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Safeco Field

 

Safeco Field (originally rendered SAFECO Field and sometimes referred to as Safeco) is a retractable roof baseball stadium located in Seattle, Washington. The stadium, owned and operated by the Washington-King County Stadium Authority, is the home stadium of the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB) and has a seating capacity of 47,116 for baseball. It is located in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood near the western terminus of Interstate 90.

 

During the 1990s, the suitability of the Mariners' previous stadium—the Kingdome—as an MLB facility came under doubt, and the team's ownership group threatened to relocate the team. In September 1995, King County voters defeated a ballot measure to secure public funding for a new baseball stadium. Shortly thereafter, the Mariners' first appearance in the MLB postseason and their victory in the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS) renewed a public desire to keep the team in town. As a result, the Washington State Legislature approved an alternate means of funding for the stadium with public money. The site for the stadium—just south of the Kingdome—was selected in September 1996, and construction began in March 1997. Construction lasted until July 1999, and the stadium hosted its first game on July 15, 1999.

 

Aside from the Mariners, Safeco Field is also used for amateur baseball events including the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association high school state championships and one Washington Huskies baseball game per season. Major non-baseball events that have been held at Safeco Field include the 2001 college football Seattle Bowl and WWE WrestleMania XIX, which set Safeco Field's attendance record of 54,097 in 2003.

 

Naming rights to the stadium are owned by Seattle-based Safeco Insurance. Safeco reportedly paid US$40 million to have its name on the stadium for 20 years.

 

Location and transportation

Safeco Field is located in the SoDo district of downtown Seattle, bounded by First Avenue S. to the west, and Edgar Martínez Drive S. (formerly S. Atlantic Street) to the south, S. Royal Brougham Way to the north, and BNSF railroad tracks to the east. The stadium is located near the western terminus of Interstate 90.

 

Parking is available at the stadium's parking garage is located across Edgar Martínez Drive, as well as other privately operated lots in the area. Public transportation is available along the arterial streets surrounding the stadium. Additionally, the Mariners sponsored a bus shuttle service operated by King County Metro before and after most games through 2008, as well as Sounder commuter rail service to nearby King Street Station before and after weekend afternoon games. The Metro shuttle service was suspended in 2009 due to a new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) rule. Safeco Field is also served by Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line via the nearby Stadium Station.

 

History

On March 30, 1994, King County executive Gary Locke appointed a task force to assess the need for a new baseball stadium to replace the rapidly-deteriorating Kingdome. Many feared that the Mariners would leave Seattle if a new stadium was not built. In January 1995, the 28-member task force recommended to the King County Council that the public should be involved in the financing of the stadium. The task force concluded that a sales tax increase of .01% would be sufficient to fund the stadium. King County held a special election in September 1995, asking the public for this sales tax increase. The measure was narrowly defeated.

 

On the baseball field that same month, the Mariners mounted a late-season comeback after being as many as 13 games out of first place and won their first American League West division title after winning a one-game tiebreaker against the California Angels. They went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, a series that was clinched on a memorable 11th inning double by Edgar Martínez. Despite the Mariners' subsequent loss to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, the late-season comeback and postseason run renewed the public's interest in keeping the team in Seattle. In particular, Martinez' double is known in Seattle today simply as "The Double" (à la Willie Mays' "The Catch") and is regarded by many as having "saved baseball in Seattle".

 

On September 9, 1996, the site was selected for the new stadium, just south of the Kingdome. In late fall, several members of the King County Council wrote a letter to the Seattle Mariners, stating that they did not believe that public money should fund this project. In response, Mariners ownership held a news conference stating that they would either sell the team, or move the team from Seattle. After a public outcry, the King County Council voted to reaffirm their cooperation with the Mariners in building a new stadium.

 

Construction officially began on March 8, 1997 with a groundbreaking ceremony featuring Mariners star Ken Griffey, Jr. The construction continued until July 1999. The first game in the new stadium was played on July 15, 1999 against the San Diego Padres. The Padres won 3-2.

 

Before the stadium was initially christened, the naming rights to the stadium were sold for advertising. Seattle-based Safeco insurance company paid $40 million for the naming rights for the ballpark's first 20 years. However, the acquisition of the Safeco company by Boston-based Liberty Mutual Group has opened the distant possibility that the name could be changed before the contract expires in 2019. However, experts speculate this will only happen if Liberty Mutual retires the Safeco name during that time.

