Safeco Field: Baseball Gameday Guide


Safeco Field—"The Safe" to Mariners fans—is the heart of the industrial SoDo area south of downtown. Just steps away from CenturyLink, home of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks and Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders, this stadium-centric neighborhood has a bit of a split personality. It's quiet most days but comes to life when the teams are playing at home.

Streets named for legendary Seattle sports figures buzz on game days as fans swarm to packed watering holes, outdoor beer gardens and bocce courts before the first pitch. No matter how the M's sit in the standings, home games are big hits for spectators of all ages, including a huge contingent of youngsters belonging to the Mariners Kids Club.

The feel-good party vibe continues inside the stadium, a venue widely recognized as serving some of the most inventive ballpark fare in the major leagues. Seattle celebrity chef Ethan Stowell helps shape a diverse menu that includes grass-fed beef burgers, wings doused in locally produced pepper sauce and barbecue featuring sustainably raised pork.

The ballpark with its retractable roof—yes, the famous Seattle rain is sometimes in play—debuted in 1999 to replace the Kingdome (the Do in SoDo, which originally was short for south of the dome), an aging concrete eyesore that had been home to the M's since the team landed in the city in 1977. Safeco Field is an architectural gem situated to showcase knockout views of Elliott Bay and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to the west and the impressive city skyline to the north. Seasoned spectators know to bundle up for often-chilly outings early in the spring, where to find the best parking spots and just how far they can wander to satisfy a culinary craving before or after the game, handy tips we're going to share.

QUICK LINKS WHAT TO DO BEFORE A SEATTLE MARINERS GAME

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Most fans make a day of it, arriving early enough to soak up the lively scene in and around the stadium, arriving by car to find parking in lots off First Avenue or taking public transportation. From the downtown Westlake station, it's a 10-minute light-rail trip to the Stadium stop. The extensive assortment of dining and drinking destinations in and around Safeco means there's something for everyone, from dim sum in the International District to trendy bites in the revitalized Pioneer Square.

WHERE TO GET A BEER
Pyramid Alehouse | This venerable brewpub is party central on game days, when its parking lot morphs into a busy beer garden. Even when the place crowded, the savvy staff is genius at filling orders swiftly. On a warm day, a pint of Hefeweizen is always a good call. The brewery is credited with helping bring that wheat beer into the mainstream when it opened its doors in 1984. Don't miss the barbecue pizza with smoked Provolone, chunks of chicken and a slightly sweet, apricot ale-spiked sauce.

WHERE TO GO WITH A GROUP
Henry's Tavern | This bar and grill sports a huge outdoor patio dedicated to drinking, dining and bocce. There's a rotating selection of 100 local micros and popular macros on tap and a sizzling lineup of meats on the grill. Henry's is rightly famous for its juicy ground-chuck burgers, while french fry aficionados will want to try an order of poutine, gravy-and-cheese-topped waffle fries.‚Äč

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD SPOT
Triangle Pub | This historic throwback dating to the city's beginnings is truly triangle-shaped and plenty crammed on game days, but the bartenders are brilliant at getting cheap, thirst-quenching beers out quickly. Step onto the patio for prime people-watching and an expertly grilled sausage from the Hot Dog King, an on-site vendor.

WHERE TO GET ROWDY
FX McRory's | A long-time crowd favorite, this classic steak, chop and oyster house with an Irish accent scores high marks for its well-stocked whiskey bar and rambling lounge area that spills out onto a sunny deck. Throughout the place, you're likely to spot guys and gals wearing Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano jerseys, while feasting on a thick prime rib and cheddar dip or slurping Northwest oysters on the half shell in between shots.

WHERE TO HAVE A SIT-DOWN MEAL
Bar Sajor | This critically acclaimed cafe in Pioneer Square from award-winning chef Matt Dillon specializes in wood-fire cooking, including spectacular spit-roasted chicken and seasonal preparations of local produce. Hard-core foodies like to linger in the pretty dining room, but it's also possible to have a meal in about an hour in order to make it to the game. Casual attire is cool, but reservations are essential.

