Find of the Month

August 2015 - Aquatic Park

drawing of proposed park

In a November 1951 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the newspaper makes the case for building a “great aquatic park” on the northwest shore of Seward Park. This was seen as solving two problems: the lack of comfortable facilities for spectators to watch the Seafair hydroplane races, and a lack of admission-charging capacity for those events.

The paper pointed out that “thousands of men, women and children…last year stood for long, uncomfortable hours along the shores of Lake Washington” to watch the races. The proposed aquatic park would seat 20,000 people, and also would provide restrooms and concession facilities. Diving towers could “provide entertainment during lulls in the other events.”

The park could be used not only for Seafair hydroplane races but also crew races and waterskiing championships. The paper posited that the existence of the park could draw “even more and bigger on-water events” to the city. They believed this would create a virtuous cycle whereby more events would draw more spectators, and the additional spectators would bring in even more events. These events would cause “the national publicity spotlight [to] be turned on our city in a way in which no other city in the country could compete,” going so far as to argue that Seattle could “out-do” Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

To accommodate the 20,000 spectators, the newspaper proposed building a 27-acre, 5000-car parking lot on the hills in the middle of Seward Park. The paper notes that some might say “Seward Park’s natural beauty might be affected,” but that those doubters “can take heart” because the parking area would only be visible from the air, and the trees around it would remain. Furthermore, the seating area “would be built at a place where very few trees exist now anyway.”

In addition to allowing thousands to watch events on Lake Washington in comfort, the admission fees to the park would help Seafair to become more self-sustaining. The P-I specifically mentioned the high cost of bringing Olympic crew races to Seattle.

The newspaper was careful to call their idea “preliminary,” “a point of departure,” “a tentative idea,” and so on. While “there might appear to be some objections” to their plan, they wanted to get Seattle talking about the proposal and generate other ideas to solve this Seafair spectator problem.