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Seattle Center Expands Role to include Managing Waterfront Park Operations in Partnership with Friends of Waterfront Seattle


SEATTLE (January 24, 2023) – The City of Seattle is pleased to announce that the Seattle Center Department will expand services to provide operations, maintenance, and public safety for Waterfront Park. With the transformation of Seattle’s Waterfront well underway, the City is delegating operations and maintenance of waterfront park boulevard, which includes the public promenade, Overlook Walk, Pier 58, and Pier 62, from Seattle Parks & Recreation (SPR) to Seattle Center, in partnership with the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects (OWCP), and the Friends of Waterfront Seattle (Friends).

Seattle Center specializes in managing a complex urban public space with large-scale events, programming, maintenance, and public safety integrated into their core operations. This management approach aligns with the vision and goals for Waterfront Park operations and the park will benefit from Seattle Center’s expertise.

Mayor Bruce Harrell added: "The envy of cities around the country, our transformation of Seattle’s waterfront is creating a new, vibrant, and walkable passage for our city – a foundation for the revitalized downtown we want to see with acres of new parkland and attractions for residents and visitors alike. I am thrilled that the team at Seattle Center will be bringing their proven management style, activation strategies, and community engagement to another core City public space with the opening of the new Waterfront Park. This One Seattle approach will advance our efforts to foster a thriving and well-maintained waterfront for all to enjoy."

SPR has been a long-term partner in the planning and development of Waterfront Park, as well as operations on Pier 62 in partnership with Friends over the last two year. They will continue their maintenance role on opened portions of waterfront park boulevard and transition with support until July 1st, 2023, to Seattle Center. Right-of-Way, west sidewalks, and the cycle track will continue to be maintained by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

“The waterfront embodies the best of our city – an intersection of people, climate initiatives, economic development, and recreational opportunity. The creation and transformation of this space into a vibrant connected park reflects the best of Seattle and the needed civic and community vision to amplify parks for the beauty, health, and wellness they provide. We are proud of the work Seattle Parks and Recreation has done to realize this magnificent and emerging treasure, and we are excited to see Seattle Center and our community partners make this vision a successful reality,” said AP Diaz, Interim Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The Central Waterfront Oversight Committee (CWOC) submitted a formal recommendation to the City to delegate operations to Seattle Center in their 2021 annual report after doing a national peer park analysis of park operations. OWCP, SPR, and Seattle Center jointly agreed with this recommendation, along with agreement from Friends. With the transfer of delegation to Seattle Center, SPR will be able to continue their core mission to serve communities and the greater Seattle Park system. This decision was confirmed with the passing of the City of Seattle’s 2023 budget and recent legislative actions by City Council.

“Since the 1962 World’s Fair the Seattle Center Department has been a trailblazer in the implementation and stewardship of new public spaces and structures,” said Councilmember Andrew Lewis. “The new Seattle Waterfront is going to be a front porch for our city, and I am thrilled that visitors and residents will be able to experience robust programming in this beautiful setting. Activating this new space is a key part of revitalizing Downtown and Seattle Center is more than up to the task.”

In early 2023, Seattle Center will focus on hiring a dedicated team of City employees for the operations and public safety of the waterfront. This team will be funded through the voter-approved Seattle Park District funding for Waterfront Park. Marshall Foster, former Director of the Office of Waterfront and Civic Projects and new Interim Seattle Center Director will help to lead efforts during the next phase of integration between all the partners.

"I have full confidence in Marshall to oversee the integration of Seattle Center's new responsibilities for the waterfront. He has a wealth of experience in his previous work with large scale civic projects and I am confident he will lead the Seattle Center Department to continued success both on the Seattle Center campus and in managing the new Waterfront Park," said Robert Nellams, the retiring Director of Seattle Center.

The City’s public/private partnership with Friends continues to be instrumental in the success of operations for Waterfront Park. As the non-profit partner, Friends is continuing to raise $110M to support the redevelopment of Waterfront Park as part of a $200M comprehensive campaign. They will provide annual funding towards the public safety. Friends will also continue to be responsible to fund, program, steward and activate the park now and in perpetuity and will seek the community’s generosity to be champions of Waterfront Park.

Joy Shigaki, President & CEO, Friends of Waterfront Park Seattle, reflected, “Our partnership with Seattle Center is a critical piece to ensure the park experience will be a positive one for all visitors. Our shared commitment to belonging, joy, inclusion, and safety is at the core of our work as we look to deliver on this new civic space in Seattle.”

Waterfront Park continues to open in phases between now and 2025 and we look forward to expanding our operations and public safety as portions of the project are completed. With the recent approved legislation, the City can provide a “Waterfront for All” that is safe and welcoming to everyone. As a City, we look forward to what’s next for the waterfront as Seattle Center steps into this critical role for delivery of operations.

About Seattle Center
Connect to the extraordinary at Seattle Center, an active civic, arts, and family gathering place in the core of our city and region. Seattle Center’s 74-acre campus, centered around the International Fountain, is part of the Uptown Arts & Cultural District and home to Climate Pledge Arena; more than 30 cultural, educational, sports and entertainment organizations; and a broad range of public and community programs. In everything it does, Seattle Center’s mission is to create exceptional events, experiences, and environments which delight and inspire the human spirit to build stronger communities.

In 2023 Seattle Center is expanding its role to provide maintenance and public safety services for Seattle’s new Waterfront Park, a series of new public spaces on Seattle’s downtown waterfront between Pioneer Square and the Seattle Aquarium. Seattle Center will support managing these new waterfront public spaces in partnership with the non-profit Friends of Waterfront Seattle, which offers range of recreational and cultural programming to the community.

Thanks to the support of Official Seattle Center Partners – Alaska Airlines, The Climate Pledge, Coors Light, Pepsi, Premera, Symetra, T-Mobile, and WaFd Bank – Seattle Center is the #1 arts and entertainment destination in the Pacific Northwest with 12 million annual visitors, generating $1.864 billion in business activity and more than $631 million in labor income annually.


Jayme Stocker, jayme.stocker@seattle.gov

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