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Thursday, March 27, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kids draw on imagination to redesign Seattle Center

Seattle Times staff reporter

Nudged by their teachers, area schoolchildren are taking The Seattle Times' challenge to redesign their own Seattle Center, coming up with creative — if not altogether realistic — ideas for adults to noodle.

With the Fun Forest amusement park due to be erased from the Seattle Center canvas after 2009, city officials are looking at ways to keep the place fun for kids.

Elementary-school students seem to have it all figured out.

Ideas that have sprung from Brett Heinemann's fifth-grade class at Cherry Crest Elementary in Bellevue include: water slides, a rock-climbing wall, movie theaters, rollercoasters, a go-cart center, a merry-go-round (with dinosaurs instead of horses), a petting zoo and a marine zoo with whales and dolphins.

Oh, and parents ought to be able to rent some of those things out for kids' birthday parties. (Just sayin'.)

Cherry Crest student Mark So proposes rebuilding KeyArena in the shape of a key, with the notches and grooves forming the bleachers for a new Memorial Stadium.

"It would be cool and it would make us famous," So said.

City officials are considering a major makeover for Seattle Center. This month, the mayor-appointed Century 21 Committee recommended a $676 million master plan that would add 10 acres of open space to the 74-acre campus, remodel Center House into an open-air building and replace Memorial Stadium with a hybrid prep-sports stadium and outdoor amphitheater.

The proposals sit before the City Council, which could place a funding measure on this fall's ballot or decide to spend more time considering those and other redesign options.

The master plan also calls for replacing the Fun Forest with a children's play area featuring a splash pool that would convert into an ice-skating rink in winter.

Kids have glommed onto that idea, with one student taking the concept a step further. Caryn Ausenhus wants the pool's water jets installed in the shape of the Space Needle.

"This would be cool since you will be basically right next to the Space Needle," she said.

In addition to a marine zoo, Giuliana Afonso proposes a high-rise hotel next to the Space Needle so "people from other places could come and see what Seattle has to offer." Both the marine zoo and the hotel would make a lot of money for Seattle Center, she said.

Michaela Flitsch wants to build a fake mountain in the middle of Seattle Center with a cave entrance leading to a series of mazelike paths that lead to the summit. Brandon Kruse proposes to remodel KeyArena in the shape of a giant basketball with "Seattle Sonics" written on the roof "because I have never seen that and it would be really cool to see people playing basketball in a basketball."

Cindy Hu proposes an "EWA" (Exercise Workout Arena) with two swimming pools, a rope swing, a big water slide and a "lazy river" area where people could just relax.

Marissa Therriault's redesign follows a theme of "bringing people together for healthy activities," and includes soccer, lacrosse and baseball fields, an indoor basketball court, a bike path and a dog park on an expansive lawn with picnic tables.

A couple students propose putting solar panels on top of Seattle Center buildings.

Joyce Boewe's fifth-graders at Hazel Valley Elementary in Burien also have broken out their No. 2 pencils, felt pens and color crayons.

Working in teams of two, Boewe's students have come up with their own kid-friendly ideas: a new children's museum with a floor specifically targeted for kids their age; a mini-bowling alley; a Seattle Sports Hall of Fame museum inside KeyArena; a Tech Center where kids could work on computers and build robots; an "Original Seattle Center Remembrance Hall" to display artifacts from the Center's early days; and a new amusement park where kids couldn't leave until their parents picked them up.

Taylor Springs and Storm Sternberg redesigned the Center with a new playground, a Children's Museum of Natural History and a Baskin-Robbins. They floated an idea to replace the IMAX theater at Pacific Science Center with a drive-in theater but it got shot down by their classmates, so they are leaving it out of their final redesign.

Linda Carlson-Brazil, artist-in-residence at Greenwood Elementary in North Seattle, is helping students create three-dimensional redesigns of Seattle Center.

"Every single child has an opinion," she said. "Their wish lists are all over the map — laser tag, miniature golf, new parking lots, a celebrity store."

A celebrity store?

"A store where celebrities shop," Carlson-Brazil explained.

Now why hasn't any adult thought of that?

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or seskenazi@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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