Seattle Convention Center doubles in capacity as new $2B addition finally opens

A few delays and billions of dollars later, Seattle’s gigantic new convention center addition is finally opening. It’s called the Summit, and it sits where King County Metro once had a large bus station across from the Paramount Theater.

At a cost of $2 billion, designers have called it North America’s first high-rise convention center.

Gov. Jay Inslee and a host of other politicians and dignitaries were at a ribbon cutting for the new building that’s expanding the Seattle Convention Center. Speaking before the crowd, Inslee stressed that the Summit was missing just one thing: “We’re on the rebound, we’re coming back from COVID, all we need is people. That’s all we need in Seattle to make sure this is going to fly and that’s what this building fundamentally is going to allow us to do.”

The Summit doubles the capacity of the current convention center. It is 14 stories tall and has event space that could hold several football fields. Frank Finneran, chair of the SCC board, said that its size makes it stand out from other convention centers. “A 60,000 square foot ballroom, which is the biggest between here and San Francisco and Chicago,” Finneran said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine admitted that getting rid of the county’s buses was a major step toward getting the new structure built. “We conveyed a vast urban building site so that this building could rise from that hole in the ground,” Constantine said.

Inslee said the new convention center building could fuel a new era of economic activity in the region.

Covering 1.5 million square feet, the Summit and the original Arch building one-and-a-half blocks away together create a campus built to usher in the future of meetings and conventions.

SCC’s board of directors said the economic activity in Washington could be substantially increased by the addition of a second facility. The group estimated that between 2012 and 2015, the Center turned away more than 300 potential events due to the unavailability of space.

Now, the benefits are already being felt — there are 58 events booked at the Summit with an additional eight using both the Arch and the Summit.

“We’re thrilled for the new opportunities Summit together with Arch will create for our clients, community and industry,” said SCC President and CEO Jeff Blosser. “The Seattle Convention Center is pleased to increase its availability of space for event planners and extend its connection to those who live in, visit or work downtown.”

Summit’s location is walking distance to many of Seattle’s key attractions and accommodations. The convention center estimates that there are 7,000 hotel rooms within a six-block radius.

The building is also situated near Interstate 5, providing easy access to Sea-Tac Airport, and is near the Link light rail and other public transportation. For those driving in, SCC operates three garages, including one at Summit that has 750 parking spaces.

Summit was also built with the environment in mind. The convention center board and designers of the building are projecting that it will achieve LEED Gold certification.

Designers also used environmentally friendly design elements for construction and operations. These include using sustainably sourced, recycled materials throughout the building, such as plant-based acoustic ceiling tiles and bio-based fabric panels. The rooftop incorporates solar panels that will improve the building’s energy performance by 30% over the baseline rating, and a rainwater harvesting system will reduce irrigation usage by a projected 89%.

Summit also ties in a touch of history with its drive for sustainability by using reclaimed wood from a business that formerly occupied part of the construction site.