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Don't cart away Seattle Center

Watching the Fun Forest get broken up makes a Center fan ask: Is clearcutting the only option for all those memories?
Dismantling memories at the Fun Forest

Dismantling memories at the Fun Forest Feliks Banel

I admit I’m a little stuck on the faded glory of what Seattle Center used to be and what it used to represent. My suburban upbringing was modest, and a visit there, and in particular to the Fun Forest amusement park left over from the World’s Fair, was a rare but affordable treat for my parents and siblings. The few times I went to Seattle Center as a small child left indelible memories, the countless times I went on my own as a teenager are a pleasant blur, and frequent visits as an adult and now a parent are a fact of life.

As silly as it may sound, I love Seattle Center, and I want the city, the mayor, and the management of the place to embrace it and love it, too. With its quirky yet essential mix of new and old and high and low brow, Seattle Center is not your typical city park or civic entertainment complex that can be managed out of a parks & recreation management text, but it is our signature urban gathering place. Like Charlie Brown’s little Christmas tree, the Seattle Center needs our love. Like that annoying Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated.”

What else but complicated love for the place can explain why it felt so distressing to stand with my daughter on Friday and watch work crews disassemble a handful of carnival rides in what’s left of the Fun Forest? Those crummy rides weren’t old growth Fun Forest, to be sure, but their removal is the most recent troubling turn in the roller coaster renewal process for the Century 21 fairgrounds. Because a healthy city needs all kinds of places to play, my daughter and I believe the Center needs to retain an amusement area, with a vintage carousel and high Ferris wheel, and maybe even a real, non-metaphoric old-fashioned wooden roller coaster.

A change of mayors and the shaky economy mean that funding for major improvements to Seattle Center in the near term is, at best, uncertain, at worst, non-existent. What the Center needs now more than anything is a passionate and articulate advocate, a charismatic and credible leader or leadership team — not unlike the civic promoters who built it 50 years ago — who can make us fall in love with the place all over again.

Without this kind of leadership, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Feliks Banel joined the staff of PBS affiliate KCTS 9 in Seattle in 2013, where he produces the weekly arts and culture show PIE. He's also producer and host of This NOT Just In for KUOW 94.9 FM; and has written and produced Emmy-nominated pieces for the Seattle Channel.

Feliks' work has appeared in Seattle Magazine, Seattle Opera Magazine, MyNorthwest.com, seattlepi.com and other publications and websites. He is also heard occasionally as a news analyst on KOMO Newsradio, and appears regularly on KIRO FM discussing local history and culture.

He can be reached via feliksbanel@yahoo.com.


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Comments:

Posted Sat, Dec 19, 12:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Amen.

Captnp

Posted Sat, Dec 19, 12:26 p.m. Inappropriate

As usual, you nailed it, Feliks. The Fun Forest is a Signature Landscape and facets of it should be incorporated into the evolving vision for Seattle Center. Dismantling the Fun Forest wipes out a unique urban playscape, one which is the stuff that memories are made of - past, present and future.

I challenge every Seattle city councilmember, as well as our Mayor Elect (go Mike!), to ride the ferris wheel on a crystal clear, blue sky day - the panaramic views of our great city and its magnificent landscapes are enough to make you cry.

No question about the particulars: the Fun Forest is tired, moribund, dog-eared and subsidized. But to eviscerate the "center" from the Seattle Center without articulating a plan for an alternative is an assault on the welfare of kids in this area from Burien to Bothell.

Where else can kids and families go in this town for an amusement park experience that is egalitarian, affordable and a bus ride from everywhere? Guess we'll all pile into our SUVs and head to Wild Waves, or, better yet, Disneyland. Now that's carbon neutral, baby!

The current vision for a newly designed Seattle Center needs to be expanded to incorporate some of the 'Fun' into this highly accessible urban open space. Our kids will thank you.

Posted Sat, Dec 19, 4:56 p.m. Inappropriate

It's just plain wrong for the fun forest to go.

Sean

Posted Sat, Dec 19, 5:47 p.m. Inappropriate

No it isn't. The "Fun Forest" is the lamest excuse for an amusement park in North America, if not the world. It's not unique, unless your idea of "unique" is "pathetic."

Leave it to Seattle to thoroughly fetishize the most mundane and mediocre of, well, anything in support of some baby-boomer delusion of Seattle as an urban Shangri-La. Seattle is a medium-sized city that's not really a whole lot different from dozens of other medium-sized cities on this continent. Except for harboring the misplaced notion of being "world class," that is...

orino

Posted Sun, Dec 20, 5:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Of all the legacies of the World's Fair, the Fun Forest has got to be one of the least significant. Do we really have a pressing civic need to retain a handful of dated carnival rides? Using the space for, well, just about anything else would be an improvement. Were the Fun Forest actually an "unique urban playscape," I would maybe feel some regret at its passing.

michaelf

Posted Sun, Dec 20, 8:08 p.m. Inappropriate

@orino, and the dolt editor that picked that comment, as I read the column I see the writer laments not having a fun place to go with his kids. I do not see the writer pining to keep the "Fun Forrest", so, I think your rant is over the top (and the editor's keen eye as well).
" I believe the Center needs to retain an amusement area, with a vintage carousel and high Ferris wheel, and maybe even a real, non-metaphoric old-fashioned wooden roller coaster."

