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    Beyond crackerjacks: 10 ways to fix Safeco Field

    What's worse than the Seattle Mariners' record? A fed-up super-fan's top 10 list of easy Safeco improvements.

    Dear Seattle Mariners,

    With average game attendance apparently destined to slide for a 10th straight year, why not consider my top-ten list below for ways to help turn this around and make Safeco and the team more appealing.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve followed the M’s since the team’s inception and my partner and I have owned a share of two box seats for more than 25 years. That means I’ve written checks totaling well into five figures – big money to me even though I realize it’s peanuts compared to what you spent on Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins.

    Okay, that was a cheap shot. The point is I have been a loyal and paying fan.

    For the record, Safeco Field is a gem compared to the Econodome. But there’s room for improvement in categories small and large. So without further ado, here’s my  list:

    1. Start providing WiFi, like they do in San Francisco and some other modern ballparks. This would be a marked improvement for fans whose cellular networks just don’t cut it, making it frustrating to look up stats and take advantage of popular apps like MLB At Bat and the like.

    2. Spring for those little paper cups to squirt ketchup and mustard into. Stack them at your condiment stations near concession stands. Anyone who has bought one of those large, soft hot pretzels knows what I’m talking about.

    3.  When you offer giveaways – magnetic calendars, bobble heads, caps, etc. – don’t be so stingy. If you’re doing a promo, be big-hearted. Do not, for example, limit your T-shirt Tuesday offer to the “first 5,000 fans”.

    4 Next time you decide to make infrastructure improvements, how about re-grading the 100-level to make rows steeper? No doubt you had engineers and architects weigh in when you designed sight lines and angles, but greed apparently triumphed. By installing as many rows as possible you may have maximized revenue, but you also sentenced those of us shorter than 6-feet to game-long head bobbing whenever a tall fan sits in the row below.

    5. Speaking of infrastructure, was it wise to spend $15 million on new signage, mostly for a dazzling Jumbotron scoreboard which at 11,425 square feet is the largest of its kind in baseball? I, for one, didn’t have a problem with the old one. Next time you have an extra $15 million lying around, how about using it to improve the team instead of making hydro race videos look cooler?

    6. But since you did spend all that dough to improve signage, you could be doing a way better job of exploiting all the extra real estate. For example, the hitter and pitcher info displayed under the “Hit it Here” Café in right field reads like a truncated Excel spreadsheet. Make things more accessible to ordinary fans! Over on the big board behind center field, how about dropping one of the abstruse batting stats – “OBP” (on base percentage) “SLG” (slugging percentage) or “OPS” (on-based plus slugging percentage) – and instead display “AB” (at bats) so we have important context.

    Also, I understand your hands may be tied by Major League Baseball’s ban against showing “close play” replays on the big screen, but everyone sees them at home – and even on your monitors installed along Safeco’s walkways. Unleash the Jumbotron!

    7. Tell us what’s happening during the game. Your public-address announcer does a super job of instilling fear – warning of arrest and jail time – when drunk fans are dumb enough to jump the rail and run naked across the diamond. But hey, how about providing timely  updates when a player is injured and has to leave the game. Or filling us in when an ump invokes some arcane rule and 90 percent of the fans are clueless. Those watching at home or listening on the radio quickly learn this stuff. Those of us who actually paid (a lot) for seats are left in the dark.

    This brings me back to my first tip – if you offered WiFi, at least those of us with smart phones could educate ourselves. But you shouldn’t need a smart phone to find out why, once again, Franklin Gutiérrez is headed for the disabled list.

    8. Respect your season ticket holders. A few years back you moved to “dynamic pricing,” meaning you re-priced individual games based on perceived market demand. So, for example, you charge more to see the Yankees than the Astros. But as season ticket holders, we are blind to such distinctions. For our group this year, the price per ticket worked out to a bit more than $42. (For the record, my partners and I forked over more than $6,800 for two season tickets – payable in full almost three months before the first pitch was thrown!)

    Yet when I recently visited Safeco to trade in a pair of tickets for another game, my $84 counted for only $64 worth of credit, because you arbitrarily decided to print $32 on the particular tickets I wanted to trade in. The nice woman at the exchange window explained that as a season ticket holder I had enjoyed a “special discount” – a discount I was forfeiting if I wanted to swap out tickets. Really? Season ticket holders should always receive full credit when they seek an exchange, dynamic pricing be damned. Case closed!

    9. Enough with the seat police. No doubt you had good intentions when you decided to position ushers at the top of the lower-bowl aisles. You equipped them with “courtesy signs” and orders to block fans from returning to their seats while play is in progress. Problem is, play has often resumed by the time some of those quarantined fans are allowed through. Plus, there’s nothing to stop fans from rising from their seats at any time, forcing others to stand and block views. Ask yourself how much of a “courtesy” this practice is for the fans forced to wait in the walkways with their overpriced beers and hotdogs balanced on a cardboard tray. Argghhh!?

    10. Okay, you knew this last one was coming, right? Just be better. With the M’s trailing Boston 9-0 in a particularly depressing game in early July, my friend Tim and I decided we’d had enough and left in the seventh inning. As we headed for the street, I told Tim I’d be writing this list and asked if he had any nominations. Tim did not hesitate: “Shitty baseball is the worst thing about Safeco, when it gets right down to it.” You have to agree: As the winning streak spanning the All Star break shows, a contending team could do wonders



    Any additions to Peter's list? Toss 'em into the Comments area below.

    Peter Lewis is a Seattle freelance writer and former Seattle Times reporter. You can reach him in care of editor@crosscut.com.