 

When Ken Griffey, Jr., returned to Safeco in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds, he came to a hero's welcome, receiving gifts from the Mariners organization, and fellow former players Jay Buhner and Edgar Martínez. They unveiled a new poster that declared Safeco Field "The House That Griffey Built." The series was also noteworthy for the beginning of the Rally Fries tradition at Mariners games.

 

Features

Like most ballparks built from the 1990s onward, Safeco Field is a 'retro-modern' style ballpark that incorporates many of the features of ballparks built in the 1950s and earlier with modern amenities. In contrast with the Kingdome and the other multi-purpose stadiums built primarily during the 1960s and 1970s, Safeco Field featured a brick façade, an asymmetrical field dimension, a natural grass field, and spectator sightlines more suited for baseball, and is surrounded by city streets and/or buildings. On a modern note, the ballpark features a retractable roof, luxury suites, extensive food and beverage selection beyond traditional ballpark fare, and modern clubhouse amenities for players, as well as technology that allows spectators to order food delivered to their seat from their cell phone or Nintendo DS, and is fully ADA-accessible.

 

Unlike the Kingdome, whose small dimensions gave it a reputation as a hitter's park, Safeco Field has a reputation for being very friendly to pitchers.

 

Layout

The stadium has four main gates open to all ticket holders during Mariners games, located at the southwest, northwest, northeast, and southeast corners. These are identified as Home Plate, Left Field, Center Field, and Right Field, respectively. Entry to all ticket holders is also available through the Mariners Team Store off First Avenue. Special entrances for media and holders of certain ticket levels are located on the southwest and south sides of the stadium.

 

There are five main levels to the stadium: Field (or Street), Main Concourse (100 level), Club Level (200 level), Suite Level, and Upper Concourse (300 level). The Broadcast Center (press box) is located on the Club Level. As the field is approximately at street level, entry into any of the main gates requires visitors to ascend a flight of stairs, escalator, or elevator to access the main concourse, with the exception of Right Field, which opens onto the main concourse. Stairs, escalators, elevators, and ramps located around the ballpark provide access to all levels.

 

Food service

Safeco Field has an extensive food and beverage selection above and beyond the traditional ballpark fare of hot dogs, pizza, soda, and beer. Concession stands selling traditional ballpark fare are plentiful on the main and upper concourses. Food courts behind home plate on the main concourse, as well as in the Bullpen Market located on the street level inside the Center Field gate, sell items such as sushi (including the "Ichiroll"), burritos, teriyaki, stir-fries, pad thai, and barbecue. An extensive selection of beer can also be found in those locations, as well as a location on the upper concourse.

 

Several restaurants and food services are available exclusively for fans purchasing certain ticket levels:

The Diamond Club is located on the field level behind home plate. Diamond Club seats are located in the first eight rows behind home plate; holders of these seats are entitled to VIP parking in the Safeco Field garage, a private entry to the ballpark on the field level, and access to the Diamond Club Lounge with buffet and bar. The lounge is decorated with Babe Ruth memorabilia. Diamond Club seats are only sold on a full-season basis.

 

70 group and individual suites occupy an entire level of the ballpark. Open only to holders of suite level tickets, each suite features a private wait staff and concierge service. Holders of suite level tickets are also entitled to a private entry to the ballpark. Suite level tickets are available on a full-season, partial season, or individual game basis.

 

The Wells Fargo Terrace Club occupies another entire level of the ballpark. Open only to holders of Terrace Club seats and certain other ticket levels, the club features two lounges and wait service to each seat. As with suite level tickets, holders of Terrace Club seats are also entitled to a private entry to the ballpark. Terrace Club seats are also available on full-season, partial season, or individual game basis.

 

The Hit it Here Café is located in right field, on the same level as the Terrace Club. Open to all visitors before game time on a first-come, first-served basis (though season ticket holders may make reservations), the café is only open to holders of tickets in the café during games. Hit it Here Café tickets are only sold on an individual game basis.

 

Retractable roof

Safeco Field has a unique retractable roof that only acts as an "umbrella" for the stands and field rather than forming a complete climate-controlled enclosure, as is the case with all other retractable roofs in Major League Baseball. Seattle's relatively mild climate means the park rarely needs to be heated or cooled, but frequent precipitation necessitated a roof. The only other covered baseball stadium in the world with permanent openings is the fixed-roof Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan, home of the Saitama Seibu Lions.

 

In the open position, the roof rests over the BNSF Railway tracks that bound the stadium to the east, with part of it hanging over the stands in right field. This has the effect of echoing the horns from passing trains into the stadium, a frequent occurrence due to a working passenger train station and rail yards nearby. Consequently, train horns have become a fixture of the Safeco Field experience, for spectators and players alike.

