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 (1996-1998). 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. Six million dollars of improvements were put into the building to house the opera. 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.[2][3]

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]

Redevelopment (2007–present)[edit]

On December 7, 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 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. The revitalized building is planned to realize the developing goals of the Century 21 Committee, which will make recommendations to the City about enhancing future growth of Seattle Center. The arena will contain large amounts of windows to connect visitors visually with the many crafts which are brought together in a professional opera company. The proposal will be forwarded to the City Counsel for review.

With the proposed conversion to a facility for Seattle Opera, the revitalization of Mercer Arena will require much planning and investment. To begin, Mercer Arena will require millions of dollars in repairs, as well as an estimated $20 million to modernize seismic protection and general life safety. Additional investment will be required to convert the spaces to their new functions. Prior to the most recent bid for reuse, several other opportunities were reviewed by the City. Live Nation (formerly Clear Channel Entertainment) has sought to lease the building for concerts, up to 80 events per year, but would not pay for the necessary repairs and ongoing maintenance. If passed by the Council, the converted arena would cease to be a performance venue.


  1. ^ a b Venue information and background
  2. ^ "Mercer Arts Arena". Retrieved 2014-02-25. 
  3. ^ Campbell, R.M. "Opera, PNB happy to find arena is better than expected". Seattle Post Intelligencer. Retrieved 2014-02-25. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Kamloops Memorial Arena
Home of the
Seattle Thunderbirds

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