Crary: It's hard to remember, what a dump the Coliseum was.
Rice: (Laughs loudly)
Crary: What an impossibly difficult building it was, to take care of the client, to take care of your high-end customers, to take care of court side people.
Nellams: Pipe and drape!
Crary: Pipe and drape, that's it. That's the one thing had there. And we would allocate...there was these portable walls that would go in and out, right. People would take them out and not put them back. The cats!
McLaughlin: Oh the cats…
Crary: Because nobody would lock the doors, and even if they did people would cut holes this big, and so the wild animals came in. You just can't imagine what it took to envision how that could be different. How it could be a home, you know. Or it could be place that...where people had clubs and suites, and sell a hunk of space to people that had 20 seats and promise them it was going to be there every time, and there wouldn't be wild cats in it.
The west side of the campus, the west side of the building, was storage. And we had to carve a place through storage to the old world’s fair turnstiles, to let people come in and out for the game. And nobody thought it was weird that you walked by all the junk that wasn't being used in the building, sitting outside. And it was nice, we would cover it with pipe and drape.
So it was an amazing growth opportunity for me, and it was an amazing transition, that took people visualizing something that wasn't there. And I don't think people really can remember, what a growth and sophistication it was when that building opened. Because it was still the Kingdome that was competing. It wasn't fancy Safeco and CenturyLink. And as Robert said the first time in it just to walk in...'cause from the outside all you saw was the glass and the old diapers blowing away.
Nellams: The parachutes!
Rice: You know, I'm going to go back a little ways, because it's not a matter of...if place matters so much, versus what you want, then it interferes with your decision that you're going to make. So, the Kingdome, or wherever we're going to be, wasn't the thing with me. It's where's the best venue. And clearly the Seattle Center is the center. And it has a focal point for a city that needs to be maintained and helped.
I'm going to do one quick aside, because I do get in trouble with the Seattle Center, because I elected to put the opera house...to move downtown, which caused a lot of consternation for some of the things. But when you think of a city, there has to be entertainment places in places that thrive and are not just one place. And so if you can think about give a little, get a lot, it picks up a lot of places.
Along that corridor, from Seattle Center downtown is the corridor, and if you look at what you want to build along there, whether you want it downtown, whether you want economic development that goes along that whole way. It makes sense to go back that way.
And so it wasn't hard for me to say, we can do this, let's do it. And get out of the way. And that's really what we decided to do. This is what we need to do, this is how we ought to do it, and then get out of the way and let the people do it. That's really what...I looked at it and didn't have a real problem.
I probably would never have invested in the Kingdome anyways. As a venue, I think it was an extraordinary...blah.
Rice: It never worked to make it in the first place. And as you see, it's not there.
Everyone: (More laughter)
Rice: We needed something that had a better sense of the city, that had a better, whatever you want to call it, just a big hulk of a place that didn't really make you want to come to it.
LISTEN: Why Seattle Center was picked
McLaughlin: When the Ackerley group bought the property that is now Safeco Field, we were pretty anxious to try to persuade them that they didn't need to develop the new arena. But what we really would like them to do is develop the KeyArena.
We weren't sure we could do that, and at that point I think the Ackerleys were pretty focused on trying to do this new arena. So we ended up shifting gears, from what our preferred option was, which was to do the old Coliseum, to supporting this new project. Because what was overriding, again from your leadership Mr. Mayor, is that we keep the Sonics in town. And the way to keep the Sonics in town was to build the arena they wanted built.
Fast forward, you know, economic times, bunch of considerations, that didn't work out. And so one day, without really full understanding on my part that really it was not working out in terms of the economic development, I got a call saying, "Is there any possibility that we could go back to your earlier ideas about excavating and redoing the Coliseum?" I will never forget that day, because it about knocked me out of my chair at the time. This was – we were back on that possibility.
