Even in the middle of "new ride season" it's always nice to take a break from the extreme and check out a bit of culture. Although some of you may find this pretty extreme.
Gary from Coasting with Culture is back with another amazing update from the Pacific Northwest, this time less coaster and more culture. Be sure to give Gary's page a like!!
Written by Gary Taylor
(click any picture below to see a larger version)
In 1962, Seattle would see the opening of a tower that has served as an icon of the Pacific Northwest since. The tower has worldwide recognition and is a must for visitors of the Emerald City. While several buildings may resemble it, there is only one true Space Needle. And now after over 50 years of operation, this classic tower has been undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation project that they are calling the “Space Lift”. It had been about a year since my previous visit to the observation deck, and with the combination of a day off with a beautiful sunny day, it seemed like a great time to come and see the progress on the building.
The project had initially begun towards the end of last summer and is scheduled to be completed by June. The Space Needle remained open for most of the renovation work, with only a few weeks of closure during the weekdays in the slower winter months. One of the big components of the project is for the rotating restaurant that the needle is known for in the lower half of the observation deck. The plan is to replace the floor of the restaurant with glass, giving visitors of the restaurant the ability to see the ground about 500 feet below. At this time, it is surrounded by scaffolding, thus we are not able to see this change at the moment, but I imagine that this will truly change the dining experience.
Due to the nature of the renovation project being focused to the observation portion of the tower, much of the area at the base is fenced off for the staging and storage of equipment and supplies for the project, as well as providing some protection from the potential of falling objects. This has led to the need for some detours getting into the Needle as well as around it to some of the other attractions of the Seattle Center area.
Due to the use of the main outer entry ramp to the Needle elevators, the line to enter has temporarily been rerouted through part of the gift shop. While they were able to make it work for the last part of the summer season and through the fall, winter and spring thus far, The Space Needle can get quite busy in the summer with the heart of Seattle’s tourism season, and this layout can get quite crowded on the busier days. Hopefully they will be able to finish the project in time.
One part of the Space Needle experience that will remain from before is the displays and models that were installed around the 50th anniversary of the Century 21 Exposition (also known as the 1962 World’s Fair) with information about the construction of the iconic tower as you lead up to the elevators that take you to the observation deck.
Upon arrival to the top of the Needle, you could see that there is still quite a bit of work being done for the indoor portion of the main observation level. When completed, people will have a more open view than before thanks to the larger windows that are now from ceiling to floor, as opposed to the previous version which had a barrier about waist high. While the original snack bar has been closed, they have provided a temporary one for visitors to enjoy a snack or beverage while taking in the views.
With the work that is being done, not all of the outer portions of the deck are available for viewing. Because of the work going on, the South and West sides of the interior have limited space for viewing that is fenced in, however, you still get to enjoy an excellent view of the Elliot Bay waterfront and the skyline of Seattle.
You could see that there still much work to be done, and as seen that day the workers were still hard at work to try and make the June scheduled completion. There was also still plenty of scaffolding and equipment still around for working on the deck.
While about half of the deck is blocked off for renovation work, the East and North sides of the outdoor deck are open for viewing. For those who have not been to the Space Needle before, the outdoor deck barrier used to be a concrete wall that would come up about waist-high, and then horizontal steel wires would serve as the barrier to keep people from going over the wall. With the renovation, the wall and wires have been replaced with glass.
The new glass windows really open up the view for those on the inside and the outside areas of the observation deck and will make for great photos, especially on days like today when the sun is out.
As a tour guide who works for a company that offers a tour with a visit to the Space Needle included, getting a preview of what’s to come has me really excited to share with our passengers what they can expect from the new and improved view. Once the renovation is complete, we’ll bring you another update to share the new Space Needle experience.