Another city, another baseball park.
The lasting impression I have of Seattle's Safeco Field is that its blueprint must have been the one the Mets followed most closely when they designed Citi Field. (So much so that I'll have another post comparing certain striking similarities.)
For today, though, I'll just focus on Safeco Field - if you've heard, like I had, that it's a beautiful place to watch a baseball game...you've heard right.
At left you can see the home plate entryway to Safeco Field. It leads to a mini-rotunda, not really big enough for socializing - really only large enough for the stairway leading up to the main concourse level.
At that level are all varieties of concession stands (including sushi and the 'Ichiroll'), the team store, and the Mariners Hall of Fame, which includes the Baseball Museum of the Pacific Northwest. So even though the Mariners have a briefer history than most teams, they encompass more baseball history by including the region.
Art is prominent throughout Seattle (which is a really nice city), and that is reflected throughout the ballpark as well. The inside of the rotunda features a baseball bat overhang-decoration, and there are displays both in the floor and on the walls throughout the concourses.
There really isn't a bad spot to watch the game. On Tuesday night I sat out in the bleachers in center field (and moved all over the park), then Thursday night I sat behind the plate in great seats. (That's the view you see at left.) Unlike Citi Field, Safeco has a pretty open concourse right at the top of the rotunda, and the only closed concourses are towards the upper levels.
There are all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore at Safeco, too. Behind left field you can watch the game from behind the bullpens, where you are separated from the relief pitchers only by a gate. That's one of a couple of standing-room spots that offer good views. In the left-field wall there's a little bar where you get a hole-in-the-wall view of the action which quickly grows old, but is really cool when there's a hot shot to third, as I happened to catch Tuesday night. The upper deck offers not just a decent view of the game, but awesome views of Seattle and the surrounding mountains.
The structures in the park are cool, too. I can't really explain why, but I love this light
tower at the right. Maybe because it's pretty unique to the light towers you see at other parks...also, within Safeco it's the only standing tower - the other lights are built into the roof. The roof itself is a neat piece of the ballpark - it runs on tracks, and though I never saw it closed at the park (only from afar one morning when there was a threat of rain), I saw the mechanisms that make it work.
As a dad, I think about the family experience when I attend these parks. Safeco rivals Petco Park ("Where the Mets Go") in terms of fan-friendliness, in part because the fans at the games are pretty mild. There's interest in the game, but it isn't rabid. (Of course, it's hard to tell now, when the Mariners are playing poorly, but a security guard I spoke with said as much. "I hate these fans," he said.) There were little kids running around all over the upper deck, and like most of the new ballparks there is a kids' play area at Safeco - beyond center field. It looks really cool, though one of the play bubbles hangs out over the railroad behind the stadium and scares the heck out of me.
I loved being in Seattle, which is another draw to Safeco - and I loved the ballpark. Part of what made the trip enjoyable for me, too, was the fact that I went to two games at the park. Usually I try to cram all my observations into one trip to the game and I feel pressured. This time I did all of my exploring on Tuesday night, and Thursday night I was really able to enjoy the ballgame.
I guess the most ringing endorsement I can give to Safeco Field and Seattle is the fact that both the city and ballpark join the short list of ballparks to which I'd like to return.