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 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 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 under utilized or vacant.
WSCC expanded again in July 2010 with the opening of The Conference Center. Located at the northeast corner of Eighth 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 was able to acquire the property and began a complete conversion of the four-level facility. The Conference Center's 71,000 square feet provides the room necessary to service groups that had become too large to utilize the original convention center. The Conference Center 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 the Washington State Convention Center Public Facilities District (WSCC) began in 2011. Authorized by the state Legislature in April of 2010 and subsequently created by King County, the Public Facilities District is responsible for the management, operations, capital improvements and financial success of WSCC.
Nearing its twenty fifth year of operation, 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. 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, WSCC was designed to be accessible to all with many gathering areas that are welcoming and comfortable.
The Convention Center’s award-winning culinary team exceeds the expectations of guests by creating uniquely Northwest dishes with the freshest seasonal vegetables and fruits from regional growers. Flour for the in-house bakery is obtained from no-till farms in eastern Washington. The state’s exceptional wineries provide over 98 percent of the wines served. The beef comes from grain-fed cattle; the fish from sustainable sources and the free-range chicken and eggs are from Washington farms. WSCC is also the first banquet and meeting facility with an all Pro-Chef Certified culinary team. 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.
WSCC has long been an industry leader in conservation and the recycling of paper, wood, metal and plastic products. Ongoing programs to make the facility even “greener” include the composting of food scraps, packaging and landscaping waste, as well as adding new and more efficient lighting, HVAC and plumbing systems.
More than just a great place for events, the Washington State Convention Center makes important contributions to our community each and every day.