December 20, 1999
SEATTLE--Have any Northshore taxpayers driven past Safeco Field in the driving rain lately and wondered why the roof is left open? Won't the roof tracks get corroded faster by rain? Won't the seats get dulled faster? Won't the enclosed field turn to swamp?
Conventional Northwest wisdom would seem to say "cover anything we want to protect from winter wear and tear," right? Isn't that why Safeco has a roof?
Well, maybe we need to redefine "conventional wisdom." Maybe conventional wisdom doesn't pay the bills. According to Steve Poole of the Safeco Field maintenance crew, the elements are good for the stadium.
"The roof is left open for the UV rays on the turf," writes Poole. "During the winter is the time that the UV rays are limited in the atmosphere. Therefore, it is very important that the roof be left open at all times possible. We cannot shut the roof every time it rains, because of the lack of UV rays to the turf. As for the seats, they are made to endure harsh weather conditions, and the leather seats are covered with tarps during the off-season to prevent wear and weathering.
"One thing that you have to remember--just because we have a roof, that does not mean that we are a total indoor stadium. We operate this stadium as an open-air ballpark. It's good to operate with this goal in mind from the field's point of view."
So apparently we risk dulling the seats to keep the grass healthy. Well, we know all smart people should like green grass; and who wants to sit in the "cheap" seats, anyway?