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Kingdome May Be Drab, But Its Memories Aren’t

If voters take Chuck Knox’s advice, a major piece of the retired football coach’s past will be torn down.

Knox has traveled across the state in a motorhome campaigning for a proposal to demolish the Kingdome and replace it with a state-of-the-art, open-air football and soccer stadium.

Passage of Referendum 48 on June 17 is billed by supporters as crucial to keeping the Seattle Seahawks from leaving for a better offer in Cleveland, Los Angeles or any other city vying for an NFL franchise.

“The reason I came back is because I want to maintain the presence of the National Football League in Seattle,” said Knox, who coached in the Kingdome during the Seahawks’ glory years.

Paul Allen, the billionaire who developed the $425 million plan for a new stadium, wants to buy the team but only if taxpayers agree to build a fancier facility with more luxury suites and a grass field.

While the Kingdome may end up in rubble, the sports memories that the 21-year-old building has brought to Seattle will remain.

The Kingdome has been the home of the Seahawks and the Mariners since their beginnings. The SuperSonics also made it their home for a while.

Three NCAA Final Fours and four West Regionals were held at the Kingdome, as well as an NBA All-Star game and an NFL Pro Bowl.

Steve Largent caught enough passes from Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg in the Kingdome to help earn him membership in pro football’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Curt Warner, Kenny Easley, Dave Brown and Jacob Green also starred for the Seahawks in the Kingdome.

There was no more exciting Seahawks’ season than 1983, Knox’s first in Seattle after he left Buffalo, when the franchise made it to the AFC title game against the Los Angeles Raiders. The Raiders won 30-14.

For the Mariners, a franchise that struggled through stingy owners, the turnaround came in 1995 when they caught fire in September and caught the California Angels.

The Mariners beat the Angels for the A.L. West title in the Kingdome. Then they defeated the New York Yankees there to qualify for the A.L. Championship Series against Cleveland.

The Indians ended the Mariners’ dreams of getting into a World Series, but the excitement the club created under manager Lou Piniella got the Mariners a new $414 million baseball stadium that will be ready for the 1999 season.

Maybe the Kingdome looks drab and gray on the outside. Maybe it is spartan and gloomy on the inside. But it was built cheap and it brought Ken Griffey Jr. and his magnificent swing - and Randy Johnson, the top strikeout pitcher of the 1990s - to Seattle.

The Kingdome was the Sonics’ home for seven seasons, from 1978 through 1985 when they drew huge crowds to see Jack Sikma, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson. A crowd of 40,172 attended a playoff game against Milwaukee on April 15, 1980.

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