Space Needle & Seattle Center

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This Thursday, the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and the Space Needle present their 2nd Annual Denny Lecture. This year’s featured speaker is Knute Berger. Berger has written extensively about the Puget Sound region.

In honor of the Space Needle’s 50th Anniversary, Berger will refer to his most recent book, “Space Needle: Spirit of Seattle,” in describing how a crude napkin sketch evolved into Seattle’s most iconic structure. Berger is a columnist for, writing under the name “Mossback;” is Editor-at-Large and a columnist for Seattle Magazine; author of Pugetopolis; and former longtime editor of the Seattle Weekly.

Space Needle, 1962

The Space Needle is actually not owned by the City. It’s a private corporation that owns the land upon which it sits. It serves as a tremendous asset to our city and to the entire world as one of its most iconic modern structures.

It was the 1962 World’s Fair, drawing some 10 million visitors, that introduced the world to the futuristic Monorail and Space Needle. As exciting, shiny and new the Center was then, 20 years later it was deemed in serious need of attention. In 1988, Disneyland’s “Imagineers” pitched a plan to breathe new life into the Center. In order to solve the Center’s persistent budget problems, the plan would have required commercializing most of the Center’s grounds. It was rejected. An alternative plan inspired taxpayers to support a $25.8 million upgrade in 1991 and another $36 million worth of improvements in 1999.

Today, Seattle Center hosts a number of festivals, such as Bumbershoot and Festal, as well as non-profit tenants, such as Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. It also hosts the popular Seattle Storm WNBA basketball team at the former Key Arena. If a new men’s NBA basketball team comes to play in a yet-to-be-built arena in Seattle, Key Arena’s future may not be so bright.

The Center now has yet another plan in hand to revitalize itself: the Century 21 Master Plan. Though, it’s a plan that for now sits on the backburner.

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