With the previous post discussing the M’s change in ownership, it’s worth wondering what impact new management may have on Safeco Field or the surrounding neighborhood. Stadiums only slightly older than Safeco are in various stages of either being replaced (Atlanta), headed towards replacement (Arlington) or are having replacement floated as an option (Phoenix). Such a scenario doesn’t seem likely here, as the stadium is in good shape and seems to still generate significant revenue for the team. And it’s just as unlikely that ownership would spend for their own new facility or see the public in some nearby city or suburb splurge for a stadium to lure the M’s out of SoDo. Especially after the team’s highly public anti-SoDo Arena stance.
The trend in baseball stadium renovations seems to lean towards smaller seating capacities, which would be the case in all three examples cited above. It’s possible the team would consider reducing it’s capacity of just under 48K seats. Another trend in stadiums and arenas is more public gathering spots (not unlike the LF-CF bullpen area of Safeco). Beyond these options, the club might consider more general tech refurbishments to keep the park modern (already done with the video board and with stadium Wi-Fi). They’ve also already reduced the total amount of suites and introduced new club areas for higher end ticket sales on a limited game basis, rather than a full season ticket requirement.
It’ll be interesting to see if the team, with the new ownership, aims to develop the land surrounding Safeco either themselves or in partnership with others. Historically, the team has not wanted much development outside Safeco, which would possibly draw dollars away from the park. But teams throughout major league sports are seeing the value in real estate development around their facilities. In fact, it’s driving some of these new stadiums. The M’s have participated in the Stadium District Concept Plan, so perhaps the change in ownership spurs more movement with respect to that plan. It’s another possible revenue generator. As with the SoDo Arena plans, the M’s have seen what others envision for the neighborhood. We may eventually see what they themselves have in store for both their home and the area around it.