Mercer Arena

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Mercer Arena 01.jpg

Mercer Arena (previously known as the Exposition Building, Civic Ice Arena and Seattle Center Arena) is a performing arts venue located at the corner of Mercer Street Fourth Avenue North in Seattle, Washington. It was built in 1927 adjacent to the Seattle Civic Auditorium (the present location of the Seattle Opera House), as part of the $1 million Seattle Center.[1] The venue predates Seattle Center Coliseum by about 35 years.

Origins and usage as a venue (1928–2003)[edit]

Initially conceived as an ice-arena, the facility eventually became a large multi-purpose venue. It was nicknamed "the House of Suds" because of the large underwriting contribution of local tavern owner, James Osborne. The name changed to Seattle Center Arena after the Century 21 Exposition (1962 World's Fair). In 1995 the name changed again, to the Mercer Arena, due to its location on Mercer Street. In general, the Arena was home to the Seattle Totems from 1962–74, the Seattle Thunderbirds during the 1994-95 season while the Seattle Center Coliseum was undergoing renovations, the Seattle SeaDogs 1995, the ABL's Seattle Reign from 1996–98, and a temporary venue for Seattle Opera from 2000-03 before sitting dormant.

Until recently, its large, flexible spaces allowed an average of 183 events each year. From 1962 until 1974 it was first home to the Seattle Totems of the old professional WHL and then the Seattle Thunderbirds of the modern Western Hockey League. From 1996 to 1998, it was the home of the Seattle Reign, the city's first professional women's basketball franchise, a part of the American Basketball League (1996–98). From 2000 to 2003, it was used as a temporary venue for the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet during construction of McCaw Hall, the new opera house. $6 million of improvements were put into the building to house the opera.[2] New additions like heating and cooling system, orchestra pit, and carpet were installed. The general infrastructure was reworked as well. The general purpose stage was reworked to a more traditional opera setting, old pipes that were used to freeze water for the ice rink were buried or removed, and the drop ceiling was removed creating a more acoustically sound environment. As the opera was only temporary, structural issues were not addressed and the arena was shut down after 2003.[3][4]

For concerts, it has a maximum capacity of 8,000 (or 5,000 in seats), an ideal niche between nightclubs and theaters, the largest of which seat a few thousand, and the much larger KeyArena, which seats more than 16,000.

The building has sat dormant since 2003.[1]

Proposed redevelopment (2007–present)[edit]

On December 4, 2007, Mayor Greg Nickels announced a proposal to convert the arena into use by the Seattle Opera. The building will contain administrative offices, rehearsal spaces and workshops for the company. Sharing a common wall with the opera's performance venue at McCaw Hall, the arena would allow sets to be built within the workshop, then transported directly to the stage. This would be the first company in the world to have such an amenity.[5] The Seattle Opera moved to lease the arena from the city, hoping to raise enough to convert the arena; the Great Recession of the late 2000s forced the opera company to put the project on hold in 2008,[6] and to negotiate a lease-option extension with the city in 2010.[7]

In February 2016, the Seattle Opera unveiled plans for a $60 million facility to replace the Mercer Arena. The new building, named the Seattle Opera at the Center, is planned to be four stories tall and house 105,000 square feet (9,800 m2) of space for offices, storage, scene assembly, and community spaces.[8] The condemened arena would be demolished in January 2017 and be completed by the end of 2018.[6]


  1. ^ a b Venue information and background
  2. ^ Bargreen, Melinda (March 18, 2001). "Home away from home: Seattle Opera plans its interim move to Mercer Arena". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Mercer Arts Arena". Retrieved 2014-02-25. 
  4. ^ Campbell, R.M. (December 5, 2001). "Opera, PNB happy to find arena is better than expected". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  5. ^ Young, Bob (December 5, 2007). "Opera to lease Mercer Arena; "coup" for city, Seattle Center". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Green, Josh (February 18, 2016). "Seattle Opera unveils $60 million plans for Mercer Arena". KING 5 News. Retrieved February 19, 2016. 
  7. ^ Ho, Vanessa (September 17, 2010). "Is Seattle Opera moving into Mercer Arena, or what?". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 
  8. ^ Levy, Nat (February 16, 2016). "Seattle Opera unveils plans for new Seattle Center building". Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. Retrieved February 16, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°37′26″N 122°20′58″W / 47.62389°N 122.34944°W / 47.62389; -122.34944

Preceded by
Kamloops Memorial Arena
Home of the
Seattle Thunderbirds

1977 – 1994 (with Seattle Center Coliseum
1994 – 1995
Succeeded by