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.
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