In the early 1970s, a group of community leaders from the public and private sectors conceived the notion of building a convention center in Seattle to foster new economic development and increase hotel occupancy rates. In 1982, by action of the state Legislature, a public non-profit corporation was established to acquire land and to design, construct, promote and operate the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). A site adjacent to and above Interstate 5 was selected and initial construction began in the fall of 1985, continuing for nearly three years. The first scheduled event took place on June 18, 1988. By the early 1990s, increasing demand for exhibition space and Seattle as a destination made it clear that the WSCC would need to grow. Plans were made to effectively double the available event space by building an adjoining and connected facility to the north across Pike Street.
On July 9, 2001, little more than two years after beginning construction, a ribbon was cut to officially open the expanded convention center, enabling the WSCC to retain its existing customers and attract new business. That project has also spurred other building and revitalization projects that have created an economic base for sustained growth in the downtown core. Hotels, restaurants, shops, office towers, and high-rise condominiums and apartments now occupy street frontage that was previously underutilized or vacant.
The WSCC expanded again in July 2010 with the opening of The Conference Center (TCC). Located at the northeast corner of 8th Avenue and Pike Street, this LEED-certified space was originally designated to be the new home of the Museum of History and Industry following the 2001 expansion. As the needs of the museum changed, the WSCC acquired the property and began a complete conversion of the four-level facility. TCC’s 71,000 square feet provides the room necessary to service groups that had become too large to utilize the original Convention Center. TCC can either stand alone as a self-contained conference facility or it can combine with the entire WSCC to offer an impressive total of 414,722 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
The first full year of operation for WSCC Public Facilities District (PFD) began in 2011. Authorized by the state Legislature in April of 2010 and subsequently created by King County, the PFD is responsible for the management, operations, capital improvements and financial success of the WSCC.
For almost 30 years, the WSCC has brought nearly four billion dollars to the state's economy in the form of convention delegate spending, and hundreds of millions of dollars into Washington's general fund through sales taxes paid by out-of-state visitors. The WSCC is responsible for thousands of jobs throughout the region and has provided numerous civic benefits including the renovation and creation of over 1,300 units of affordable housing, the preservation of several historic buildings and an extensive public art program. Unlike most other convention facilities, the WSCC was designed to be accessible to everyone with many gathering areas that are welcoming and comfortable.
The WSCC’s award-winning culinary team exceeds the expectations of guests by creating uniquely Northwest dishes with the freshest seasonal vegetables and fruits from local and regional growers. Flour for the in-house bakery is obtained from no-till farms in eastern Washington and the state’s exceptional wineries provide over 98 percent of the wines served. The beef comes from grain-fed cattle; the fish comes from sustainable sources and the free-range chicken and eggs are from Washington farms. The WSCC is also the first banquet and meeting facility with Pro-Chef certified Executive Chefs. The Pro-Chef Certification program was created by the Culinary Institute of America and the American Culinary Federation to provide hands-on skill validation, recognize professional achievement, and provide knowledge and credentials to advance the culinary experience to clients.
The WSCC has long been an industry leader in sustainability. In 2017, the facility was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance. LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings; certification is established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC) and verified by the Green Building Institute. The WSCC is also dedicated to waste reduction and diversion with the recycling of paper, wood, metal and plastic products, as well as composting food waste. The Center’s average annual waste diversion rate is 70%. Ongoing programs to make the facility even “greener” include the packaging and landscaping waste, as well as adding new and more efficient lighting, HVAC and plumbing systems.