Safeco Field is a baseball stadium in Seattle, Washington. It is the home to the National League Baseball team Seattle Mariners. The stadium, which opened in 1999, has a retractable roof and provides seating for around 47,000 people. Safeco Field, which is named as part of a 20-year deal with a local insurance company, is situated in the SoDo district, close to Interstate 90. Besides professional games, the field is also utilized by high school championships as well as seeing occasional use for football and wrestling.
Until the 1990’s, the Seattle Mariners played their home games at the older Kingdome, but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that this stadium was outdated and unable to cope with the demands of modern baseball. The group that owned the team went so far as to threaten to take it out of Seattle. An initial ballot measure to provide funding was defeated by the electorate of King County in 1995. Later that year, on-field success for the Mariners softened local attitudes, and the state legislature allowed other means of fund-raising. Construction of the new stadium commenced in the spring of 1997, ending in July 1999 with Safeco Field’s debut game coming just a few days later.
Naming rights to the stadium were sold for an estimated $40 million, but Safeco itself has recently been taken over by Liberty Mutual, meaning that it may at some point choose to substitute its own name before the 20-year deal is up. Men who had been instrumental in helping to get the new field built, such as Ken Griffey, Jr., have frequently been granted extremely warm welcomes when they have returned with other teams. The latest changes to the stadium came in 2013, with an improved scoreboard setup and fences being shifted a little closer to home plate. This change was seen as moderating Safeco’s perceived pro-pitcher bias.
When Safeco Field was being built, a trend was emerging for ballparks to have a retro feel, and the Mariners’ home follows this quite closely. It has a facade of bricks, similar to many 1960’s stadiums, as well as being located in a densely populated area rather than out of town. These features blend with more recent developments such as the roof and a number of corporate hospitality suites. The roof itself is not the all-enveloping, climate-controlled structure found in other stadiums, since Seattle does not have the extreme climate that would require this. Instead, it is primarily designed simply to keep rain and snow away from the field and spectators, to allow games to go on in inclement weather conditions.
Safeco Field’s scoreboard system ranks among the most impressive in any Major League Baseball Stadium. The field features no less than 11 different electronic screens, including an HD LED display that was installed in 2013. This is the largest in any MLB stadium, with a total area of over 11,000 square feet. Other scoreboards include an out-of-town display which keeps patrons updated with inning scores from other Major League games. Additionally, there are two play-by-play boards and several auxiliary displays. As a notable contrast to these modern screens, a manually operated scoreboard, worked by hand, stands just outside of left field.