Washington State Convention & Trade Center officially opens in Seattle on June 23, 1988.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 9/06/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2646
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On June 23, 1988, the Washington State Convention & Trade Center officially opens. The facility cost $186 million and is designed with 54 meeting rooms to host conferences and trade shows in Seattle.

The center was built over the top of Interstate 5 at 7th Avenue and Pike St. with bonds authorized by the state legislature in March 1982. The bonds would be paid off with a tax on Seattle and King County Hotel Rooms. By the opening date, the center had reservations for 90 meetings through 1996 involving 350,000 delegates and 750,000 nights of hotel stays.

A Few Problems

The project experienced objections because of the expense, because some low-income housing was eliminated, because of the disruption to the neighborhood, and it also had two bankruptcies, four lawsuits, and cracked steel beams. The City of Seattle dropped one suit involving the center's failure to repair and reopen the low-income McKay Apartments. In that settlement, the center agreed to pay $750,000 to build other housing.

Build Something the Community Will Love

Mayor Charles Royer told 4,000 guests at the opening ceremony, "Build something the community will love and the rest of the world will love it also" (The Seattle Times). The center's first guests were the 1,400 members of the Meeting Planners Association whose meeting had begun a week earlier. The final occupancy permit was issued by the City of Seattle just the day before.

The project was brought to fruition by the center's Chairman of the Board James R. Ellis who had been instrumental in cleaning up Lake Washington, building Freeway Park, and in preserving farmland. Of Ellis, Mayor Royer said, "It was his brains, his sacrifice, his grace under pressure, that allowed the building's completion" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

Of the project, Ellis said, "Struggle is built into the price of vision. Be willing to act and willing to pay the price ..." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).


Scott Maler, "After Years of Nightmares, Building Opens its Doors," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 24, 1988, p. A-1,A-6; "Convention Center Officially Opens," The Seattle Times, June 24, 1988, p. B-6; Washington State Convention and Trade Center (http://www.wsctc.com).

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