GOOGLE EARTH: View Safeco Field in Google Earth
The King County Council began seeking a new ballpark for the Mariners in 1994, since many people felt the Kingdome was one of the worst ballparks in the major leagues, a feeling justified by the fact that the acoustic tiles fell from its roof in mid-July and forced the Mariners to play all their games on the road until the 1994 strike brought the season to an untimely end. They recommended that a new ballpark be built with combined public and private financing from the county. In the midst of the Mariners' dramatic pennant chase of 1995, county voters rejected an increase in sales taxes by 0.1 percent to pay for a new ballpark. A month later - and with the Mariners continuing to threaten to move to St. Petersburg, FL without a new stadium - the council passed a different taxation passage without a public vote. Ground broke on the ballpark in March of 1997.
Perhaps Safeco Field's most unique trait is its retractable roof. Among ballparks with retractable roofs, only Safeco Field's doesn't completely enclose the stadium. So, while fans are protected from the rain, they are still seated in the open air. $1.3 million dollars' worth of public art is scattered throughout the ballpark, including a glass mobile of bats in the main home plate entrance and a display of major league teams' logos made out of license plates and soda cans.
Safeco Field is considered a pitchers' park, although it is slightly easier to hit a home run to right field than to left (a design quirk made as a nod to Ken Griffey Jr.'s power). Dimensions are 331' to left field, 390' to left-center, 409' to dead center, 387' to right-center, and 327' to right field. A hand-operated scoreboard makes up the left-field wall, which is 16 feet tall, twice as tall as the rest of the outfield wall.
The San Diego Padres faced the Mariners in the inaugural Safeco Field game on July 15, 1999. Jamie Moyer threw the first pitch - a called strike to Quilvio Veras. The Padres' Eric Owens had the first hit, and the Padres won the game 3-2. Two days later, the ballpark saw its first home run (the Mariners' Russ Davis), first grand slam (the Mariners' Raul Ibanez), and first Mariners win (9-1).
The ballpark has hosted playoff series twice, as the Mariners made it as far as the American League Championship Series in 2000 and 2001. It also hosted the 2001 All-Star Game, perhaps best remembered for Cal Ripken Jr.'s home run. Rafael Palmeiro reached 3,000 career hits with a double off the Mariners' Joel Pineiro at Safeco Field on July 15, 2005.
In 2015, Safeco Field became the first major league ballpark to be equipped with energy-saving LED lights to illuminate the playing field. the lights were expected to reduce energy by 60 to 70%.