 

The roof consists of three major sections that extend into the closed position in a telescoping manner, with the two outer sections resting under the larger center section. Each section rests on a set of parallel tracks located on the north and south sides of the stadium, with the outer sections moving along the inner set of tracks, and the center section moving along the outer set. Each section is structurally independent; i.e., no section depends on another for structural stability. "Welcome to Safeco Field, Seattle" is painted on top of the center section, visible from aircraft whether the roof is open or closed. A lighted "Safeco Field" sign was added to the east side of the roof in 2007, which aids in identification of the stadium from the freeways to the east.

 

Each section is independently powered by electric motors that move the respective sections along the tracks. It is controlled from a central control room located under the center field scoreboard. Depending on wind and weather conditions, the roof takes approximately 10 minutes to move from the fully open to the fully closed position, and vice-versa. The roof movement is nearly silent, blending in with the ambient noise typically present during a game. During normal operation, the movement of each section is governed by computers, with all three sections moving at the same time. During an emergency or maintenance operation, each section can be independently moved. A working spare motor and wheel assembly for the roof can be found inside the center field gate. In its present state, it serves to educate visitors on how the roof operates, but if needed, it can be used to replace a similar part on the roof should one become damaged or defective.

 

Ground rules concerning the roof

Batted ball striking the roof or roof trusses:

A ball striking the roof or roof truss in fair territory is judged fair or foul in relation to where it lands.

A ball striking the roof or roof truss in foul territory is a foul ball, regardless of where it lands.

A ball striking the roof or roof truss is still considered in flight, and the batter is out if legally caught by a fielder, regardless of where it struck.

Movement of the roof:

If the game starts with the roof open, it may be closed during the game if weather conditions warrant, and at the discretion of the home team. Play may continue during closure, unless the umpires determine it is necessary to stop play.

If the game starts with the roof closed, it may be opened during the game if weather conditions warrant. Opening the roof can only start between innings, after notification of the umpire crew chief. The visiting team may challenge the decision to open the roof, but final decision over whether to open the roof lies with the crew chief. The roof may only be opened once during a game.

 

Scoreboards

Safeco Field features a manual scoreboard, a light emitting diode (LED) video display from Daktronics, a main incandescent monochromatic matrix board, a color LED out-of-town scoreboard, and several incandescent monochromatic information boards. The old-fashioned manually operated scoreboard is located in left field, and is part of the outfield fence.

 

Also, between left & left-center fields, suspended over both bullpens, is a new (as of 2010) color LED out-of-town scoreboard. This scoreboard also displays pitcher information when a relief pitcher enters the game, identifies any pitchers that may be warming up, displays information such as an abbreviated box score of a selected out-of-town game, or statistical information such as season home run leaders. It also displays NHL, NFL and NBA scores during the parts of the baseball season that overlap with the regular season and/or playoffs of those sports.

 

The main scoreboard in center field contains the LED video screen and large monochromatic matrix board. The matrix board shows each team's lineup, the current batter's statistics, line score, and count. Smaller monochromatic information boards in right field display advertisements and other pertinent information, usually pertaining to pitchers (to be replaced in 2011).

 

Monochromatic scoreboards and fixed billboards are installed on the Terrace Club fascia, from near home plate down the left and right field lines. The scoreboards display the same information down the left and right field lines. They show, in order from home plate (to be replaced in 2011):

Score (runs only) and inning

Batter information and count

Outcome of previous at-bats of the current inning (this board shows the Safeco Field logo and time of day for the first at bat of the inning)

Pitcher name, pitch count, and pitch speed.

Time of day

A monochromatic numerical display in the left field corner shows the distance of a home run after one is hit.

Additionally, television screens showing the local telecast of the game hang from the bottom of the Terrace Club level, for spectators seated in the last several rows of the main concourse seating areas, as well as those standing on the main concourse. Though fans in these areas have a full view of the field, their view of the scoreboards is obstructed by the overhang of the Terrace Club level. These screens display the content shown on the video board between innings or when the telecast is on a commercial break.

 

Art in the park

Safeco Field and its adjoining parking garage feature extensive public art displays, including:

A chandelier made of 1,000 resin baseball bats

 

"Quilts" depicting each MLB team logo, made from recycled metal including license plates from the respective teams' states. Stainless steel cutouts of players in various poses while catching, batting, fielding, and pitching, integrated into the fences at the stadium's four main gates.

