show on their last-ever North American tour, cut short when Robert Plant’s 5-year-old son Karac died of a stomach infection. They held the Kingdome concert attendance record of 68,594 until it was broken by The Rolling Stones in October of 1981, a show at which one person died when they fell from the railing of one of the outdoor ramps. The railings were covered with triangular concrete and made un-sitable after that.
The largest single draw in Kingdome history was not a concert or sporting event, but a Billy Graham Crusade that ran May 9th through the 16th, and drew 434,100 people. A Jehova’s Witnesses convention there in July of that year drew 110, 864.
The Mariners first game was on April 6th of 1977. The first pitch by Diego Segui (father of later M’s first baseman David Segui) was a called strike, but the Mariners lost to the California Angels 7-0. The game was a sellout, but the Mariners wouldn’t sell out another game there until 1990. Interestingly, the M’s were not part of the first baseball game played there. The U.W. Husky baseball team played an exhibition against alumni in May of ’76.
Boeing sponsored an annual paper-airplane contest that drew thousands of would-be aeronautical engineers, trying to sail one of their creations through the open sunroof of a brand new car parked at the center of the field. If a plane went in, it’s maker won the car. No one ever did.
After the final out in the 1995 AL West tiebreaker against the Angels, as Randy Johnson pointed toward the ceiling and fireworks were set off, the better part of 60,000 fans streamed onto the field to collect dirt from the pitcher’s mound, bases, bits of turf, and celebrate the team’s first American League West division title. Throughout the subsequent playoffs, which saw the M’s beat the Yankees but lose to Cleveland in their first ever American League Championship Series, Seattle and King County Police horses were used to keep fans in their seats.
Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel jumped 7 Greyhound buses in the Dome in October of 1976, but the 21,147 who showed up to watch fell far short of his expected repeat of his 1971 Houston Astrodome jump, which drew 100,000 fans.
The Kingdome was home to motorsports events like motocross races and monster truck exhibitions, but only once was a demolition derby attempted. Within minutes of starting, the room filled with an ever-increasing cloud of tire and exhaust smoke that at first sent fans scrambling for higher seats, and eventually the exits.
The Kingdome’s roof started leaking before it opened, and in 1993 the County decided to strip off the coating by pressure-washing. Though a new membrane was installed on the outside, the process further weakened the structure, and on July 19th of 1994, 4 waterlogged 24 pound ceiling tiles fell as The Mariners were warming up for a game with the Orioles. The dome was shut down for the remainder of the season, and after the players union refused alternate locations like Cheney Stadium in Tacoma and B.C. Place in Vancouver, they played the rest of the season on the road. The debt from the replacement of the ceiling tiles has still not been paid off.
The Seahawks played what is arguably the worst game in NFL history in the Kingdome, with Jim Zorn’s offense racking up negative 7 total yards in a 24-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Seahawks then-owner Ken Behring’s dislike of the Kingdome was instrumental in his attempted move of the team to Los Angeles. Micosoft co-founder Paul Allen saved the team by buying it, but made taxpayer approval of a new stadium a contingency of his purchase. The taxpayers approved, Paul saved the Seahawks, and the Kingdome was imploded to make way for what is now Century Link Field (which used Kingdome rubble as fill) on March 26th of 2000 as thousands watched the biggest event in it’s history…it’s own destruction.
-Scott Vanderpool, CBS Radio
What’s you favorite Kingdome memory? Sound off in the comments section below!