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Landmark Status Could Spur KeyArena Renovations

Washington State Pavilion

Usually preservationists pursue landmark status in an effort to prevent change, but KeyArena renovations could actually be aided by efforts from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board to designate the venue as historically significant.

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board was presented with an application to designate portions of KeyArena as a historic landmark. KeyArena opened in 1962 as part of the World’s Fair, but not as an arena — rather, it was built as the Washington State Pavilion. When the World’s Fair grounds were converted to the Seattle Center, the Washington State Pavilion was remodeled into the Washington State Coliseum, later known as the Seattle Coliseum. That transition from pavilion to arena was part of the original design. It was then gutted and expanded in 1995, serving as home to the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics.

KeyArena is unique because of its hyperbolic paraboloid roofline, as designed by Paul Thiry. That roofline, though altered in the 1994-1995 renovations, was singled out by the Landmarks Preservation Board as being architecurally significant. There are six criteria for landmark designation, and although only one criteria is required, the board determined all six criteria were met. A 9-0 vote from the board yesterday moves the process along to another vote in August.

So why is this good news for all involved? In response to a request for proposal (RFP) that was issued by the city, Oak View Group pitched a $564 million in KeyArena renovations that would bring the venue to modern NBA and NHL standards. Among its notable proposals, Oak View Group has suggested preserving KeyArena’s roof while digging down 15 feet to expand the venue to 660,000 square feet. And, as part of the financial plan, Oak View Group would seek $70 million in historical landmark tax credits as part of the financing structure. So, as Seattle moves forward on KeyArena renovations in an effort to bring back the NBA and potentially lure an NHL team, the landmark status may end up being an important financial contributor to the project.

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