Space Needle reveals million-dollar COVID-19 safety changes – and people get disinfected too

SEATTLE — The Space Needle is bringing in the latest technology to fight COVID-19. It’s not open just yet but KIRO7 got an inside look at the million-dollar upgrade that aims to make the iconic tourist attraction one of the safest in the world.

“We’ve been working on it for about four months,” said Karen Olson, the Space Needle’s COO.

It’s new makeover, implemented by a full Tech Clean Dream Team, which brought in dozens of new safety measures.

Some have become standard, like masks (you’ll get a free themed one if you don’t have your own) and social distancing signage. But the Space Needle has taken it to a whole new level.

One most noticeable changes — guests will go through a far-UV-C light scanner that disinfects your skin and clothes from bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. The customer spins slowly with their arms up for 20 seconds before proceeding.

“We’ve invested in multiple lines of defenses,” Olson said. “It’s redundant layers of health and safety,” she said.

People coming in will experience staggered entry, with groups entering every 15 minutes. You get a ticket and can scan it, or have it on your phone. Everything is “touchless” and opens automatically (the elevator has an operator).

The elevator already gets fresh air from the outside – a rarity for elevators. But inside, there are more far-UV-C lights that sanitize the air. And there’s no talking in the elevator allowed, to minimize any particles spreading.

The elevator operator has their own voice recorded to direct your view and remind you to stay quiet for the 41 -second ride.

Guests can either get off at the level with the rotating glass floor, just added two years ago, or the top level, and be greeted by an iconic view.

“Because there are fewer planes flying, cars driving the air quality is amazing. It’s just stunning,” Olson said.

Additional glass doors to the outside have been added and all will be open to maximize air flow.

“We really believe this is one of the safest places to visit,” Olson said.

And there's more technology to back up that belief.

The Space Needle invested in several $35,000 “Surficide” machines. It is a more powerful, portable UV-C light that’s only turned on when no people are around to clean confined spaces like restrooms.

But the Space Needle also has a version of the more powerful UV-C now installed into its HVAC system — and it's the same technology hospitals use to create clean rooms.

Plus they have something called an electrostatic sprayer.

“It connects to molecules in the air, brings them to a surface, and then it can kill them,” Olson said. She said the device is in high demand worldwide.

“We’ve been closed for four months, there’s no revenue coming in. Yet we’ve still invested a million dollars in this. And this will be the new normal,” Olson said.

On a typical clear summer day, the Space Needle brings in 10,000 people . So being closed right now means a massive revenue loss. But Olson said making the call to invest in safety was an easy one.

“We always want to do what’s right, not rushed. We are a symbol of the city, we’re here for the long term, we’re stewards of a place people love,” Olson said.

The Space Needle is working with King County and the state to figure out a reopening date. As for when? “Hopefully soon,” Olson said.