The antithesis of the Kingdome: Seattle’s new ballpark

SEATTLE — I paid my first visit June 23 to what is now T-Mobile Park, a delightful place for a baseball game near the shore of Puget Sound. The day was glorious, a Wednesday afternoon in a seam between two heat waves dominating the American West in transition from spring to summer.

With the sun out in full and the temperature at a just-right 75 degrees, the roof was rolled back exposing a cloudless sky and letting a light breeze waft into the stadium. Nearly 30 years had passed since I last saw a Mariners game in Seattle, and the contrast between the new park and the old concrete monstrosity that was the Kingdome could not have been more plain.

With the roof rolled back, T-Mobile Park showed off a cloudless sky June 23, 2021.

It seems the architects who designed T-Mobile (née Safeco) Park tried as hard as possible to throw off the old look, chucking the artificial turf along with the fixed dome. I salute them for doing so.

Arriving about 45 minutes before game time, my son and I checked out the statue of Ken Griffey Jr. outside the park and walked to the left-field entrance. We visited the nicely-appointed team gift shop. While my son grabbed a Mariners cap in “Northwest green” (“teal” to all but the color-blind), I resisted a strong urge to buy a Seattle Rainiers cap.

Junior and I, at the home plate entrance to the park just south of downtown Seattle.

We walked the concourse around the stadium on the 100 level. Social distancing directional signs are in place as COVID begins to release its grip. I was surprised that the park is relatively light on side shows (cp. Oracle and Comerica parks). The Mariners Hall of Fame was disappointing, centering on video displays on each player that didn’t hold my interest. Forgive me for being a traditionalist who prefers to see a game-used glove or a copy of the player’s first professional contract.

Concessions were standard fare, and the one crab shack that appeared to be local was closed for the game. I didn’t look hard, but there seemed to be a reasonable selection of craft beers on offer.

We sat six rows from the field in Section 142, a bit behind third base but close enough to watch Kyle Seager chatting up the umpire and the Rockies third-base coach throughout most of the game. We also had a great view of a flying spear M’s shortstop J.P. Crawford made early in the game.

Colorado starting pitcher Germán Márquez was perfect into the sixth inning until Taylor Trammell homered for the Mariners’ first hit. The Rockies would go on to win 5-2, but the Mariners made it interesting in the ninth. Seager, hitting into a shift, thwarted it by pushing a bunt past the pitcher toward third base. But the rally died quickly.

Although the home nine didn’t win, the game was a pleasure, wrapping up in 3 hours — relatively swift in this era of interminable pitching changes.

How to rate the park? It’s impressive, but I rank it in the second echelon with the new Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. All three are clean and modern, but they fall short of the charm of similar parks in Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, each of them surrounded by striking views of their cities.

Please note that my impressions of T-Mobile Park are limited by the short experience of one day game. I should come back on a rainy day, when the roof is rolled over. I probably would appreciate the park even more.

View of the field from the 100-level concourse, 10 minutes or so before the first pitch.

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