WHERE TO GET CAFFEINATED
Caffe Umbria | In a city awash in artisanal espresso, this roastery on Occidental stands out for its distinctly European approach to crafting cappuccinos and lattes. That delicious mission extends to the rainbow of creamy gelato, toasted panini and a well-chosen Italian beer and wine list.

CAN YOU TAILGATE AT SAFECO FIELD?
No. There's no space dedicated to tailgating at the stadium, but the block party-like pregame atmosphere at the nearby Pyramid Alehouse works fine for most fans.

WHAT'S NEARBY?
The International District, which includes Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon, is a historic neighborhood filled with interesting shopping and dining options. For a quick pregame bite, check out the fun food court at Uwajimaya, an Asian supermarket a 10-minute walk from the stadium.

Pioneer Square, the city's first neighborhood, is home to the historic Merchant's Cafe, one of the oldest businesses in Seattle, and Salumi, a world-famous, weekday-lunch sandwich shop started by Mario Batali's father, Armandino. The revitalizing hood is quickly becoming a dining destination for food enthusiasts as ambitious chefs open new restaurants in vintage buildings.

INSIDE SAFECO FIELD

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There's a whole lot of excitement surrounding a trip to this inviting ballpark, and the energy is infectious inside the stadium as fans move toward their seats. Before settling in, be sure and check out the views from the 300 level, the play area for the kiddos and the all-star caliber concessions in The 'Pen.

WHERE TO SIT
There's not a bad seat in the place, even from the 300 level, which enjoys a full sightline of the action on the field as well as views of the downtown skyline and nearby Beacon Hill. Some fans prefer soaking up the afternoon sun in the outfield bleachers—here you'll also find picnic tables where you can eat and without missing a pitch. Many fans buy tickets for the cheap seats and gravitate to The 'Pen, a popular concessions area bordering the bullpens, where you can stand along the rail and watch the relief pitchers warm up. There's also a family-friendly seating area where alcohol isn't allowed, in Section 104.

Safeco Field Seating Chart

BEST FOOD
The 'Pen | Think of this center-field dining hub as the coolest collection of concessions in the Major Leagues, with stands featuring menus by celebrity chefs, including hometown favorite Ethan Stowell. Besides his Hamburg + Frites stand and the exceptional Apizza from Connecticut pizza legend Bill Pustari, don't miss the new Swinging Wings, which serves up a decadent creation called Dirty Tots. That's Tater Tots smothered in crispy pork belly, sweet-hot Mama Lil's peppers and Beecher's cheese.

BEST LOCAL VENDOR
Kidd Valley | During any given home game, it seems at least half the fans in the stands are munching on the famous fragrant Garlic Fries from this burger chainlet near Section 117.


BEST BEER IN SAFECO FIELD
Short Stop | This stand near Section 129 is now featuring cask-conditioned ales, the non-carbonated beverage beer geeks get very excited about. An extensive selection of local micros are featured at numerous stands around the stadium.


WHERE TO EAT HEALTHY
The Natural | This stand near Section 131 serves gluten-free options, along with a spread of vegetarian and vegan dishes including a tasty, meatless frankfurter created by Seattle-based Field Roast. Wash those sandwiches down with an organic fruit smoothie.

BEST STADIUM BAR
Edgar's Cantina | Named for the Mariners' beloved Hall-of-Famer, this fun spot offers amazing cocktails created by Seattle bartender whiz Anu Apte, as well as a menu filled with food truck-inspired tacos and tortas. You might even spot Edgar Martinez cruising through the often-packed place just beyond left field.

OTHER THINGS TO SEE WHILE YOU'RE HERE
You'll find evidence of baseball's deep roots in the area in the Baseball Museum of the Pacific Northwest display on the main concourse near Section 131. Seattle has a rich history in the sport, dating back to the 1930s, when the Rainiers played. The interactive museum, where you can touch bats and pose for photos in front of a backdrop that looks like you're in the game, also features the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, with looping video tributes to some of the franchise's most revered icons, including the late broadcaster Dave Niehaus.

Safeco Field Tours

MARINERS GAMES ON A BUDGET

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Like most sporting events, going to a ball game can be a big splurge—especially with beers that go for $8 or more and hot dogs that will set you back $6. But there are some pretty good deals inside Safeco if you know where to look.

