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Sunday, July 5, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The New Ballpark / One Year Away -- Greener Pastures -- Q & A

Seattle Times News Services

Q. When will the new stadium open?

A. The scheduled opening is next July. The exact date won't be determined until the 1999 American League schedule comes out, but the likely target is the first home game after the All-Star break. Season tickets will be sold assuming that half the 81-game home schedule is played in the Kingdome, and half in Safeco Field. If the opening is delayed, ticket holders will get credit for extra games played in the Dome.

Q. How many seats in the new ballpark?

A. The ballpark will seat about 45,600 people - nearly 15,000 fewer than the Kingdome. The exact number won't be set until the seats are installed early next year. The total includes 4,222 seats on the private "Terrace Club," as well as seats in 67 luxury suites. There will be about 24,000 seats in the main concourse and 16,000 in the upper deck.

Q. How much will they cost?

A. These prices have been announced for 1999: Luxury boxes will cost $75,000 to $145,000 a year, depending on location. The most-expensive individual seats, 352 seats in a special section behind home plate, will cost $100 to $195 a game. And 966 seats will be sold as charter seats, meaning patrons will have to pay between $12,000 and $25,000 for the right to buy the seats for the next 20 seasons. At the other end of the scale, about 5,000 bleacher seats will be sold for $5 each. Other seats will cost $25 and $28 on the first level, and $13 and $16 in the upper deck.

Q. What are the dimensions of the stadium?

A. Left field is 331 feet from home plate; right field is 326 feet. The power alleys are 390 feet in left center and 386 in right. Center field is 405 feet from home plate, but because the outfield is assymetrical, the deepest part of the field, in left center, is 422 feet from home. Estimates are that a home run that carries 460 feet into left could clear the ballpark and end up on Royal Brougham Way.

Q. Will the park favor hitters or pitchers?

A. The distances are long enough to mean there won't be cheap home runs. But a tradeoff was made in order to get the crowds close to the action and give the park an intimate feel: Foul territory is relatively small. So pitchers won't get a break with lots of foul balls caught for outs.

Ken Griffey and Jay Buhner also have an eight-foot wall from

left-center into the right-field corner against which they can attempt leaping catches.

Q. How will the retractable roof work?

A. With a push of a button, the three-section roof will either expand over the stadium or retract over the railroad tracks just to the east. The roof action is expected to take about 20 minutes under normal conditions, a little longer if wind conditions require it to move more slowly. Details of when it will be used to cover the field are still being worked out, but the Mariners expect to suspend game action when it is moving, as the roof likely would be a distraction. On a rainy day, the roof would be closed in mid-afternoon so the teams could practice under game-like conditions. If rain starts while a game is being played, an inning would have to be completed before the roof would be used, so neither team would have an advantage. The roof is more like an umbrella than a jacket, as the stadium won't be heated. But it could be extended over the field on a cold, windy day to help with crowd comfort.

Q. Will balls hit the roof, as they now occasionally hit a Kingdome speaker?

A. The team and the stadium designers don't think so. The roof will be more than 200 feet above the playing surface, with the highest point above second base.

Q. How much is this costing?

A. The cost of the stadium project, which includes land costs, a parking garage and administration, was established at $417 million when construction began. But now with the stadium just over half done, the contingency budget is gone and there are cost overruns in excess of $10 million. Public taxes will pay for about $372 million of the construction costs, with the Mariners contributing $45 million. The team owners also are responsible for cost overruns. The Public Facilities District overseeing the project hasn't made public its estimates of how high cost overruns may go.

Q. What are some of the other amenities in the ballpark, other than luxury seating?

A. There will be a restaurant in right field. It will be open to the public, although season ticket holders will get the first chance to reserve seats. There will be a children's play area and a picnic area near the outfield, as well as a team store and baseball museum.

Q. Has any other new stadium opened at mid-season?

A: In 1970, the Pittsburgh Pirates made the move from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium on July 16. More recently, the Toronto Blue Jays opened their SkyDome in midseason of 1989 after transferring from Exhibition Stadium. The first SkyDome game was played on June 5.

Q. How are they determining what grass to use on the field?

A. With varying percentages of Kentucky blue and rye in various soil mixes, grass was planted in various places within 150 miles of the park to see if it could withstand the region's weather influences. The sturdiest grass has been planted in fields in Olympia and Woodinville, in order that it have a year to mature. It will be planted on the field in May 1999, two months before opening day.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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