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Friday, March 17, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A domeful of memories

Special to The Times

THE imminent pulverization of the Kingdome conjures spasms of nostalgia among antiquarians of Seattle sport.

We codgers prefer to ignore the forthcoming rubble and dwell on the promises of the premises when the doors opened to pageantry and acclaim March 27, 1976.

The ceremonies left certifiable sports addicts in the 54,750 seats then available in a state of tingling suspense: They couldn't wait to sweep all those banners and bands and dancers and banjos and vintage horseless carriages and millions of daffodils off the greensward so they could watch somebody kick a ball, or hit it.

The debut of sport in the Dome, then still 11 days away, was - will you believe soccer? A National Football League tenant still was in the conversation stage. Baseball was not penciled in until the following April, but the unnamed American League franchise was represented at the Grand Opening by its most irrepressible partner, Danny Kaye.

Said Danny: "I hope the next time I address all of you as a group, I can say, `Get your Series tickets early!' "

Mariner fans long ago took note that Danny never addressed all of them again as a group.

Who now remembers that 58,128 impatient fans showed up for the Dome's inaugural sporting event - Seattle Sounders vs. New York Cosmos, featuring the soccer legend, Pele. Pele long since has retired to his riches. The Sounders survive on the inside pages.

The first touchdown in the Dome's first ever football game? May 1, 1976 - Ken Conley scored it - caught an 18-yard pass from Sonny Sixkiller, the only score for the Husky alumni in a 10-7 defeat by Don James' second Washington varsity.

As the first and final long-term tenants of the Dome's 24 years and the projected occupants of whatever rises from the rubble, the Seahawks inherit the valid rights to sentimentality.

Their names are legend - Jack Patera, the mercurial head coach; John Thompson, the hometown boy who grew up to be the general manager; Jim Zorn and Steve Largent, destined from birth evidently to share the same football; Steve Niehaus, Notre Dame's gift as the Hawks' first choice in the team's first draft, and Dave Williams.

Dave Williams? Only the first player signed to a Seahawk contract - memorable ex-Husky pass-catcher, seven years in the NFL and two more in the defunct American Football League. Alas, Williams banged up a knee in an off-season professional indoor track meet, went to surgery and never set foot in a game in the Kingdome.

Seattle resident Georg N. Meyers is former sports editor of The Seattle Times.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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