NAME: T-Mobile Park (Formerly Safeco Field)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Opened: 15 July 1999
Architect: NBBJ/360 Architecture
Cost: $517 Million
Capacity: 47,116 (original)
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass/Perennial Ryegrass Blend
T-Mobile Park is, like Seattle itself, a really good combination of some pretty unrelated things. Like so many of the ballparks we'll be profiling in this series, this "new" park was built to replace a large, multi-purpose stadium with artificial turf, ideally to bring some of the beauty and romance back to baseball. (One of my favorite lines is "Baseball is played in a ballpark; stadiums are for gladiators.")
By 1994, Kingdome was reaching the end of its useful life, and the Mariners owners had been lobbying Seattle for a new park. After decades of losing baseball, Seattle residents had no incentive to dump a ton of civic funding into a new ballpark for their team, and so ownership made the classic threat "build us a new park or we'll move the team."
But by then the Mariners now had something they hadn't had in years: hope. It came in the form of Ken Griffey, Jr., one of the best players to ever swing a bad. (On the back of The Kid's sweet swing, the Mariners made it to the postseason in 1995 (losing to Cleveland in the ALCS) and again in 1997.)
After initially being voted down, the resolution for a new park was ultimately passed, and a site just south of the Kingdome was selected. Safeco Field, "The House that Griffey Built" was opened the day after the All-Star Break, July 15, 1999. (The first half of the Mariners' season was played in the Kingdome.)
Sadly for all concerned, that half-season would be the last Griffey would play in the house he built -- he was traded to the Reds during the 1999-2000 offseason.
As for the park itself, it rides the line well between creating a classic/retro feel, while having all the modern amenities, including a retractable roof which -- in a city with more than 150 days per year of measurable rain -- is not a bad idea.
The sightlines are good, and it has an above-average food selection. Due to a heavy Japanese-American population in Seattle and the long career there of my favorite baseball player Ichiro, the ballpark offers sushi, teriyaki, stir-fry, and good seafood options.
Seattle is one of the great cities in America. It's worth a trip there for any reason you can find. But while you're there, do what you can to catch a game at T-Mobile. You may even catch a glimpse of Ichiro, make sure you tip your cap if you do.
For a great history of the Seattle Mariners (touching a bit on the battle to get Safeco Field built, I highly recommend this incredible series by Jon Bois: