Saturday, April 14, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hawks' new home rises from rubble

Seattle Times staff reporter

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On most days Jeff Smith works in a tiny makeshift office, cluttered with architectural drawings, design schematics and, on the back wall, a few family photos. But every so often he ventures out and up for a closer look at Seattle's newest stadium.

Standing on a metal deck 200 feet off the ground , he feels he is on top of the world and revisiting a time when he was 15 years younger, working atop 25-story buildings as a carpenter.

But that was so long ago, and now is not the time for daydreaming.

"It takes a certain kind of focus even if you're just up to take a quick look around," said Smith, the project superintendent for Turner Construction, the general contractor for the Washington State Football/Soccer Stadium. "The guys that are up there day in and day out, still have to psych themselves up to get up there and to not let it bother them at all when they look down and everybody is looking like an ant.

"You stay focused on what you're doing while you're doing it, but in those gaps in between when you have a chance to look around you can't help to be impressed with where you are and what you can see."

What Smith sees is what everyone else sees: The new Seahawk stadium, now more than 50 percent completed, is taking shape.

It's been slightly more than a year since the rubble that was the Kingdome was cleared and construction began. A cursory glance to the west by anyone driving along Interstate 5 can attest to the noticeable change in Seattle's skyline.

Four months ago, the upper bowl on the east side was completed.

Two weeks ago, the final piece of 55-foot box arch of the stadium's east-side roof was lowered into place, signaling that construction has reached the midway point.

Soon the shoring towers used to erect the arching roof truss will be moved to the west side of the stadium and the final phase of roof construction will begin next month.

Make no mistake, this is Paul Allen's $430 million playground, but the billionaire Seahawk owner must share the credit with several contributors.

He turned to Ellerbe Beckett, an architectural firm based in Minneapolis, to design another home for one of his sports franchises. The company provided the blueprints to build the Rose Garden Arena where Allen's Portland Trail Blazers play.

"We wanted to respond to the climate of Seattle and we wanted to create an open stadium that looked back to downtown and downtown could look to the stadium," Kelly Kerns, a senior project manager for Ellerbe Beckett, said. "That's why the stadium is open on the north end. The tower there reflects some of the other towers in Seattle and the Smith Tower in Pioneer Square."

But the tower construction won't be completed for another year, and perhaps the most distinctive feature about the new stadium will be its overhanging roof design and rainbow tri-chord truss that rise 260 feet above the field surface.

The new Seahawk stadium shares several characteristics with neighboring Safeco Field, but the designers sought another stadium for inspiration.

"There was some homage paid to Husky Stadium in the large caliber roof," Kerns said. "More than anything though, it's a response to have 70 percent of the seats covered, which was a priority given the surroundings and the Northwest climate."

The roof construction is the most visibly striking and dangerous, Smith said.

Workers wearing crepe-soled boots and carrying 30-40 pounds of equipment must contend with inclement weather while balancing on a six-inch steel beam. The rain isn't much of a problem, but anything more than 30-mph winds and construction halts.

"There's a special adrenaline working on top of buildings, especially something as big as this, particularly," Smith said. "Everyone up there would all say there's nothing like it and they do it because they enjoy it.

"It's like mountain climbing. Now I'm not a mountain climber, but I can imagine what it would be like. ... The guys who walk across the beam, those are the elite climbers. They will literally climb the vertical steel and they have proven to have an exceptional balance and coordination."

Smith's job is to supervise and make sure the stadium remains on schedule to be completed by July 2002. First & Goal Inc., Allen's company that manages the development, construction and operation, makes sure the project is under budget.

The public contribution is capped at $300 million, with Allen's First & Goal Inc. responsible for the rest, including any cost overruns. For that kind of money, the stadium's amenities include:

• 11 elevators, nine available to the public and two service elevators.

• 12 commissioned art projects.

• 48 concession stands.

• 82 suites, including the NFL's first field-level boxes.

• 1,400 seats for people with disabilities.

• 2,000-car garage adjacent to the stadium.

Although the fine touches have yet to be built, it's easy to see that the best views of the field with the city as a backdrop will be from the south-end plaza on the third level.

The entryway to the north allows fans to get an up-close view of the field, and they will be able to enjoy the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound from the west concourse.

"I'm probably most proud of the form of the stadium and how we think it's going to fit into the downtown and Pioneer Square context," Kerns said. "We're pretty proud of the roof and its simple design.

"We wanted to complement the surrounding buildings. Safeco Field is very structurally oriented because of the moveable roof and it picks up on railroad in its design. We wanted to contrast that with a simple clean and arching roof, but at same time recognize Pioneer Square with a brick façade along the west. It's got a mix of those two styles."

Percy Allen can be reached at 206-464-2278 or

Stadium schedule

Spring 2001

Stadium 50 percent complete

East-side roof complete

West-side seating bowl complete

Summer 2001

West-side roof erection

First concession stand complete

Seat installation begins

Fall 2001

First executive suite complete

Seahawk locker room complete

Winter 2002

North grandstand complete

Field installation

Spring 2002

West concourse complete

North end zone vertical scoreboard erected

Summer 2002

First Seahawk exhibition game


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