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    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 8:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    I agree with everything, Peter, but I'm afraid your list is plain naive. Whenever you watch the M's at Safeco, you have to think extortion FIRST. Once that notion is out on the table -- and you're cool with it -- then you go and hope for the best.

    I for one am a 30-year listener to the M's and going to the game is such a wonderful relief from hearing Rick Rizz every night that I really don't care how bad they treat me.

    And just so you know you're not the only naive M's fan, the current 9 of 10 run is something that I'm excited about . . . until, of course the M's face their toughest opponent: August.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 8:16 a.m. Inappropriate

    Most of us cannot afford Season Mariners tickets. I have another suggestion; instead of fiddling with the overpriced sports stadiums for the wealthy, why not put the next 15 million into the public schools?


    Posted Sun, Jul 28, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    Putting $15 million into public schools would be like putting $15 million in the toilet, pooping on it and then flushing it. The reason public schools are horrible has absolutely nothing to do with money.

    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 8:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    • Open the gates in time for home-team batting practice. You'll sell more beer.

    • Instead of having the DH always bat in place of the pitcher, have him bat in place of whichever position player has the lowest OBP. I mean, what the hell. Worth a try. Our pitcher in the batter's box might be disruptive and confusing for the opposing pitcher to the extent that our guy draws a walk.

    • Post all the fan cam video, including outtakes, on the Web after the game so people can save them.

    • Fewer hydros, more trivia — music and otherwise. In fact, more games of mental agility in general, like the hats-and-ball game. (BTW, remember when the race consisted of really slow sailboats, at the Kingdome?)


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 1:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Center Field Gate opens 2 and a 1/2 hours before game time and I think the M's are still having batting practice then. Beers are only $5 in the Pen until 1 hour before the game which is a pretty good deal...


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

    I can do without the music and silly games on the big screen.

    Trivia that is about baseball would be fine.

    The stadium itself seems poorly designed. When walking along the concourse, there are terrible bottlenecks at practically every vendor. Other arenas and ballparks somehow figured out that cueing people need room and created space to accommodate this.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 10:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    Cutting off beer sales at the end of the 7th inning is just plain cruel. Fans need to be able to drown their sorrows.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 10:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    Safeco Field is just a massively-expensive mistake.

    It was built in the wrong location -- it should have been built in the north parking lot of the Kingdome, where you could have seen downtown Seattle up-close over the left-field fence.

    It should have been smaller. It is way too big and has far too many (empty) seats.

    They should have left off the hideous retractable roof, which added over $100 million to the cost and is entirely unnecessary. Because of the roof, there is that high, wide wall in left field to hold the tracks the roof runs on. This high wall blocks views out of the stadium and prevents anyone from ever hitting a home run literally "out of the park."

    They should have built a smaller, roofless, park --like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park -- in the north parking lot, with a great view of downtown Seattle and the King Street Station clock tower, and with a low left field wall over which betters could hit home runs "out of the park" onto King Street. That would have been a park which would have attracted fans even when the M's were bad, just as Wrigley Field and Fenway park have done over the years.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 1:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    Updates ate neither timely nor correct at home when they come through Dave Sims


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 1:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    Oh yeah...forgot to mention that Dave Sims needs to go! What a moron! He was interviewing Felix one day and asked him if he ever thought about putting on a yellow KING shirt and sitting in the King's Court on a day he wasn't pitching and Felix had to point out to him that they only have the King's Court when he's on the mound... DUH!


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 2:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    What BenJammin said.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 4:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    I just got back from another summer trip to another series of ballparks in other major league cities. While the M's suffer on the field, and the fans suffer from dealing with another summer of mediocre product, the M's do one thing really well: Safeco Field.

    It is a gem for the baseball fan like no other in the game. It's clean, it's accessible, it's maintained, it's functional, it's got amazing concourses, fantastic vistas from the decks, decent food, options available to not spend a ton of $$$ if you're frugal, and ZERO bad seats.

    We are spoiled here in Seattle with this park. It's unfortunate that we have such a difficult team to root for in its confines. While everything can always be improved upon, and this club has PLENTY of things to complain about with regards to how they do things on and off the field, the stadium and the fan experience available there is one of the best things going in professional sports.

    Posted Sat, Jul 27, 2:10 a.m. Inappropriate

    I agree - the park is "dope"...it's what is on the field (and in the office) that is the problem.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 10:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    In a capitalist country the Mariners must be doing something right if they can persuade people like Peter Lewis and his partners to fork out $6800 for 2 season tickets to the Mariners.


    Posted Sun, Jul 28, 10:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    Sports fans are such whining babies.


    Posted Mon, Jul 29, 9:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    I take it MichaelInSeattle is either well off financially or doesn't have any kids. Just tar the public school system with a bad brush and forget educating the kids properly. You can take your stadium and toss it down the toilet; it does nothing to advance our societies need for educated, thoughtful, citizens capable of running a democratic society.


    Posted Tue, Jul 30, 5:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Peter: Maybe you could get the unpaid intern who writes headlines for Crosscut to change it to Safeco FIELD in the headline. You know, just to make the site look a bit more credible.


    Posted Wed, Jul 31, 4:07 p.m. Inappropriate

    Dump the roof. Yes, it will never happen. But Safeco baseball suffers from the oppressive metal monster just beyond the outfield. Open to the sky with more possibility of a view, Safeco will seem more like a baseball park than a space about to be overrun by a massive urban renewal project. The weather isn't that bad in Seattle. Try sitting through 50 degrees and fog on an August night watching the Giants in SF.

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