Safeco Field, built in 1999, was long considered one of the best major league ballparks in the country. Its downtown Seattle location boasts easy, multi-modal accessibility and the venue is well-integrated into the fabric of the surrounding city. Since its opening, the ballpark has been operated and maintained by the Seattle Mariners under a 20-year lease with the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District (PFD)—the public entity that owns Safeco Field. When the partnership decided a few years ago that it was time for an upgrade, they asked the question all cities ask: perform improvements or build new? While some teams decide to move on (e.g., Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves), the Mariners were set on staying put.
The partnership called in B&D to maximize their asset by developing a deep, actionable understanding of their long-term capital improvement liability. In short, what would it take to keep Safeco first-class for the next 20 years?
B&D teamed with Populous to direct an interdisciplinary team of experts including Thornton Tomasetti, Inc.; M-E Engineers, Inc.; Diversified Systems, Inc.; and The Bigelow Companies, Inc. This consulting team advised the Mariners and PFD, first looking at the improvements that would be necessary to maintain Safeco Field in a first-class manner through 2036. The recommended improvements included replacing roof components, food service interiors, interior and exterior signage, and the sound reinforcement system. The team also advised on upgrade improvements designed to enhance and maintain the spectator experience and ensure the economic life of the facility—which included expanding the existing parking garage, adding art to the ballpark’s exterior, adding a brewpub and “tree house,” and reconfiguring the club level. Finally, the team performed a benefits analysis to understand and quantify the economic and fiscal benefits generated by the operation of Safeco Field.
This past spring, an update to the initial assessment was released, looking at the long-term capital needs requirements for 2037 to 2041. The long-term cost liability for necessary and upgrade improvements at the ballpark, which were identified by the assessment weighed heavily on negotiations regarding the Lease renewal. In December 2018, the Mariners and PFD announced that they had finalized a new 25-year ballpark lease agreement. The joint Mariners–PFD partnership achieved much of what they wanted, including funding from King County. The partnership is now well-positioned to finalize the terms of the agreement, and move forward.