The World’s Fair transformed Spokane’s downtown 50 years ago

Spokane’s Journey to Hosting a World’s Fair: Securing Funds, Overcoming Controversies and Attracting Countries

In 1971, Spokane leaders sought guidance from Seattle, which had hosted a fair in 1962, for advice on organizing their own world’s fair. After receiving the green light to pursue the project, fair leaders managed to secure pledges of $1.3 million in start-up funds, primarily from Spokane businesses. Additionally, the Washington Legislature allocated nearly $12 million in state tax dollars to construct the Washington State Pavilion, which later became the Spokane Opera House and Convention Center.

Spokane City Council implemented a controversial business and occupation tax that raised $5.7 million to remove the railroad tracks and prepare the fair site for Expo ’74. In October 1971, President Richard M. Nixon officially endorsed the event. With a delegation led by King Cole, Spokane received the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris’s unanimous approval as an official “special exposition.”

To further secure funding for Expo ’74, Washington’s influential Congressional delegation secured an $11.5 million appropriation from Congress to construct the U.S. Pavilion at the fair site. City officials successfully persuaded Spokane’s three railroads to relocate away from downtown and donate land to the city for consolidated routes. This move was worth millions and allowed for more space at Expo ’74 site.

King Cole then focused on attracting countries to participate in the fair and managed to secure commitments from numerous nations including Soviet Union, Japan

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