Ask a typical Seattle sports fan of a certain generation — say, your father-in-law — about his favorite memory from the Kingdome, and you’re sure to get a laugh.
“Favorite Kingdome memory?” he’ll repeat. He doesn’t skip a beat: “When it was blown up!”
He is, you presume, not alone among local sports fans who believe the Kingdome is best forgotten. He isn’t the only one, you presume, laughing now at the notion of going inside a gray building, sitting under suspect ceiling tiles, surrounded by 52,800 cubic yards of concrete, to attend a baseball game on one of Seattle’s perfect summer afternoons.
And yet, as laughable as that idea feels to the modern Seattle sports fan — spoiled by the beauty of Safeco Field and conditioned to the dominance of the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field — the memories of the dead, dreary dome remain cement-solid long after the last slab was dispersed some 14 years ago.
For Margaret Thompson, that isn’t a laughing matter. She might be one of the few who would admit to missing the Kingdome.
There are others, surely, who feel the same about some of the other lost landmarks of Seattle sports lore: from picturesque Longacres Park in Renton, to the saltwater of Crystal Pool, to Seattle’s two thawed ice arenas; from the University of Washington’s original football field, Denny Field on the north end of campus, to the old baseball park, Dugdale Park, that an arsonist destroyed in South Seattle. Memories.
And then there’s one man determined to make us remember another long-gone ballpark.
Greg Gilbert and Jay Dotson / The Seattle Times, 2000
Henry Noble isn’t laughing, either. He sounds annoyed, furious even.
“I grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, and I just like baseball,” he says.
This Noble campaign began last year when the 75-year-old Seattle resident again visited the old Sicks’ Stadium site in Rainier Valley, now a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. He was struck by the condition of one wooden stadium sign — commemorating this, the former home of the Seattle Rainiers and Pilots — on the corner of Rainier Avenue South and South McClellan Street.
“It looks like (expletive),” he says of the sign, which has a white graffiti mark obscuring several letters. “To think, there was once this grand field there, and now there’s this grungy sign. It’s not right. ... Somebody should have responsibility for it.”
Noble made his pitch to clean up the sign, and the area, during a recent phone call. That call followed an earlier call to the Lowe’s store manager (strike three), which was preceded by an email to the Seattle parks department (strike two), which was preceded by an email to the Seattle Department of Transportation (strike one). All of which left Noble frustrated and fuming that he couldn’t find someone with a healthy memory of Sicks’ who could help him.
(The Lowe’s manager, Troy Hitt, said he would “be happy” to donate supplies to spruce up the sign, but the sign is located off Lowe’s property, so it’s not something Hitt says he can take responsibility for.)
“I did find somebody sympathetic while talking to a guy cleaning the parking meters (on Rainier),” he says. That didn’t get far.
Noble had moved to the Rainier Valley in the mid-1970s, when the Rainiers were nearing the end of their last tenure at Sicks’. They left in 1976. Soon, the old stadium closed; it became as useful as a bunt back to the mound. In February 1979, it was torn down. It was 41 years old.
Noble hasn’t forgotten. The sign, you sense, is only a symbolic representation of something grander for him.
“I felt sort of a kinship with the place,” he says. “At one point I thought, ‘Why don’t you just do it, Henry. Get a mop and do it yourself.’ I guess that’s still an option ... but I’m not much of a handyman.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude