The Seattle Center is, for many, the heart and soul of Seattle. It is also a major draw for tourists to the city. Yet, shockingly, the center will reach it’s 50th birthday in 2012. Since it’s beginning as the grounds for the worlds fair back in 1962, the Seattle Center has always been a mixed use development with attractions, museums, shops and open green space. Recently, the old school amusement park, Fun Forest, has vacated the Center leaving a large parcel left for possible new development. Unfortunately, since then everything has been a bit of a mess.
Firstly, a museum developed to the famous glass blower Dale Chihuly, who is from the Seattle area, was proposed. The museum promoted the fact that it draw a large amount of tourists and would be an extremely profitable edition to the center. However, as soon as the Seattle residents found out about the museum, they began to protest and protest loudly. Their main argument was the fact that their public land was being turned into yet another private museum. They certainly have a point, yet the most popular alternative seemed to be more open green space. Apparently, someone forgot to remind the residents that the Seattle Center isn’t Central Park.
However, since then, the public has been allowed to submit alternative proposals. So far, there has been some very intriguing ideas. One such idea is a mystery and legends museum. It certainly sounds like a lot of fun and it’s price tag is much smaller for a visitor than the Dale Chihuly museum. Another proposal suggest moving one of the local independent music stations to the center. If the residents were angry about a museum moving in, a radio station would seem like an even more outrageous idea. A third proposal, as expected, asks for more open space. Big surprise.
So what do I think? I think the residents are right, to a degree. What’s best for the center is public space that can also help contribute to the local economy. In other words, a museum that charges a high admission fee isn’t the answer. Neither is open green space. One possibility is to create a new improved and more modern amusement park. Perhaps one of the most fun aspects of the original amusement park was the fact that people were able to walk around free of charge. It provided some entertaining people watching and if people felt inclined to actually ride a ride, they could purchase a ride ticket. Perhaps the reason why the Fun Forest closed was not that an amusement park wasn’t economically viable in the Seattle Center location, but rather that the park was simply too outdated. Another suggestion is an old style arcade (like the Musee Mecanique in San Francisco) where residents and tourists alike are allowed to go inside, but must pay a quarter or two to actually play or use any of the machines. Finally, a Chihuly museum with a far cheaper admission price tag may be able to sway over some of the current protest against it.
In the end, the debate over the Seattle Center continues. And while the different groups can’t agree on what the right proposal is, it is still very good news to hear that after almost 50 years, the Seattle Center is still very important to Seattle residents.