If a new Seattle School District capital levy included on the special election ballot is approved by voters next month, it could pave the way for big changes to Memorial Stadium and the Seattle Center campus in the future.

Two members of the Seattle Center Foundation, foundation board member Sung Yang and Executive Director Jane Zalutsky spoke to the Uptown Alliance at its meeting last week to ask for support and to encourage people to vote in favor of the capital levy on the upcoming special election Feb. 8 election.

If approved, the six-year levy would give the school district approximately $783 million over  to fund district buildings, technology and academic/athletic capital projects. The proposed BTA levy will replace an expiring capital levy.

Of special interest to the Seattle Center Foundation, is the $66.5 million Seattle Public Schools would use to make improvements to the over 70-year-old Memorial Stadium, including investing in new grandstands; upgrading the water distribution system; upgrading the field lights; and replacing the athletic field synthetic turf.

While that is a good start, Yang and Zalutsky are hopeful the $66.5 million contributed by the school district will be just the beginning.

Yang said the Seattle Center Foundation and other interested parties have tried nearly two decades to get the district and city to partner together to address the dilapidated facility, which is used for graduation ceremonies, high school athletics and adult recreational athletics, as well as create other opportunities at the facility.

Should the BTA levy pass, the district and city are poised to put into motion that partnership, which entails the district turning over operations and maintenance of the stadium and combining resources with the City of Seattle and additional private donations to make improvements on a bigger scale and develop a “more significant and enhanced vision” for Memorial Stadium and Seattle Center.

Because the $66.5 million, marking the school district’s investment into Memorial Stadium has not been secured yet, Zalutsky said they can only speculate what the size, scale and scope of an expanded project would look like with district, city and private funds put to use.

“This is really a place of great potential because it is a place of so much need,” Zalutsky said.

Zalutsky said Seattle Center has seen many improvements and additions to its campus in the past, the most recent of which being the opening of Climate Pledge Arena last fall, but the public grounds have not received the same level of investment.

“So these projects have really helped to propel Seattle Center forward, but … the stadium continues to drag Seattle Center down from what it can ultimately become in my opinion,” Zalutsky said.

She said benefits of a partnership between the city and school district will exceed just aesthetic improvements and nicer facilities. She said a joint partnership would also mean more opportunities for arts, culture and career development programs for students and additional partnerships, among other things.

Yang said the Seattle Center Foundation board members believe addressing Memorial Stadium now and building a nicer, more sustainable facility with enhances technology capabilities will ultimately lead to more projects across Seattle Center grounds.

“This is the project that we believe will put us in a position to unlock the rest of Seattle Center,” Yang said. ... “It’s such an important piece of the future of the whole region and how Seattle Center continues to achieve its goals.”

The BTA levy is the second of two Seattle School District measures on the ballot voters will be asked to approve Feb. 8.  The first is a three-year educational funds and operations levy of $646.8 million that will replace an expiring levy. The proposed levy will replace an expiring levy. The operations levy funds will pay for education programs and operations across the district and to meet the education needs of the district students. Funds will be used to pay for things that are not funded or not fully funded by the State.

The county will mail out ballots for the special election today. To read more about the two levies and what they will fund, go to https://www.seattleschools.org/about/levy/ or https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/elections.aspx.