Stadium High School, Tacoma, WA

Date posted: April 23, 2013


Construction on the main building, known as the Castle, began in 1891. The project, originally intended as a destination railroad hotel, was abandoned in 1894 as funding dried up and fell victim to fire in 1898. The charred remains were acquired by the Tacoma School District, and under the design of Frederick Heath, Stadium High School opened its doors to its first class in 1906. Sited on the steep bluffs overlooking Commencement Bay, Stadium High School and the adjacent Stadium Bowl have hosted numerous historic events including speeches by two presidents, several major films, and countless city-wide events.

Design Architect: Bassetti Architects
Architect of Record: Krei Architecture
More Info: Lorne McConachie AIA


  • Need to bring a historic structure into the 21st century with complete seismic, life safety, mechanical, electrical, ADA, and technology upgrades
  • Need a place to house large program areas (physical education and performing arts)
  • Need additional parking

By the numbers

Date of Original Construction: 1894, 1906
Date of Renovation: 2006
Total Cost of 2006 Renovation: $82.5 million
Size: 400,000 square foot original building
Enrollment: 1,700 students


Tacoma's flagship Stadium High School is a 400,000-square-foot landmark structure in a national historic district. The design incorporates innovative educational planning concepts into a restored historic structure. New design elements provide safe places for both school and community use, a welcoming plaza and gallery for athletic and performing arts functions, and a new 220-car parking structure with tennis courts on the rooftop.

The "chateau-esque" structure was carefully preserved by removing inappropriate additions and restoring defining historic features. Rather than trying to match or compete with the civic landmark, new additions were conceived as ancillary structures defining the edge of the pedestrian entry plaza, itself an extension of the larger street grid. The new additions also house the large program areas (physical education and performing arts) that did not fit within the historic structure, along with a new parking garage.

The 1,700 student-high school was planned to accommodate multiple teaching and learning pathways. Whether educators choose to organize departmentally or as semi-autonomous academies, the new layout supports the curricular demands. 

In addition to retaining the historic building, other sustainable strategies included:

  • minimizing the footprint of new additions on the tight urban site,
  • vastly improving the building shell thermal envelope, and
  • installing highly efficient mechanical and electrical systems, an effective storm water detention, and structured on-site parking.

The grand historic structure, brought into the 21st century with complete seismic, life safety, mechanical, electrical, ADA, and technology upgrades, will continue to serve many generations to come.

Key takeaways

  • Historic schools can be successfully upgraded to meet seismic, life safety, ADA, energy-efficiency, and educational goals
  • Parking can be addressed on a tight, urban site
  • Modern educational teaching methods can be successful in older facilities


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