City, district to team up on Memorial Stadium plan

Partnership also addresses growing student population, potential for district to acquire land at Fort Lawton

Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess was blunt in his assessment Monday of Memorial Stadium.

“It’s deteriorating,” he said of the 70-year-old facility, “and it’s severely outdated.”

The hope is that it won’t be for much longer.

On Monday, the City of Seattle and the Seattle School District announced a new partnership regarding the future of the multi-use venue, in addition to planning for a potential new school at Seattle Center, a downtown elementary school, and district-related uses at Fort Lawton.

“It’s a signal that an even stronger relationship between the city government and Seattle Public Schools is now underway,” Burgess said.

The mayor called the agreement “historic,” and that it, “does not come a minute too soon,” with 100,000 new residents in the city since 2010, and nearly 8,000 additional students enrolled in the district over the last decade.

“It’s crucial that we better coordinate our planning efforts to meet future public school needs for students and their families,” he said, backed by councilmembers Rob Johnson, Lorena Gonzalez, and Sally Bagshaw, along with council president Bruce Harrell.

That was a point School Board Vice President Leslie Harris made clear as well, as she walked through the ripple effect that rapid growth has had on the district.  

“That growth adds pressure on our schools,” she said. “Ask any teacher or principal you know. Ask any family you know that is attending Seattle Public Schools. Fifty-four thousand children are counting on us to do this right.”

While there’s no timeline or funding plan in place for a new Memorial Stadium, Burgess said that Monday was the kick-off of the public planning process. He did say that the city will consider a financial partnership for the rebuild, and will proactively help identify other potential partners. The new facility will be planned as part of an update to the Century 21 Master Plan to ensure it will be fully integrated into the rest of the Seattle Center campus.

The mayor also reiterated a commitment to preserving the site’s Memorial Wall — which honors nearly 800 former students in Seattle schools who died in World War II — and that the city recognizes the stadium’s place as an asset to both the district and community as a host of high school athletic events, graduations, concerts, and the professional women’s soccer franchise Seattle Reign FC.

“This joint-use will continue in a much better venue,” Burgess said.

Though the stadium took center stage — both in discussion and in a literal sense as the host of Monday’s press conference —  the agreement signed by the city and district also loops the latter into the Fort Lawton Redevelopment Plan. The final environmental impact statement with housing and park alternatives must still be published by March 31 to meet the U.S. Army’s requirements, but the city agrees to include provisions in its plan to allow the district to acquire up to six acres of land for development of park uses.

The agreement also states that the district and city will form joint technical teams to review school capacity issues, and strategically plan for future locations, in addition to working on a Memorial Stadium redesign.

“At the end of the day, this partnership agreement is about the future,” Burgess said. “The future of our children, children who deserve a strong, healthy, and fair start, and the best possible education that any city could provide.”

Among those on hand Monday was incoming School Board Director Eden Mack, who will take over for current District IV member Sue Peters later this month. Mack had stressed during her campaign the need for a greater partnership between the district and the city when it came to planning for school facilities to meet the needs of both the district and the community.

“I’m honestly over the moon about this happening, because I’ve been advocating on it for quite a few years, that we need to work together and partner,” she told the Queen Anne & Magnolia News. “The door just opened, and we’re starting to make some really great steps forward, and I’m really excited.”

The City Council and School Board are expected to host a joint meeting in January to discuss, “key issues, scope of work, process and schedule for the joint planning efforts, and strategies for public involvement,” according to the agreement.

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