The Kingdome (officially King County Multipurpose Domed Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium located in Seattle, Washington. Owned and operated by King County, the Kingdome opened in 1976 and was best known as the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL), the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB), and the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The stadium was also the home stadium of the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and hosted numerous amateur sporting events, concerts, and other events.
It was located in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood. King County voters approved the use of public money to construct the Kingdome in 1968. Construction began in 1972 and the stadium opened in 1976 as the home stadium of the Sounders and Seahawks. The Mariners moved in the following year, and the SuperSonics moved in the next year, only to move back to the Seattle Center Coliseum in 1985. The stadium hosted several major sports events, including the Pro Bowl in 1977, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1979, the NBA All-Star Game in 1987, and the NCAA Final Four in 1984, 1989, and 1995. During the 1990s the stadium's suitability as an NFL and MLB venue came into question, and the Seahawks' and Mariners' respective ownership groups threatened to relocate each team. As a result, public funding packages for new, purpose-built stadiums for the Mariners and Seahawks were approved in 1995 and 1997, respectively. The Mariners moved to SAFECO Field midway through the 1999 season, and the Seahawks temporarily moved to Husky Stadium following the 1999 season. The Kingdome was demolished by implosion on March 26, 2000, and Seahawks Stadium (now Qwest Field), the new home stadium of the Seahawks, was built on the site.
In 1967, Major League Baseball's American League granted the city of Seattle an expansion franchise that would later be known as the Seattle Pilots. The league clearly stated that Sick's Stadium, the 30-year-old minor league stadium where the team was slated to play, was not adequate as a major-league stadium, and stipulated that as a condition of being awarded the franchise, bonds had to be issued to fund construction of a new domed stadium that had to be completed by 1970, and the capacity at Sick's Stadium had to be expanded from 11,000 to 30,000 by Opening Day 1969, when the franchise would begin play. On February 6, 1968, King County voters approved the issue of US$40 million in bonds to fund construction of the "King County Multipurpose Domed Stadium." That year a committee considered over 100 sites throughout Seattle and King County for the stadium, and unanimously decided the best site would be on the grounds of Seattle Center. Community members decried the idea, claiming that the committee was influenced by special interest groups. The Pilots began play as planned in 1969, but Sick's Stadium proved to be a woefully problematic venue for fans, media, and visiting players alike. After just one season, the Pilots' ownership group declared bankruptcy and, despite efforts by Seattle-area businessmen to buy the team and an attempt to keep the team in Seattle through the court system, the Pilots were sold to Milwaukee, Wisconsin businessman Bud Selig, who relocated the team to Milwaukee and renamed it the Milwaukee Brewers a week before the start of the 1970 season.
The push to build the domed stadium continued despite the lack of a major league sports team to occupy it. In May 1970 voters rejected the proposal to build the stadium at Seattle Center. From 1970–1972 the commission studied the feasibility and economic impact of building the stadium on King Street in SoDo—a site that ranked at the bottom when the commission originally narrowed the field of possible sites in 1968. This drew sharp opposition primarily from the International District community, which feared the impact of the stadium on neighborhood businesses located east of the site. On November 2, 1972, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the SoDo site. Several protesters attended the ceremony, disrupted the speakers, and at one point threw mud balls at them.
On December 5, 1974, the National Football League awarded Seattle an expansion franchise to occupy the new stadium; the team would later be named the Seattle Seahawks. Construction lasted another two years, and the stadium held an opening ceremony on March 27, 1976. It hosted its first professional sporting event on April 9 of that year, a soccer match between the Seattle Sounders and New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.
The large number of in-play objects—speakers, roof support wires and streamers—contributed to an " arena baseball" feel. The Kingdome was somewhat improved in 1982 with the addition of a 23-foot (7.0 m) wall in right field nicknamed the "Walla Wall" (after Walla Walla, Washington)," featuring a hand-operated scoreboard. In 1990, new owner Jeff Smulyan added some asymmetrical outfield dimensions.
By the 1990s, the stadium's suitability as an NFL and MLB venue came into doubt. After several years of threats to relocate the Mariners due to poor attendance and revenue, owner Jeff Smulyan sold the team to an ownership group led by Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi in 1992. Almost immediately, the new ownership group began campaigning with local and state governments to secure public funding for a new baseball-only stadium. In March 1994, King County Executive Gary Locke appointed a task force to study the need for a baseball-only stadium.
The Kingdome's roof had been problematic from the beginning. Leaks were discovered in the roof two months before the stadium opened, and several attempts at repairs made the situation worse and/or had to be undone. In 1993, the county decided to strip off the outer roof coating and replace it with a special coating. Sandblasting failed to strip the old roof material off, and the contractor changed its method to pressure washing. This pressure-washing resulted in water seepage through the roof, and on July 19, 1994, four 26-pound (12 kg), waterlogged acoustic ceiling tiles fell into the seating area. The tiles fell while the Mariners were on the field preparing for a scheduled game against the Baltimore Orioles, a half-hour before the gates were to open for fans to enter the stadium. As a result, the Kingdome was closed.
The Kingdome held a reopening ceremony the weekend of November 4–6, 1994, which culminated with the Seahawks returning to the stadium for a regular-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Repairing the roof ultimately cost US$51 million and two construction workers lost their lives in a crane accident during the repair. The incident also motivated plans to replace the stadium.
On September 19, 1995, King County voters defeated a ballot measure that would have funded the construction of a new baseball-only stadium for the Mariners. However, the following month, the Mariners made it to the MLB postseason for the first time, and defeated the New York Yankees in the 1995 American League Division Series on the heels of a game-winning double hit by Edgar Martinez. The Mariners' postseason run demonstrated that there was a fan base in Seattle that wanted the team to stay in town, and as a result the Washington State Legislature approved a separate funding package for a new stadium. In January 1996, Seahawks owner Ken Behring announced he was moving the team to Los Angeles and the team would play at Anaheim Stadium, which had recently been vacated as a football venue when the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis. His rationale for the decision included unfounded safety concerns surrounding the seismic stability of the Kingdome. Behring went so far as to relocate team headquarters to Anaheim, California, but his plans were defeated when lawyers found out that the Seahawks could not break their lease on the Kingdome until 2005. As a result, Behring tried to sell the team. He found a potential buyer in Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who stipulated that a new publicly-funded stadium had to be built as a condition of his purchase of the team. Allen funded a special election held on June 17, 1997 that featured a measure that would allocate public funding for a new stadium for the Seahawks to be built on the Kingdome site. The measure passed, Allen officially purchased the team, and the Kingdome's fate was sealed. The Mariners played their final game in the Kingdome on June 27, 1999, and played their first game at their new home, Safeco Field, on July 11, 1999. The Seahawks, meanwhile, temporarily relocated to Husky Stadium following the 1999 season while the Kingdome was demolished and their new stadium built over it.
The Kingdome implosion in 2000. Before thousands of Seattlites, the Kingdome was destroyed by implosion on March 26, 2000 by Controlled Demolition, Inc. in the first live event ever covered by ESPN Classic, and set a world record for largest structure implosion by volume. The Kingdome was imploded before its debt was fully paid. It was the first domed stadium in the United States to ever be demolished. Qwest Field, the home of the NFL Seattle Seahawks since 2002, now occupies the site and was built using a significant amount of recycled concrete as well as four scoreboards from the demolished Kingdome. Safeco Field, the Mariners' home park, sits next door, on the other side of Royal Brougham Way.