Ed and Yvonne Senior of Scotland just got married on Saturday, but the honeymooners were truly floating on Thursday during their first trip to Seattle and the Space Needle. The couple was among the first visitors to have a seat 520 feet above the ground on new observation deck glass benches that are part of the ongoing remodel at the iconic structure.
My own honeymoon may have been years ago, but I still got butterflies in my stomach as I checked out the benches, or Skyrisers as they’re calling them. After morning rain was squeegeed off, I slid back and let myself lean against the 2 1/2-inch thick glass panel separating me from the sky. The angle of the seat caused my feet to leave the ground, and with open air above me and clear glass behind me, it did create a sensation of floating as my stomach flip-flopped a little bit.
Space Needle officials have been saying for months that the best view in Seattle was soon to become the most thrilling, and the new look definitely improves upon what the 56-year-old structure offers those who ride an elevator to the top.
Tourists flowed onto the outside deck — some a little more apprehensively than others — high above Seattle Center on a somewhat misty and gray Seattle morning. While the deck has remained open during this months-long portion of the $100 million Century Project renovation, Thursday was the first chance to sit back against the tall glass panels.
Ten benches have been revealed around the outer edge of the deck. When work is complete, there will be 24 total. Until now they have been obscured by wooden boxes because it takes 28 days for the sealant to cure on each bench.
Folks from a variety of places took a seat, snapped selfies and marveled at the views of Lake Union and Puget Sound.
Ed Senior, 30, and his new wife Yvonne, 26, were spending about five days in the region before heading to Hawaii and then back to points further down the West Coast on their honeymoon. She laughed as he coaxed her to lean all the way back against the glass, and later she held his arm as he pitched himself forward and rested his forehead against one of the panels.
Tom Lytton of Fort Meyers, Fla., was in town before heading out on an Alaska cruise. He had recently gone a little higher during a trip to Chicago in which he stepped onto The Ledge, a glass box 1,353 feet in the air that extends out from the Willis Tower Skydeck.
Other visitors in Seattle were also spending a couple days before getting on a cruise ship. Among them was 7-year-old Julia Matte, who was visiting with her family from Houston. Proud to show off a science-themed T-shirt in a city of tech, Julia had no intention of sitting on a bench — until she did.
Perched on her knees and looking at Seattle Center down below, the young girl picked out the playground structure near the base of the Needle that she had been climbing on Wednesday.
“This is way higher,” she said.
Outside the glass was where the real bravery was taking place. Painters restoring the Needle’s original Galaxy Gold color stood nonchalantly on the steel halo (tethered via safety harnesses, of course) as ferries criss-crossed the Sound way off in the background.
“It’s not bad once you get used to it,” one of them said.
While nearly 80 percent of the observation level will be completed by the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, work continues 20 feet below. The next milestone will be the reveal of the world’s first rotating glass floor in the restaurant below the observation deck. Both spaces will be fully open by July 4.