An amusement area, I'm not reading that the person wants to keep the stuff that is there, in fact, he clearly said that he would like a real roller coaster. I am not sure how suggesting that there be an amusement area with a real roller coster is thoroughly fetishiz[ing].

The alternative to the writer's idea is another prominade/openspace thing. Talk about thoroughly fetishizing, how many grassy knolls does Seattle need? The waterfront and most of our parks are grass growing around wondering sidewalks (sidewalk where people don't live).

Mr Baker

Posted Sun, Dec 20, 8:21 p.m. Inappropriate

The "Fun Forrest" should go, though that is not exactly what the writer is writing about. A few limited amusements that are well done is a fine idea.

I was not thrilled with the grass and sidewalk park that is currently planned (another promanade, that's not unique either) is anything but fun.
If the point of clearing all this out is to give condo owners the lawn they chose not to buy, but insist that others buy for them, then we are wasting our resources.

Will the legislature pass SB6116 in the short session so we can have an identified funding source for Seattle Center, are are we going to be asked for another levy?
While I'm here, I'd like that sales tax credit back from the hotels in Seattle (we don't need another Convention Center).

Mr Baker

Posted Mon, Dec 21, 10:22 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm going to miss having amusement rides at the Seattle Center too. I loved going to the Fun Forest as a kid. Sure, it was no Magic Mountain, but it was a short drive away, and once I could drive, I could take a whole carload of friends. I remember winning a Van Morrison LP (yes, vinyl) in the games area, and meeting friends for an evening of fun at the age when I couldn't get into rated R movies. Now that I live within walking distance, I hope that my kids will find something at the Seattle Center that will give them the fun memories I have.

ymehdi

Posted Mon, Dec 21, 1:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Think about what kids could look forward to at Seattle Center a few decades ago. The Fun Forest was packed with rides spread from Memorial Stadium to the Science Center. The Science Center had more exhibits and activities than it does now, and it didn't have the vast empty spaces, lack of theme, and toddler play area that characterize it today. The Food Circus had bunch of fun places to eat, the Bubbleator, the warren of international shops, and shops and eateries all along the balcony level. The place was always busy. There were interesting little museums along the building that once ran along Denny between the Space Needle and the Science Center dedicated to firefighting, flight, and model railroading. You could ride skybuckets over the grounds from the Fun Forest to the far side of the international fountain.

Now instead of the kinetic energy that once characterized Seattle Center, it is characterized by grounds that lack any sense of motion or excitement. It is becoming a large empty stage awaiting the big summer festivals rather than a place where people want to go the rest of the year. Seattle Center used to be the place kids went on the weekend, but it lacks anything to interest them now.

sean98125

Posted Mon, Dec 21, 4:42 p.m. Inappropriate


Must as I respect tradition, one of the big drawbacks of "native Seattlites" are all the hoary insider history. Look, something like less than 20 percent of the population today know or understand or all this "history" or care about it. I'm glad that 50 years ago, a bunch of you got together and built a moderately sized world's fair. No get over it. There are an additional 1,500,000 people here that you and your cohorts pay little or no attention to. We are diverse, ethnically, historically, culturally. We are more concerned about jobs, traffic, pollution, taxation and fair treatment than "The Home Team" and "Huskies" and what Bill Gates does in retirement (the regulated 3 stories daily in the Seattle Times) all the other hoo-hah that is pushed by the core inner elite of Seattle.

Seattle doesn't need to preserve its history...it needs to do something to create history!

jabailo

Posted Tue, Dec 22, 11:44 a.m. Inappropriate

The Seattle Center's Fun Forest is unwittingly serving as a metaphor for Seattle itself. Poorly managed, increasingly grim and grimy, soulless and joyless, and spiritually rudderless.

Will the wrecking balls be far behind?

Posted Tue, Dec 22, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

It sounds like there are many of us, including myself, who have really enjoyed the Fun Forest during our lives in Seattle. I wholeheartedly agree with Feliks that we need to retain amusement rides at the Center-- carousel, Ferris wheel, a wooden roller coaster...and maybe even a Flight to Mars.

A former Seattle mayor (Royer?) once billed Seattle as a KidsPlace. Ironically, this naming occurred just as Seattle was turning into a rather austere AdultsPlace. They've taken the joy, fun, and kids out of the city. We need a city that welcomes families with kids, and we need amusement rides at the center for the kids and their parents. We need civic leaders with family vision like the ones we had decades ago.

drizz

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