WHERE TO GET A CHEAP BEER BEFORE THE GAME
The 'Pen | Doors open 2 ½ hours before game time, and the first 90 minutes is happy hour in The 'Pen, with a huge selection of 16-ounce beers priced at $5. On Fridays, a special keg created just for the event is tapped at 6 p.m., and cask-conditioned ale is $5 until the beer runs dry.

BEST CHEAP BITES AROUND SAFECO FIELD
Food trucks on Occidental | The street across from the stadium's north entrance is lined with mobile cafes offering everything from barbecue and burgers to tacos and hot dogs. Competition is heated, which brings prices as low as $3 for a hot dog, especially as game time draws near.

BEST CHEAP MARINERS TICKETS
Discounts are offered for multigame packages, but one of the coolest deals is a $30 seat in a special section known as the King's Court, which includes a T-shirt and a K card (a big card with a letter K on it to hold up when strikeouts are thrown). The Court is only in session when pitcher Felix Hernandez is on the mound, so dates vary. Grand Slam Family packages are available on select dates and include a ticket, a hot dog and a Pepsi with prices starting at $15.

SAFECO FIELD WITH KIDS

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Safeco Field is super family-friendly; the stands are filled with pint-size fans who cheer for the team, try to catch foul balls and break out their best dance moves for roving camera operators who capture aww-worthy moments on the Jumbotron.

WHERE TO GO BEFORE THE GAME WITH KIDS
The Moose Den | The Mariners' huggable mascot has a snug spot where he hangs out for photos with fans before and during the game, on the main concourse in center field, near Section 191. It's just steps away from the popular Play Field jungle gym area, which has benches for Mom and Dad.

BEST FOOD FOR KIDS
Moose's Munchies | This kid-centric concessions stand near the Kids Play Field features pint-size portions at special prices. A full-meal deal including a hot dog, a drink and a cookie or chips is $7. For something sweet and creamy, head over to Kidd Valley for a milkshake or SoDo Frozen Yogurt, near Section 152.

WHERE TO GET AUTOGRAPHS
Fans of all ages are invited to get close to the field during batting practice in the seating areas behind the dugout, and players occasionally oblige polite requests, but the best bet is to sign up for the Kids Club. After paying $15 to join, the youngest fans get goodies like a cap, backpack and discounted tickets, as well as invitations to exclusive autograph sessions with the players.

NEED A BREAK DURING THE GAME?
The busy Playfield near Section 191 sports a cool climbing structure, where kids can meet and play with fellow fans. Moms can find a quiet spot for breastfeeding in a lounge at Guest Services near Section 128.

WHERE TO BUY GEAR FOR THE KIDS
The Kids Clubhouse is located near the Play Field. It features a wide assortment of M's-emblazoned clothing, toys and gear for the aspiring ballplayer in your family.

WHAT TO DO AFTER A SEATTLE MARINERS GAME

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Win or lose, most people head home, hoping to beat traffic. But it's also easy to find fans celebrating—or commiserating—at bars and restaurants around Safeco Field.

WHERE TO KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Sluggers | This classic pub near the stadium is often packed with sports fans seeking beer—it has dozens of taps—and a snack before calling it a night. Beware: If you start reading the historic clippings plastered all over the walls, you might get sucked into staying for hours.

WHERE TO GET A POSTGAME MEAL
Shanghai Gardens | This spot-on Chinese restaurant in the I-D (short for International District) is a great place to go big before going home. Come in with a group and order a bunch of dishes to share, family-style. The hand-shaved barley green noodle stir-fries are worth the 10-minute walk from the park.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO NEARBY?
Beyond the bars that cater to crowds pre-game, there's not a lot in the way of nightlife in the area. Pioneer Square's club scene is hit or miss, and the neighborhood can feel a little sketchy when the game crowds clear out.


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Seattle-based food writer Leslie Kelly, who been a Mariners fan since the Kingdome days, writes for various publications and Web sites including Zagat Seattle. A longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, she also spent a few years soaking up the flavorful food culture of the South while working for a newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, where she trained to become a barbecue judge.