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The 'Sultan of Soil' spills the dirt on excavation of Seattle Center

Crews are currently digging out 28,000 dump truck loads of soil from the former KeyArena to be used elsewhere in the region.

Looking across the Seattle Center campus, Ryan Alsup sees a challenge.  It is one that he has taken on, almost as the captain of a cavalry.

Alsup is leading the ambitious plan to remove tons of dirt from the center of town, in an unusual location.  

"We've always joked about having a roof over our head, so we didn't have to slog through the mud," said Alsup, the Project Manager for JR Hayes as he stands directly underneath the center of the old KeyArena roof. 

The roof at the old arena is staying in place as crews dig down to help create enough space for a new seating bowl. 

Alsup has been charged with working odd hours and directing the orchestra of dump trucks and drivers that move in to load up the earth and caravan through Seattle Center.  

They are already several weeks into the excavation, with months more to go.

"There are challenges on this project, that we've never seen before," he acknowledges.  

There has been the demolition of the old Sonics and Storm team store, storage facility, parking garages, skate park and city-owned apartment complex.  

That area is where crews will dig down another 30 feet to create a grand entry and subterranean parking garage.  

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For Alsup, it's an adventure that is more complex than other downtown high rises he might have worked on and wasn't necessarily where the Civil Engineering grad from Oregon State University once expected to be.  

Alsup was a one-time commercial fisherman who transitioned to getting his hands dirty in other ways and was drawn to the area by his love of the outdoors.  He'll spend a lot of time outside, with his hard hat on, for this exercise.  

The project will require 28,000 dump trucks and trailer loads of soil to be pulled out from underneath the roof through a temporary support system and out onto the roads. Approximately 600,000 cubic yards of soil will be pulled out over the coming months.  

Alsup said the earth will be used to fill and reclaim a gravel pit in Covington and will eventually be used for a future Master Planned Community there. Other soil from the site is being transferred to a spot near Puyallup, and will eventually be used as fill for the WSDOT State Route 167 extension.

He walks the site now, in the open air, where Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton once flew, and a different Bird named Sue skied threes, and looks up and thinks about the end result.  

"I can say to my kids and grandkids I was part of building this beautiful new arena,” Alsup said. 

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