One Foot in Front of the Other
After the coronavirus pandemic paused American professional sports this summer, Seattle sports are back in full swing: the Seahawks are 2-0, the Storm are in the WNBA semifinals, the Mariners are looking for silver linings and the Sounders lead the Western Conference of the MLS (for now). Even Husky football might see its day this fall.
If only we could be there.
Seattle stadiums and arenas aren’t admitting spectators for the time being, but an urban hike connecting the city’s sports centers makes for an excellent walk featuring several neighborhoods and a slew of Seattle landmarks.
This 7-mile walk starts at the Ken Griffey Jr. statue outside T-Mobile Park, passes CenturyLink Field en route to Climate Pledge Arena (future home of the Kraken), then stretches northeast to Husky Stadium and Alaska Airlines Arena. Of course, it can be broken up into chunks.
Standard walking procedure applies: walk during the day, and bring a buddy, a charged phone, something to drink and a mask.
Ken Griffey Jr. statue to Climate Pledge Arena
One-way distance: About 2.6 miles
About five minutes before the Seahawks home opener last Sunday, I parked across the street from T-Mobile Park. On a typical game day, lots near the park and CenturyLink Field fetch up to $100 per spot, but I had my choice of street parking.
The Ken Griffey Jr. statue stands at the corner of First Avenue/Dave Niehaus Way and Edgar Martinez Drive, marking The Kid’s legacy in Mariners history and the start of our walk.
These days, the shady stretch north from home plate toward CenturyLink is uncrowded. Skirt the stadium around left field and head a block east to Occidental Avenue, which looked eerie without tailgaters last Sunday. One hot dog vendor blared the game from a flat-screen TV affixed to their truck, attracting stray Seahawks fans; a few others clumped near the fenced-off entrance to CenturyLink, screaming and banging signs in hope of being heard inside.
Beyond the stadium complex lies the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. You can trace the Sounders’ prematch march in reverse from CenturyLink Field — follow the bricks north on Occidental to Occidental Square, where supporters have gathered on game day since 2005, pandemic seasons excluded. A block back at Jackson Street, find Elliott Bay views to your left and the Chinatown International District to your right.
Take Occidental Avenue to Yesler Way, across which is Pioneer Square and First Avenue. First stretches nearly 2 miles to Seattle Center and Climate Pledge Arena, and while the middle of the walk is light on Seattle sports tie-ins, there’s plenty to inspire civic pride.
First Avenue leads northwest into the downtown forest of high-rises. There are wide sidewalks here, save for stretches that pass under scaffolding, with a gently elevating gradient. At Union Street, just beyond Seattle Art Museum, cross the street if need be for a worthwhile vantage point of the bay, the Great Wheel and the waterfront.
You’ll pass Pike Place Market as you walk toward Belltown, and the Space Needle will peek into view around Bell Street. Bars there seemed relatively busy last Sunday, with several accommodating expanded outdoor seating.
By the time you get a clear view of the Space Needle around Cedar Street, you’re nearly at Seattle Center. Keep on First Avenue until Eagle Street, where a right turn leads to a protected crosswalk over Denny Way. Walk along Second Avenue North by Pacific Science Center and into the Seattle Center complex, future home of Climate Pledge Arena and the Seattle Kraken.
Climate Pledge Arena to Husky Stadium
One-way distance: About 4.1 miles
The Kraken won’t hit the ice until late 2021, but Seattle sports fans are already rocking team T-shirts in anticipation of the city’s new NHL franchise. Beyond construction, there’s not a ton to see at the Climate Pledge Arena site right now, but Seattle Center is always good for a people-watching break and Space Needle views, if nothing else.
I sat on a bench near the International Fountain and listened to music for a moment before heading north across August Wilson Way toward Mercer Street. Passing Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Cornish Playhouse, Seattle Rep and more is an undeniable bummer — the 2020/21 arts season is not lost, though, it has just been altered for the COVID-19 era. These pillars of Seattle culture need our support even more than our beloved sports teams.
Seattle Center is the link between the historic brick buildings of Belltown and the boxy tech haven of South Lake Union. From the edge of Lower Queen Anne, take Mercer Street east for about 0.8 miles, dipping downhill. This route sticks to Mercer until a left turn at Fairview Avenue, but Lake Union Park is a worthy detour. I used to walk there from the nearby Seattle Times office over lunch prior to the spring, which feels like a lifetime ago.
Ample sidewalk space on Mercer thins out a bit at Fairview, which heads northeast around Lake Union. Queen Anne rises over the water to the west, providing excellent city views as the uphill march to Eastlake begins.
Just after Yale Avenue, take the Eastlake-Fairview Hill Climb to get up to Eastlake Avenue. It’s about 1.8 miles to University Bridge from there, with many restaurants, parks and markets along the way. There are stretches of heavily cracked sidewalks on Eastlake, so mind your footing, and feel free to meander down to the water at tiny green spaces like Fairview, Good Turn or South Passage Point parks.
The view from University Bridge, which has room for bikers and pedestrians, is one of my favorites in Seattle — a panorama that stretches from Gas Works Park and Lake Union to Portage Bay and Lake Washington. Here you’ll get your first glimpse of Husky Stadium looming over the water, surely deserving of its reputation as the greatest setting in college football.
Across the bridge, the Burke-Gilman Trail parallels Northeast Pacific Street veering east toward Husky Stadium and Alaska Airlines Arena. The last stretch of the walk slopes downward toward the stadium and Union Bay — if your ankles get wet, you’ve gone too far.
If you drive: Look for street parking near T-Mobile Park (actually possible this season!), and plan to take the Link light rail back from University of Washington to Pioneer Square station.