 

Sculptures depicting hands gripping baseballs for various types of pitches.

A 9-foot-tall (2.7 m) bronze baseball glove that has become an icon for Safeco Field.

A mural depicting Edgar Martinez's famed "The Double".

Children's Hospital Wishing Well which features a bronze statue of a child in batting position, and includes a geyser effect used at the beginning of games and when the opposing team hits a home run.

 

Baseball Museum of the Pacific Northwest

The Baseball Museum of the Pacific Northwest pays homage to now-defunct professional baseball teams that played in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia before the establishment of the Mariners in 1977. Additionally, it features hands-on displays explaining the composition of baseballs and bats, and the different types of gloves, as well as a replica outfield fence with props to allow fans to photograph themselves pretending to be outfielders.

 

Mariners Hall of Fame

Co-located with the Baseball Museum of the Pacific Northwest, the Mariners Hall of Fame features bronze plaques of the four inducted members (Jay Buhner, Alvin Davis, Edgar Martínez, and broadcaster Dave Niehaus). Those plaques describe their contributions to the franchise, as well as murals and television screens showing highlights of their careers with the Mariners.

 

Other features

The flagship Mariners Team Store is located on the west side of the stadium. The first level of the store, on the street level, sells a comprehensive assortment of Mariners merchandise, while the upper level, on the main concourse, displays game-used items for sale, as well as a custom jersey embroidery station. Other stores include the Kids' Clubhouse at the northeast corner on the main concourse, a walk-in store at the southwest corner on the upper concourse, and kiosks throughout the ballpark.

 

Children's Hospital Playfield is a playground for children located at the northeast corner of the stadium on the main concourse. Also located in this area is "Moose's Munchies", a concession stand selling ballpark fare in child-sized portions.

The Moose Den, located on the main concourse near the Children's Hospital Playfield, is a meet-and-greet area for the Mariner Moose, the team's mascot.

 

The Dave Niehaus Broadcast Center is located on the Club Level behind home plate. It is named after Dave Niehaus, who broadcast 5,284 Mariners games over 34 seasons (1977–2010). When Niehaus died, his headset and microphone were placed by his empty seat in the Broadcast Center as a tribute.

 

Safeco Field also gives walking tours of the stadium for a small fee. Departing from the main Team Store, the tour includes information about the stadium not generally provided at games, as well as entry into areas not open to the general public during games, including the visitors' clubhouse, playing field and dugouts, Dave Niehaus Broadcast Center (press box), and a luxury suite.

 

Notable events at Safeco Field

Major League

Safeco Field has hosted playoff games in two seasons: 2000, when the Mariners won the American League wild card; and again in 2001, when they won the American League West. In 2000, the Mariners defeated the Chicago White Sox in the American League Division Series 3–0, but were defeated by the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, 4–2. The following year, the Mariners defeated the Cleveland Indians 3–2 in the ALDS, but were again defeated by the Yankees in the ALCS, 4-1. The World Series has never been played at Safeco.

 

Safeco Field also hosted the 2001 MLB All-Star Game. The American League defeated the National League, 4-1. Cal Ripken, Jr. of the AL's Baltimore Orioles was the game's MVP. A bronze plaque in the visitor's bullpen now marks the location where Ripken hit the final All-Star Game home run of his Hall of Fame career.

 

On October 1, 2004, Ichiro Suzuki collected his 258th hit of the season at Safeco, breaking the 84-year-old single season hit record of 257 previously held by George Sisler. Sisler, who died in 1973 (the same year Suzuki was born), was represented at the game by his daughter, and 4 other family members. Ichiro would go on to finish the season with 262 hits.

 

On April 15, 2009, Ken Griffey, Jr. became the first (and only) player in franchise history to have hit 400 home runs. He homered in the 5th inning off the Angels' Jered Weaver, en route to an 11-3 triumph.

 

College baseball

On May 4, 2007, an NCAA Pacific-10 Conference baseball attendance record was set at Safeco Field (later broken),[13] when the Washington Huskies hosted defending conference champion Oregon State in front of 10,421 spectators.[14] Washington won the game 6–2.

 

Other

Safeco was the venue for the 2001 incarnation of the short-lived Seattle Bowl college football game.

On March 30, 2003, World Wrestling Entertainment held its flagship pay-per-view event, WrestleMania XIX, at Safeco. With the ring set near the location of second base, thousands of seats were sold on the field itself and the event set a stadium attendance record of 54,097.

On September 16, 2008, The Beach Boys performed in the stadium's first concert.

 

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Current MLB Park, Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners
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