July 10 – 13
Our second day in Seattle was well thought out and if properly executed would see us knocking out 2-3 tourist attractions before heading to Steilacoom (just outside Tacoma) to meet up with my Uncle Chuck, his wife Chong, cousin Lonnie and her husband Steve.
Our first stop was Safeco Field, where we needed to be by 10:00 am to make the one guided tour of the day. We left the house with what we thought was plenty of time to get there and park, only to find it very slow going as we first crept through traffic in the university area on the way to the I-5 and then dealt with heavy traffic to our offramp just south of downtown.
When you drive as many miles as we will do on this trip, nearly 11,300, you inevitably run into construction. Add in that this journey took place in the summer, the prime time for repairs or major work on the interstate system, and you end up spending a lot of time and miles stuck in traffic or shuttled off onto one late of the freeway.
And so, the freeways around Seattle would prove problematic and we found ourselves arriving at the ballpark with about ten minutes to spare and not knowing where to park. The parking gods were smiling on us that day though and the lot for a bar immediately across the street from the gift shop entrance to the park was open with spots available. We pulled in, quickly paid for two hours and made it just in time to start the tour.
We’ve done a number of tours of major league baseball and football parks and stadiums including Wrigley Field (Cubs), Fenway Park (Red Sox) and Soldier Field (Bears) and were expecting a standard visit. As Joanna will attest, this went beyond the normal, full of interesting facts and figures, great sightlines, and a view of the inner workings of the ballpark.
Safeco Field is owned and operated by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District. Home of the Seattle Mariners, it has a seating capacity of 47,715 and the first game was played there on July 15, 1999. Naming rights are owned by Seattle-based Safeco Insurance, whose 20-year deal will expire after the 2018 season; it was announced on June 13, 2017, that Safeco would not renew the naming rights.
The ballpark has a unique retractable roof that only acts as an “umbrella” for the playing field and stands, rather than forming a complete climate-controlled enclosure, as is the case with all other retractable roofs in Major League Baseball. The roof consists of three major sections that extend into the closed position in a telescoping manner, with the two outer sections resting under the larger center section.
Each section rests on a set of parallel tracks located on the north and south sides of the stadium, with the outer sections moving along the inner set of tracks, and the center section moving along the outer set. Each section is structurally independent; i.e., no section depends on another for structural stability.
At the end of the tour, after stopping at the Visitors’ clubhouse and locker room (complete with indoor batting cage) we out to the dugout on that side of the field for a ground level look at the park.
The team had a promotion going on that day trying to drum up votes for one of their players who was on the bubble of getting on the American League’s all-star team. We opted not to vote, even though as a reward you received a not so appetizing slice of pizza.
As we left the ballpark, we realized our carefully orchestrated itinerary for the day had already been derailed as the tour ran over thirty minutes longer than planned for, a small sacrifice for such a good experience. We jumped on the freeway and made good time down to Tacoma, where’d planned to tour either the Museum of Glass or the LeMay American Car Museum, or both.
But it still took almost an hour to get there and upon arrival we realized that we weren’t going to have enough time to do justice to either one of the museums before needing to head to Steilacoom, so instead opted to walk through the Tacoma Union Station after parking at the Art Museum’s lot next door.
The Tacoma Union Passenger Station opened in 1911 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It currently serves as a courthouse of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and its distinctive architecture, dominated by a copper dome, is a landmark for the area. With natural light streaming into its rotunda, it is home to an impressive collection of glass art by renowned Tacoma artist Dale Chihuly. Suspended from the center of the domed ceiling is one of his most stunning pieces, a 20-foot blue chandelier consisting of over 2,700 cobalt-colored, balloon-like glass globes.
Union Station is adjacent to the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus and after touring its bookstore, we stopped in briefly at Anthem Coffee and Tea for some caffeine and a cupcake Joanna purchased from across the street, then walked over to and across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.
Opened in 2002, it is a 500-foot pedestrian partially-covered footbridge spanning Interstate 705 that connects the Museum of Glass on the Thea Foss Waterway to the downtown and its attractions. Designed by Texas architect Arthur Andersson, it is decorated with artworks by Chihuly.
Wishing we could have had more time to visit the various museums here, we marked our lack of time to either bad planning or bad fortune, or maybe a combination of both. We hopped in the car and made our way down to Steilacoom for our meet up with the family. We’ll cover that and more of Seattle in the next post.
Safeco Field: https://www.mlb.com/mariners/ballpark
Museum of Glass: https://www.museumofglass.org/
LeMay American Car Museum: https://www.americascarmuseum.org
Union Station: http://unionstationrotunda.org/
Chihuly Bridge of Glass: http://www.traveltacoma.com/listings/chihuly-bridge-of-glass/479/