Million-dollar playground at Seattle Center won't open until 2014

SEATTLE - Anxious kids and their parents will have to wait another year before a new play area designed by local artists is installed underneath the Space Needle.

On Tuesday, Robert Nellams, director of the Seattle Center, faced questions from Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden, who wanted to know why the Artists at Play Area, part of the city's lease agreement with Chihuly Garden and Glass, has not been built despite the glass museum having been open for more than a year.

"People have asked me that question," said Godden. "I figured it was time to meet and get started on the playground."

During the meeting, Nellams released a final timeline for the $1 million project, noting construction is not expected to finish until next summer.

It's been more than two years since the city approved a lease allowing the Wright family to build a glass museum dedicated to Dale Chihuly on a piece of public owned property at the Seattle Center. As a stipulation of the lease, Artists at Play, a public play area designed by local artists, was supposed to help take the place of the Seattle Center's Fun Forest after the museum was built.

Last February, hospitality union UNITE HERE Local 8 called for a boycott of Chihuly Garden and Glass, claiming families and children weren't benefiting from the museum and had nowhere to play due to the closure of the Fun Forest. But, the museum said its plan all along was to wait until after the Seattle Center's 50th anniversary to begin working on the play area project.

Under the timeline released by the Seattle Center, a call to local artists for design concepts is expected to be made this week.

Construction of the play area will begin at the end of this year with an opening date scheduled for next summer.

The Artists at Play area will utilize up to three-acres between the Armory and EMP, just south of Harrison, which is currently vacant.