So we scraped together about $250,000, and I said, "I don't know if we can do this. I don't know if we can do it politically, I don't know if it's even physically possible to do this project." This was so sketchy at that point, that we've got to do some studies on this. We need some engineering studies, we need to find out if you go down 30 feet in this bowl, you're not going to hit Puget Sound, and have to drain all of Puget Sound to do it. So we did that, and at the same time we were talking with the mayor's office about well, can you get behind this or not?
And we got the engineering done, said you can do this, you can go down 33, 34, whatever it was, feet in the bowl, and you won't get Puget Sound. You can preserve the compression ring. That thing, that's about $15 million worth of construction and it's seismically as sound today as it was when it was built in '62. You can preserve the roof, at least the roof line, you take the old roof off, because the diapers are no fun, and we put on new technology that didn't even exist in '62 when the Coliseum was built. Get rid of all the wires and all the floating panels and all of that stuff, and put a fixed roof on this thing. You can do all that.
So now it was the question of the politics of it, and the financing of it. And those were pins that we blocked. And the marching orders were, yeah, we can get behind it. And this was coming more from the council at this point. Because we had to pursue this, and you authorized us to go down and start talking to folks, to see if there was any political viability there. We can get behind it, but don't bring us any deal that costs one penny of taxpayer money. And those were the rules, and it was very clear and unequivocal. And that's without…if taxpayer dollars were going to be involved in this, it was DOA. Even back then in the early '90s. So we talked with the Ackerley group and said, "These are the rules of the game if we're going to get this done. Can you live with that?" And quite honestly they weren't sure they could. Nor were we, because we didn't know what you could do with this kind of a new building. But what the Ackerley group did commit to is a revenue sharing deal.
And we thought, well, if we can model this thing in such a way that it can kick off enough income that can be shared with both the city to service the debt and to return value to the bottom line of the Sonics, who needed to earn more income to stay competitive, we got a deal. So we really spent the next year probably with armbands and visors doing pro formas that would fill this room about how that would work. So we put together, we being the Seattle Center, we put together a financial model on pro forma, schlock up to 5th Avenue where the Ackerley offices were at that time, and I would sit down with Bill, and we'd go over it, and say, "Well, if we split the revenues from the suites, if we can get this value from this weeks, if we can get these kind of per capitas from the concessions, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And you guys take this much, and the city takes this much, we can service the debt."
And first of all we figured out we can build this building for $73.4 million, which is insane.
Yeah, but there was some interesting math that goes into that. The amount that was bonded against, so if you go back to the bond documents, it's 73.4. You get to the 120 by saying, well, we saved the 15 million for the compression ring. So that's the value, you know, that you retained. And so it really was an amazingly inexpensive...so by comparison, the same year that we opened KeyArena in December or October of '95, within a month the Rose Garden opened, and Paul Allen spent about $260 million on the Rose Garden. Vancouver opened, and they spent about the same amount.
Dresel: Okay, I've got to chime in here…What's really interesting about my memory, we all are searching for what's accurate and what's not, is that the two entities, the Seattle Center and City of Seattle and the Ackerley group, we all were in pain at this point. Someone great, who I admired and still do, said once, "No one ever does anything unless they're really in pain."
The Seattle Center really needed a shot in the arm, and an economic shot in the arm. We wanted a place to play. We didn't want to move the team. That was not going to happen, and the economic times were tough where you couldn't just write a check. So how are we all going to come together with a win/win? And that's where you and Barry I remember, sat down, and said, "Okay. Let's get our guys going." And all this stuff started to happen, and all the pens and the paper happened, but it was really about, hey, this is a great theory, but can we sell this stuff? And that was really a tough deal, because remember suites in this town were not popular. If you owned a suite in the Kingdome, you didn't tell anybody, because it was too ostentatious. It was too flamboyant, and you were deemed as being wealthy. And so everybody would hide it and put paper bags over their heads in their Kingdome suites.
LISTEN: Impact of sports on community