When the Mariners begin their ninth full season at Safeco Field on Tuesday afternoon, the facility will be jam-packed for one of the most anticipated home opener celebrations in years. Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus will read "An Ode to Safeco Field," third baseman Adrian Beltre receives his second Gold Glove Award and Ichiro Suzuki receives his eighth. There will be a salute to the second World Baseball Classic with a "Parade of World Flags".
A moment of silence will be observed to honor former Mariners general manager Dick Vertlieb, ex-Mariners pitcher Dave Roberts, Seattle icon and friend of the Mariners Ed "Tuba Man" McMichael, and Nick Adenhart, the Angels pitcher killed in a hit-and-run car accident on Thursday in Fullerton, Calif. Adenhart's next start would have been Tuesday afternoon. Former Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds will deliver the ceremonial first pitch. But the main event will be the re-introduction of Ken Griffey Jr., who will participate in his 12th home opener with the Mariners -- the first since 1999. Gates open at 1:10 p.m. for the 3:40 p.m. PT game and all fans receive a 2009 Mariners magnetic schedule. The game is sold out, but good seats are available for the remaining two games of the Angels series, and three-game series against the Tigers and American League champion Rays. The festivities get under way with a countdown at the Home Plate Gate (corner of 1st Ave. S. and Edgar Martinez Drive) at 1:10pm, and the pregame program inside the stadium begins at approximately 3 p.m. Fans who have ridden Metro Transit busses to Mariners games in previous season must find another mode of transportation or be willing to walk a few extra blocks. A Federal Transit Administration rule that went into effect in 2008 prohibits Metro from offering the "Metro to the Mariners" bus service available to fans for many years. Metro received an exemption from this rule in 2008, but has been told that no further exemption would be available. The FTA rule prevents public transit agencies from providing special event service except on regularly scheduled routes and at regular fares. Because Metro operated special routes to and from Safeco Field on event days, and charged a special fare to cover its costs, Metro can no longer provide the service previously offered. The rule requires that the service be operated, if at all, by private charter companies, who could submit a bid for the service. There was one bid submitted, for slightly less than $20 per passenger each way. The Metro service rate was $3 each way, so the Mariners rejected the offer and under the FTA rule, could not offer bus service to any company, public or private. A Mariners official said the organization and Metro have worked for more than a year to find a way to keep this service in place, and have petitioned elected officials for help. But until the federal rule is changed, Metro will not be allowed to provide the service. Meanwhile, there are some Metro routes that have stops near Safeco Field. Fans also can take regular Metro service routes that provide Rideshare options. Fans preferring car pooling to Mariners games (and other events) can sign up for "RideMatch," an online program that matches potential carpool partners. The Washington State Department of Transportation has started construction of a new off-ramp from I-5 and I-90 and an overpass that will separate vehicles and pedestrians from train traffic at Royal Brougham. During construction, Royal Brougham will be reduced to one lane in each direction, and fans are encouraged to avoid Royal Brougham except to access the Qwest Event Center parking garage. The parking garage will be open because of the closures, the easiest access will be from the Fourth Ave. side of Royal Brougham. The Safeco Field parking garage, located off Edgar Martinez Drive, will not be available to the general public on Opening Day. Tickets for the opening homestand and all remaining Mariners home games are available without a service charge at the Safeco Field Box Office and at Mariners Team Stores in downtown Seattle, Bellevue Square, Southcenter Mall and Alderwood Mall. Tickets can also be purchased online, by phone at 206-622-HITS, and at Ticketmaster Tickets.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.