July 19, 1994: About two hours before the start of a doubleheader between the Mariners and Orioles, the games are officially postponed before fans can enter the stadium. Four tiles from the ceiling of the Seattle Kingdome had fallen into the stands, leaving officials to declare the site unsafe. The tiles had come loose because of the stadium’s bad roofing system, which had taken on too much water. As each of the Kingdome’s 40,000 tiles were individually replaced, the stadium was temporarily shut down, and the M’s played their final 20 games of the campaign on the road. (It would have been a lot more had the 1994 players strike not ended the season.)
That incident would be the beginning of the end for the Kingdome. It would last as home of the Mariners for five more seasons—and as home to the Seattle Seahawks for six more. (The Sonics also played their NBA games there from 1978-85 but returned to the Seattle Center, as the Kingdome didn’t provide much of a home-court advantage.) The Seahawks exited after the 1999 season, and the Kingdome was imploded the following March. Work began at that time on the same site for what is now Lumen Field, which was christened in 2002.
Safeco Field, now T-Mobile Park, debuted as the Mariners’ new home on July 15, 1999. The Seattle Times ran a feature on the ballpark’s anniversary and reminded us that—as nice as the place with the retractable roof is—there was some public resentment when it opened. Safeco cost $500 million to build, and it only happened after a financing plan was “thrashed out” by the Washington Legislature after a different public-private plan was narrowly shot down at the polls. It took until 2015, 15 years after the Kingdome was blown up, for King County to pay off the municipal bonds that were issued to construct the facility.
The 1990s saw a lot of retro-style ballparks being built in America, and Safeco Field was part of that wave. There’s also this from the Times: “When the gates opened, more than 40,000 saw the Seattle Symphony Orchestra play the theme from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” while the roof opened. It would be appropriate to play that piece again if a World Series game ever comes to T-Mobile Park.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)