Saturday, July 11, 2009

Justin's Review: Safeco Field

Ballpark Design:  The first and most obvious thing that you notice about Safeco Field, even before you walk in, is the roof.  Safeco Field has a retractable roof that is different from those at any other ballpark – not only because it looks completely different (it has very cool looking arches and trusses sticking out of the top of it), but also because it acts very differently than others.  While ballparks such as Houston and Arizona use their roofs to make their stadiums fully enclosed, allowing them to both stop the rain and air condition the ballpark, Seattle’s roof doesn't enclose the stadium; rather, it acts as an umbrella, working to simply keep the rain away.  Because of this, Safeco Field does not have the problem that others do, where the ballpark feels enclosed even when the roof is open.  While the relative openness of the ballpark is one great thing, there is a lot more to love at Safeco Field too.  It has all the important features that make other new ballparks so great – open concourses, good sightlines, and so on.  One of my favorite areas was the centerfield bar, open to anybody, and located at field level with awesome views of the bullpens and the field.  It’s definitely one of the cooler views in baseball, and having a place like that where people can meet for drinks and mingling before the game is very cool.  What else?  The rotunda that you enter behind homeplate is very cool looking, with a very bizarre sculpture made out of glass bats hanging above it.  The views of the city behind left field are nice, if not quite as impressive as in some other cities.  All in all, the stadium is just very well designed – the field itself might not have the same uniqueness and recognizablility as those in other new parks, but there is little else you can criticize about the park. A-

Scoreboard/Soundtrack: The main scoreboard hanging over right field has an average sized video screen and a larger matrix board, which combine to give all the primary information about the game, lineups, and individual batters.  A manual line score board in the wall in left field adds a nice touch (although I will say that I’m getting tired of teams trying to make stadiums seem “older” simply by adding manual board somewhere in the outfield wall).  The out of town scoreboard appears on a matrix board in left center field, and while I like the look of it, it was one of those frustrating boards that sometimes switches to just graphics after something happens in the game.  B+

Food/Drink:  Food options galore, with stands located all around the concourses, and all kinds of specialty food – garlic fries, sushi, barbeque, Mexican food, and plenty of coffee (of course).  We didn’t check out the upper deck, so no idea if the food options are as good up there, but at least on the lower deck you didn’t have to wander too far to find something good.  A bar featuring tons of beer options behind third base was also good (and the two bartenders, one a Yankees fan and one a Red Sox fan, were fun to talk to). A

Fans:  Unsurprisingly for a Thursday afternoon game, the crowd wasn’t huge – around 27,000 people showed up.  While it wasn’t the most energetic crowd ever, the stadium wasn’t quiet or dispassionate, unlike those at some other low attendance games we’ve been to.  While I can’t say it was a particularly impressive crowd, it’s easy to picture how, with a consistently good team, Mariners fans would be a big part of making Safeco a great place to watch a game. B-

City/Stadium Neighborhood: We spent two nights (and one full day) staying right in downtown Seattle and had a good time.  On one hand, downtown is definitely a business district first and foremost (we had a lot of trouble finding any place open to grab food after arriving at 10pm on a Wednesday night).  However, we spent quite a bit of time walking around on Thursday, and saw a lot of other people out and about and found a few cool places.  It certainly doesn’t have the same downtown vibrancy as New York or San Francisco, but there’s not doubt that it’s a very active and seemingly very fun city.  Safeco Field itself is located just outside the center of downtown, and is an easy walk from much of the center city.  Furthermore, it’s location right next to a train station appears to make getting to the ballpark from the outer parts of the city and region easier. City: B+/Neighborhood: B+

Game:  Ichiro started off the Mariners offense with a leadoff homer, and the team never looked back, scoring 4 runs in the first en route to a 9-3 victory.  It was never close, but 4 hit games by both Ichiro and Mike Sweeney gave us something to cheer for and kept the game entertaining throughout.  Not the best game, but it was fun to watch some really good hitters do their thing. B-

Overall:  Safeco Field is without a doubt one of the gems of the recent ballpark building boom, and going to a game on a beautiful day with the roof open was perfect.  Hopefully the Mariners can put a good team together soon, because going to a sold out game there is probably one of the better experiences in baseball. Even without a full house, it was one of my favorite stops on our tour. A-

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