Two teams threatened to move to Flordia in the 1990s. The Giants and the Mariners both almost became the Tampa Bay Giants or Mariners and only ownership, playoff runs, or glistening new ballparks stopped them. Since it opened in 2000, Pac Bell Park has hosted at least an average 35,000 fans per game, with its record low at 26,593 in April of 2009.
Safeco Field, meanwhile, opened in 1999 with attendance rising in the early part of the 2000s (playoff runs), but dipping under an average 30,000 fans per game since 2008. Last night, a game in which the Mariners made an improbably comeback after a rare dismal start by Felix Hernandez, only 13,056 fans showed up to the park–a new low. I would be surprised if one-third of them stuck around to see the walk-off win in the bottom of the 9th.
Designed by the same architect and in styles befitting their respective cities, both Pac Bell and Safeco feature amenities and luxuries our great-grandfathers never imagined in a stadium. Safeco’s retractable roof, city views, and stadium food crafted by well-known chefs should give fans plenty of reasons to stick around even through losing seasons. Some may say that the product on the field mirrors attendance, but compare San Francisco and Seattle again. In the time both parks have been open, the Mariners have finished out of first or second place 7 times and the Giants 6–comparable numbers, but not comparable attendance. Meanwhile, a center-field bleacher seat at Safeco Field costs all of $8 on game day, while at Pac Bell, the same seat may cost anywhere from $11-35 (dynamic pricing). Mariners games are still one of the best entertainment deals in Seattle: 3 hours for $8. Better than a movie.
Seattle fans: come out to the park! Even in a good year, your team will compete in the standings with three other teams at the highest level of the sport: your odds of leading the pack at the end of a 162-game season are slim even with a talented roster. It must be frustrating to be in a state of rebuilding. I know the Giants were lucky that some of their young talent bloomed quickly at the major league level, but our 2010 was also a work in progress. Yes, our rotation was the true star, but our offense had to find ways to win. Just like last night against the Jays, a team that grinds out at bats and makes the other team work will have success.
13,056 for King Felix is a joke. Even if the reigning Cy Young Award winner was nowhere near form, he’s still the reigning Cy Young Award winner for crying out loud! Again, it’s hard to watch a losing team. When we trotted out this Opening Day lineup in 2008, I didn’t think we would see the playoffs for a good five years. Let’s put this in perspective Mariners fans: your present lineup is far away better than that.
GO TO THE BALLPARK!