The Seattle Kingdome is now only a memory for residents of the Emerald City. Not that people have fond memories of the structure. Home to the Mariners of baseball, the football Seahawks and (for a time) the basketball Supersonics, the Kingdome never received rave reviews from players and fans alike.
It was the beginning of the end for the Kingdome 17 years ago today on July 19, 1994.
With all of the rain in Seattle, it made sense to build a dome stadium. When it opened in 1976, the Kingdome was praised for its technological advancements. However, 18 years later, the cracks began to show.
Only a half-hour before the gates were scheduled to open for a doubleheader between the Mariners and Orioles, four tiles from the Kingdome’s ceiling fell into the stands. Fortunately, no one was injured and the games were postponed after officials declared the site unsafe. It was later determined that pressure washing, a process used to strip off the outer roof coating, resulted in water seepage through the roof, causing the tiles to fall.
Even though only four tiles fell, officials decided to replace all of the 40,000 tiles on the ceiling. As a result, the Kingdome was closed, and the Mariners were forced to play the final 20 games of the strike-shortened season on the road. To make matters worse, the Mariners had already discussed relocating and some fans believed the falling tiles incident would only speed up the process.
While there were no fatalities when the tiles first fell, two men died about a month after the incident. The workers were sandblasting the underside of the tiles when their crane basket collapsed and fell 250 feet, killing both men.
The repairs also affected the Seahawks 1994 season. All three preseason games and the first three home games of the season were played at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium.
Once all of the repairs were complete, the Mariners and Seahawks returned to their home field. However, with each passing day, fans feared the Mariners would leave after their lease with the city of Seattle expired in 1997.
When all hope seemed lost, the Mariners themselves helped save baseball in Seattle in 1995. On September 19, 1995, King County voters defeated a ballot measure that would have funded a baseball only stadium. On the field, Seattle trailed the first place California Angels by as many as 13 games. But the Mariners roared back to force a one-game playoff, which they won to claim their first American League West Division title.
Seattle lost the first two games of the A.L. Division Series, however, the Mariners won three straight at home to defeat the New York Yankees. Even though the Mariners lost in the ALCS, the renewed fan enthusiasm proved that the fan base wanted the team to stay. Shortly thereafter, the Washington State Legislature approved a funding package for the Mariners new stadium.
Unlike the Mariners, the Seahawks lease with the Kingdome did not expire until 2005. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was interested in buying the franchise, but only if a measure passed for a publically-funded stadium for the Seahawks. A special election was held on June 17, 1997 and the ballot measure passed. The countdown to the end of the Kingdome had begun.
In 1999, the Mariners moved into Safeco Field, a retractable roof stadium that made everyone quickly forget the Kingdome. Three years later, the Seahawks began playing at Qwest Field, which was constructed on the site of their old home field.
What happened to the Kingdome? It did not take long for the facility to disappear from the Seattle skyline. On March 26, 2000, the Kingdome was imploded in front of spectators and a live audience on ESPN Classic.