Sports

No more Safeco Field. Mariners agree to rename ballpark after T-Mobile

Courtesy of the Seattle Mariners

Goodbye, Safeco Field.

Hello, a lot of hot pink and T-Mobile Park.

The Seattle Mariners on Wednesday morning made their anticipated official announcement that they agreed to a 25-year naming-rights agreement with T-Mobile to rename their SoDo ballpark after the Bellevue-based cellular company.

The ballpark will officially no longer be Safeco Field on Jan. 1. The partnership is subject to approval by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District (PFD).

Forbes reported that T-Mobile will pay the Mariners $87.5 million for the naming rights, with an annual value of $3.5 million.

It’s the first stadium name change for the Mariners’ home field since Safeco Field held its inaugural game on July 15, 1999, and the Kingdome was demolished on March 26, 2000, about 24 years after its opening.

The Mariners hosted their first of back-to-back postseason appearances in 2000 when they swept the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. Safeco Field also hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 2001.

But there hasn’t been a playoff game in Seattle since the Mariners’ 116-win 2001 season. Their 17 years and counting is the longest active postseason drought of any major North American professional sports team.

T-Mobile thinks the Mariners might have better fortunes going forward — even if general manager Jerry Dipoto signaled that 2019 would be a “step back” in their hopes of contending by 2020 or 2021.

“T-Mobile Park isn’t just some corporate-branded sponsorship to us,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a press release. “This is about supporting the community and our hometown Mariners in building a World Series-caliber teams.”

Seattle won’t be the first with a ballpark named for a telecommunications company. Now it gets to join the echelon of San Francisco (AT&T Park), and the Chicago White Sox had U.S. Cellular Field before it was renamed to Guaranteed Rate Field. The Seahawks play next door at CenturyLink Field.

So, no, at least Seattle won’t be playing in a place called Guaranteed Rate Field. But it’s hard to say T-Mobile Park is as charming as Boston’s Fenway Park, the Cubs’ Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium or Baltimore’s Camden Yards.

The Mariners released artist renderings of the revamped branding that featured T-Mobile’s pink strewn front and center at the park’s main entrance. Branding throughout the ballpark will take place over the coming months and the Mariners say they expect much of it to be completed by their home opener on March 28, when the Mariners host the Red Sox.

The Mariners said the ‘Pen just past left field will be called the T-Mobile ‘Pen, and it will include perks such as surprise giveaways and a live DJ on select games to go with its food and beverage offerings.

T-Mobile has held giveaways with T-Mobile Tuesdays for its customers, and it will carry that into Tuesday Mariners games at Safeco Field. The Mariners say fans can expect surprise seat upgrades and free stuff at Tuesday games and that T-Mobile customers will get fast-track entry, discounted tickets and exclusive offers on merchandise.

“T-Mobile has a deep commitment to this community, a passion for customer service and a well-earned reputation as a leader in innovation. There are the qualities that make T-Mobile the right partner to name this iconic ballpark,” Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton said.

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The Mariners recently finalized a 25-year lease with the PFD, which owns the ballpark. The agreement includes the Mariners paying at least $600 million for ballpark maintenance, operations, capital upgrades and fan improvements over the next 25 years.

The naming-rights deal was the anticipated next step.

“Fans have come to expect a great experience at this ballpark and we have made a commitment to invest substantial club revenues over the next 25 years to make sure that continues,” said Kevin Mather, the Mariners’ president and CEO. “This partnership with T-Mobile will help us meet that obligation so that fans will have a first-class experience at T-Mobile Park for decades to come.”

The Mariners said by the end of their lease agreement with Safeco Field, revenues into the publicly owned ballpark since 1999 will add up to more than $1 billion. Safeco Insurance in 2017 announced it would not renew its naming-rights agreement with the Mariners after their contract expired following this 2018 season. The recognizable Safeco Field sign outside the retractable was recently stripped down, as with other signage throughout the ballpark.

TJ Cotterill is the Seattle Mariners and MLB writer for The News Tribune. He started covering MLB full-time in 2018, but before that covered Ken Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and spent seven years writing about high schools, including four as TNT’s prep sports coordinator. Born and raised in Washington.

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