The Safe opened for business last night in Seattle, with the Mariners uncertain whether they can keep Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez locked up.
After 22 1/2 seasons in the climate-controlled Kingdome, the Mariners moved into Safeco Field, which has a retractable roof but no heating or air conditioning. At $517 million, it is the most expensive baseball stadium ever.
While the team wants the Public Facilities District that built the ballpark to pay for $100 million in overruns, some fans didn't concern themselves with the cost. The government agreed to pay $372 million of the original $417 million estimate.
Like a curtain rising on a new act, the 22 million-pound retractable roof opened an hour before Seattle played the Padres. As the time neared for the first pitch, team officials said they expected the roof to remain open for the evening, despite a chance of rain.
The Mariners say the 47,000-seat stadium, erected next to its utilitarian predecessor, will ensure the future of baseball in the Northwest.
However, they may not be able to afford both the stadium and keeping Griffey and Rodriguez. They are eligible for free agency after the 2000 season, and it may cost $400 million or more to keep them.
STRIKE VOTE: Minor league umpires will decide today whether to join their major league counterparts and walk off the job.
Minor league umpires are considering the action to protest what they feel are poor working conditions and minor league baseball's refusal to recognize their union, said Pat Campbell, associate counsel for the Major League and Minor League Umpires Associations.
The possible action by the 230 minor league umpires comes after major league umpires said Wednesday they will resign Sept. 2 and won't work the final 4 1/2 weeks of the season.