The Mariners spent most of their existence at the bottom of the heap, and in the early 90's,
it was determined that the team could not keep playing in the Kingdome and remain
profitable. So a sales tax initiative was placed on the ballot in 1995, the same year the team
came out of its funk and delivered its first magical pennant season. The referendum was
defeated by a 50.1% to 49.9% margin, so slim that many constituents demanded that their
leaders come up with another way to save their beloved Mariners. So the state legislature
created a special facilities district, organized a financing package that did not involve
additional sales taxes, and out of this came the beautiful ballpark which was to become
Safeco Field.

This amazing ballpark opened mid-season, in July of 1999, and the Mariners have enjoyed
great crowds and universal adulation ever since. The stadium is located south of
Downtown (SODO for the locals), adjacent to the site of the former Kingdome, where now
rises a new stadium to house the Seattle Seahawks.

Going to the ballpark
When we did our first pass through the neighborhood to scout the site, we came away
somewhat disappointed. The area abutting the ballpark to the south and west is somewhat
dog-eared, lots of warehouses and industrial sites. No Addison and Waveland Street here,
but when you explore more intensely, you will find a district that greatly adds to the
ambience of this ballpark, and makes the experience complete. Walk a few blocks north,
and you are in the historic Pioneer District, cobblestone streets and an assortment of
coffee shops, taverns and micro breweries as well as several historic markers. On our
visit we saw a lot of earthquake damage here since these buildings are older and not built
to more rigid specifications. Nevertheless these streets held a certain special charm. The
ultimate party place near Safeco is directly across - the Pyramid Brewery, a huge sports
restaurant. Get there early though - the lines were out the door on opening day.

There are four major entrances to the ballpark, one in each corner. The main entrance
behind home plate is the coolest one to walk into. Once inside, you walk up a wide
staircase to the main concourse level, and overhead is a huge chandelier composed of
hundreds of opague baseball bats. At the top of the staircase in the floor is a beautiful
tiled reproduction of the Mariners logo, nicely floodlit, bearing the signatures of all the
players on the opening day roster.

Concourses
The entire 100 level concourse has a view of the playing field. In addition, above each of
the many concession stands are nice murals outlining the history of Seattle baseball,
going through the days of the PCL Rainiers, the Seattle Pilots short stay, and of course the
Mariners. Go to center field and you will find a children's team store, right adjacent to a
supervised playground and beautiful fountain, all sponsored by Seattle's Chiildren's
Hospital. Walk a bit further and you are in left field, where you can walk downstairs to the
ground level and the bullpen cafe. This area opens its doors before the rest of the
ballpark, and in addition to several concession stands, one can stand along a chain link
fence and look directly into the bullpens. So close one can actually shake hands with the
pitchers!

The Inside
The panorama of this stadium is absolutely splendid. The seating is broken down into field
level, suite, club level and upper deck seating, and there are separate bleacher areas in
left and center fields. Above the center field bleachers is the video board and main
scoreboard, and a changeable ad panel beneath. A huge dot matrix board dominates the
left field line, which displays out of town scores and can also be used for special effects.
In the left field corner is a hand operated board. A two level press box behind home plate
bears the slogan "Welcome to Safeco Field". There is also a large neon Safeco Field logo
above the left field bleachers. Beyond the left field rim is a terrific view of the Seattle
skyline.

The Roof
This stadium sports a retractable roof, but unlike its peers in other MLB parks, this roof
does not enclose the stadium, but simply serves as an umbrella to shield the fans and the
field from the elements. The left field side is open to the outside, so on a cool evening
sweaters and jackets are absolutely required. The roof is composed of three panels and
slides straight out above right field and over adjacent train tracks. At the end of the game
the Mariners invite fans to stick around and watch the roof close. On this night the
temperature dropped and we got to watch the show during the 4th inning. This alone was
worth the price of admission.

What made THIS Opening Day at Safeco so special? In the past three years the Mariners
have lost three marquee players - Johnson, Griffey and A-Rod, and anyplace else this
would just devastate a franchise, both on the field and at the gate. Yet the Mariners are
contenders and the fans are snapping up tickets. Why? All one has to mention is their new
leadoff hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, and their hot closer, Kazuhiro Sasaki. This city has gone totally
ape over their Japanese stars and embraced them as heroes. But that's not all - the
Mariners have established a firm Japanese connection. On this day we heard of charter
planes filled with fans coming in from Tokyo and Kobe to take in the game. Japanese media
and photographers were everywhere. AND, all 81 Mariners home games will be telecast
live back to Japan in HDTV format! The Ichiro merchandise was flying off the shelves.
It is incredible to believe that just nine years ago this franchise was in tatters, and Major
League Baseball was doing everything in its power to keep the franchise from going into
Japanese ownership, even if it meant moving the team to Tampa. Today it is this city's
proximity to Japan and its talented players that is making the Mariners a success, both on
and off the field.

SCORING:
Architecture 6.5
Concessions 7.5
Scoreboard 6.5
Ushers 5
Fan Support 7
Location 7
Banners/History 5
Entertainment 6
Concourses/fan comfort 8
Bonus
Ichiro Factor 2; Umbrella style retractable roof 2
Total  62.5
Safeco Field
#76   




Safeco
Field   




Seattle,
Washington   




April 2,
2001




Oakland
Athletics
at
Seattle
Mariners  
(Opening
Day)