1250 1st Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98134
In 1995, King County voters handily defeated a ballot measure to knock down the Kingdome and replace it with Safeco Field. Unlike nearly all of my friends, I voted to build the new stadium, so a year later when the Washington State Legislature decided to build the stadium anyway—a move that many people in the state have neither forgotten nor forgiven–I was secretly happy.
Now, every time I go to a game, I feel like I own the place. I feel as though I was the one who delivered the little green jewel into the heart of the Puget Sound and the twinkling city lights. I feel as though I created the haunting sound of the trains heading north in the middle of the 5th inning, as though I single-handedly discovered the wisdom of adding garlic to fries, as though I personally coached the peanut sellers in the stands to pitch their bags of salted nuts to the exact fans who signaled for them. In short, I feel as though I brought Safeco Field and its wonders into being with my one vote nearly 20 years ago, so I enter the field in my wheelchair as an owner.
I only get to a few games a year, but, even so, I know some things. I know that nearly everyone who works at the stadium will tell you to enjoy the game. I know about families in their matching Mariners caps and their shirts with different names on them. And I know those names. I know about the big heart of Jamie Moyer, the utter reliability of Dan Wilson, the base-stealing miracle of James Jones, the pleasure of Edgar stepping up to the plate, Ichiro’s amazing grace in the outfield, the sweet arm of an achingly young Felix, and, of course, everything about Ken Griffey Jr. especially that magical 2009 season. I know why the fans throw Monopoly money at A-Rod and why we all relaxed when John Olerud took his place at first.
Therefore, when Jay Buhner held the elevator door open for my pusher, our young friend and baseball guide Gabe, and me at the recent Padres game, I felt the reflected glory of The Bone’s presence and gallantry for a week.
Mariners’ games at Safeco Field are things of beauty, and they are accessible to all of us. The field’s website provides detailed information about services for disabled fans, so check the site out: http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/sea/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=ada_info
Parking: The parking structure across the skybridge to the ballpark is expensive at $20, but it is convenient. Also, parking attendants not only take your $20, they also give you clear, helpful instructions to get to the disabled parking spaces and always tell you to enjoy the game! Many handicapped spaces are reserved at the skybridge level, and you can call ahead to reserve one for yourself or take your chances on game day. From one of those spaces, it’s a walk (or roll) across the bridge and into the stadium, where a number of people will direct you to the elevator you need.
Entrances and getting around: There are no stairs, and the entrance at the skybridge level is wide, automatic, and open. The entry at the ground floor level is also easy.
Getting around in the stadium is a dream. Every passageway is wide, and Safeco Field staff are everywhere, helping you navigate the space, locate the next garlic fries opportunity, and estimate the distance to your seat. You don’t have to ask for help; they see you coming and offer it.
One of our favorite things to do when we’re there is to “walk” a complete circuit of the stadium. On warm summer nights, our circuit includes a trip up to the area that looks out into the city. This time, in our walk-around, Gabe noted how aware and careful of me others were, even though I was out of their site lines and how helpful people were in easing our passage through crowds or other bottlenecks.
This time, we also noticed that the “Edgar’s” area was accessed by stairs, but then we saw the elevator waiting to move people with mobility impairments down the steps and into the open area. It’s this kind of attention to detail—the apparent commitment to making every part of the stadium accessible—that makes a trip to a ballgame at Safeco Field such an anxiety-free experience for fans with less than perfect mobility.
Seating: We have had tickets for several spaces reserved for wheelchair users. These spaces are wide, easy to get to, and include seating for friends on both the left and right of the wheelchair traveler. They also all afford great views of the field. Occasionally, recycling or trash cans need to be moved to make access easier, but ushers are quick to help.
Restrooms: Restrooms are everywhere and all have accessible stalls located not too far from the door. In addition, there are family restrooms that allow you to bring in a helper and include grab bars around the toilet, high enough seats, and toilet paper that is a skootch far away for those of us who have difficulty bending but no problem with a little planning ahead.
Photos of interior space online: Not many on the Safeco Field website but many on Google Images. Most of them are of the field, itself and the players, though.
Photos of entrances online: Maybe on Google Images.
Reservations taken: You can call and talk to a human about seating, purchase tickets, and arrange to pick them up at the ticket office at the field. Or, you can now also buy your handicapped seating online and print out your ticket. If you call them, tell them Spoken Wheel highly recommended them! And don’t forget to call ahead to the Safeco Field Garage (206.346.4001, 10 days ahead of game day) and reserve parking on the skybridge level, especially if the stadium is expected to be full.
What the wheelchair pusher has to say: If every public place were as well laid out and as well-staffed with helpful people, we would see a lot more disabled people at public events. From the moment we turned into the parking garage, you could feel the anxiety level just disappearing. When we came to the skybridge and had our first conversation with the helpful staff, we felt welcomed and their enthusiasm washed over us. The walkways, the doorways, the elevators are as good as it gets. Leaving Safeco Field was as easy as arriving, with staff everywhere helping, and, interestingly, the fans were also very polite and aware of the wheelchair’s limited speed and turning ability. It’s also great to have a baseball guide like Gabe with you!
Photo credit: Picture of Jay Buhner, www.nbcnews.com