Seattle Space Needle
The Seattle Space Needle is one of the most amazing icons in Seattle. It’s considered an official historic landmark. Visitors from all over the World come to see the Space Needle. It weighs approximately 9, 550 tons. Going up the Elevator (605 ft up!) you will find the observation deck and restaurant. The elevator takes you to the top in about 41 seconds. The speed varies depending on the amount of wind as they purposely slow it down for safety sometimes. The observation deck allows you to go travel all around the top outside overlooking the City of Seattle (360 degrees). You can pretty much see everything in the city and take your best photos. Mountains visible on a clear day include Rainier, Cascade, Olympic, and Baker. The Space needle was actually finished back in Dec. 1961 and opened officially the first day of the Seattle’s World Fair (April 21st, 1962). The Needle brought in a lot of visitors in fact over 20,000 people used it a day back then during the Fair. The World’s Fair had an estimated 2.3 million visitors. Having visited the Space Needle myself on many occasions, I can tell you it’s an amazing architectural structure and a must see if you’re in Seattle, Washington. When designing the Space Needle, they even considered how it would do with earthquakes and high winds. They say it can take up to 200 mph of wind and a 9.1 earthquake. A 6.8 earthquake in 2001 tested the Needle and no serious damage was reported. The structure can even withstand lightning due to the lightning rods installed to protect it from lightening.
On the bottom floor of the Space Needle, you can valet your car and enter the free gift store. It’s official name is the SeattleBase Retail Store. They have all kinds of gifts, gadgets, and collectibles available. Many unique stuff is inside which is not sold in regular stores. You can even purchase a gift certificate for a friend.
Going up the elevator you’ll run into the SkyCity Restaurant. At one time in history, there were two restaurants in the Space Needle but they were eventually closed (in 2000) to make room for the now larger SkyCity Restaurant. The Restaurant is pretty expensive in my opinion so it’s used by many customers for special occasions or visitors wanting to truly experience the Needle. The minimum charge is $35 per person so you have to spend at least that. As of 2014, dinner entrees range from $38-$60. The SkyCity Restaurant rotates 360 degrees while you’re eating. You make a full circle rotation around the city every 47 minutes. The restaurant is family friendly but does have a dress code. Visitors wearing tank tops or muscle shirts will not be admitted. They recommend casual attire that is neat and presentable. They have one desert called the Lunar Orbiter that has been served since 1962. SkyCity has many events during the month which keeps it pretty busy. You can make a reservation at the restaurant and it can accommodate up to 10 guests. A side banquet room is available for parties of more than 10 guests. It can hold 20-360 people if needed.
The idea for the design of the Space Needle came from two businessman named Edward Carlson and John Graham Jr. They both actually had their own separate concepts but came together and decided on one final concept 13 months before the fair opening. The idea was a futuristic attraction for the World’s Fair actually. It was a way to bring more visitors to Seattle and a way to bring more people into the Fair. Mr. Edward Carlson had a concept of a giant balloon attached to the ground with a sloping base. Mr. John Graham Jr. concept was more of a flying saucer which became the top section of the architecture. Later, Victor Steinbrueck suggested more of an hourglass design which was accepted and combined with the other two ideas. The men involved were businessman for the World Fair (not the City of Seattle) so there was an agenda to push the local fair. The Seattle Space Needle was not financed by the City of Seattle in fact it had no land it could be built on except inside the Fair. A plot was later discovered which was measured at 120 x 120 ft. They almost gave up finding a lot available. The land sold for $75,000. Since the City of Seattle was not involved financially, it was by the Pentagram Corporation. The team consisted of Bagley Wright, Howard Wright, John Graham, Ned Skinner, and Norton Clapp. Later in 1977, Bagley Skinner and Norton Clapp sold their interest to Howard Wright. Mr. Howard Wright is the current owner under the company named the Space Needle Corporation. The cost to build the Seattle Space Needle in 1962 was $4.5 million dollars. The first cleaning of the Space Needle didn’t happen until 2008 which was a pressure washing cleaning. It was blasted with an estimated 2,900 psi of water pressure. No cleaning supplies or detergents were used while pressure washing it.
A little history lesson for you, the foundation of the Space Needle is pretty amazing as it measured 30 ft deep and 120 ft wide. The hole was filled with concrete which took 467 dump trucks. Rumor is, the continuous concrete pour lasted only one day and was the biggest pour ever attempted in the West back then. Once the foundation was complete, it weighed as much as the entire Space Needle.
On New Years Eve (1999) a beam of light was revealed as a new feature. The Skybeam is displayed on special occasions during the year like national holidays. On average, it comes on about 12 times per year but that does vary. After Sept. 11 2001 is was turned on for 11 days. The idea for the Skybeam was suggested from an old World’s Fair poster. It didn’t actually have the beam of light back then but graphic design of the poster made it look like it was beaming with light. Each year on New Years the Space Needle has a celebration. There is usually a black and white party that many Seattle residents visits. It’s one of the higher end new years celebrations in Seattle. The Needle also has lots of fireworks which shoot out the top of the Space Needle. Oddly, the 2007 (going on 2008) new years celebration had to be stopped and restarted due to some pyrotechnics issues. It was fixed and the rest of the fireworks had to be denoted by hand. The company providing the pyrotechnics that year blamed the issue on a corrupted file which control the detonations.
In 2000, the Space Needle got a $20 million dollar update. They added all the features we have today such as the Pavilion Level, SpaceBase Retail Store, The SkyCity Restaurant, O Deck updates, exterior lighting additions/updates, Legacy Light installations, exterior painting and many more new features.
In May 2007, the Space Needle celebrated it’s 45 millionth guest. The man’s name was Greg Novoa and he was from San Francisco. He got 2 free tickets to Paris and a VIP dinner at the Eiffel Tower.
Over the years, the Space Needle has experienced some controversy. These include Base jumpers, illegal photography, and labor disputes. Since it’s opening in 1962, 6 base jumpers has jumped off the top of the Space Needle illegally. Out of the 6 jumpers, 2 have been arrested for their jumps and caught. In 2013, a mystery person has been scaling buildings all over Seattle, Washington and taking photography. There is a website dedicated to the activities and personally the photography is absolutely amazing pieces of art. There is video of this person on top of the Space Needle sitting back and enjoying the skyline. Between 2012-2013, union workers and owners of the Space Needle have had some disagreements with the contracts. Mediation is still be worked out between the workers and owners to this date today.
Most recently in April 2012, the Space Needle celebrated its 50th anniversary. The top of the Space Needle was painted a Galaxy Gold color. It’s the same color used when it was originally developed and constructed back in 1962 at the World’s Fair. Over the years, the Space Needle has experienced many makeovers and colors including the celebration of UW Huskies winning the Rose Bowl back in 1992 or when it was colored with the Seattle SuperSonics.
As Seattle continues to grow with more and more buildings. There has been constant debates regarding the views of the skyline, the Space Needle, parks, and water. The City Council makes those decisions and the debate continues today. Areas and views from I5, Lake Union, and Mercer st are some of the hot topics regarding this issue. Many believe areas from Seattle public parks which have a view of the Space Needle should be protected to preserve it’s views. However, protecting these views also diminishes the value of private property which can create jobs and provide public housing.
As of 2013, ticket prices are $19 dollars to ride up the Space Needle to the observation deck. There is no charge to use the elevator if you’re visiting the restaurant. Senior discounts are available include youth and bulk rates (15 people or more) if you’re going as a group. The group discounts saves you only a few dollars on each ticket. As of today, the Space Needle is still the #1 attraction in Seattle.