SBJ/Oct. 14-20, 2013/Facilities

Edgar’s keeps things hopping at Safeco Field ’Pen

On a Friday night in late September, the margaritas were flowing at Edgar’s Cantina and the kitchen was backed up with orders for carne asada tacos.

This is no ordinary Mexican restaurant in Seattle. Edgar’s, tucked in the left-field corner at Safeco Field, opened this past season. It is the newest addition to The ’Pen, the revamped outfield concessions space that first opened three years ago at the Mariners’ ballpark.

The outfield is “in” at the home of the Mariners.
Photo by: DON MURET / STAFF
The ’Pen is one of the liveliest social scenes in Major League Baseball, and Edgar’s is at the heart of the action, though having dinner there comes with its own risks. Come first pitch, the batting practice net comes down in front of the cantina’s home run porch and diners must be alert for dingers splashing in their salsa. Sometimes, the net makes no difference and hard-hit BP balls crash the party, to the delight of those arriving early to observe the pregame ritual.

The retrofit has paid off handsomely for the Mariners, concessionaire Centerplate and local chef Ethan Stowell, the culinary expert behind Edgar’s Cantina. For 2013, there was a 42 percent increase in per caps at The ’Pen over last year, primarily because of the addition of Edgar’s, said Rebecca Hale, a team spokeswoman.

Two years ago, the first year for The ’Pen, per caps jumped 87 percent before a modest 10 percent increase last year. The old layout, called the Bullpen Market, was a dark, unwelcoming place, said Scott Jenkins, the Mariners’ vice president of ballpark operations.

On this final Friday of the regular season, the Mariners lost their 90th game a few hours after Eric Wedge announced he would not return as the team’s manager in 2014. The ballpark was half-full, but it was Fan Appreciation Weekend on top of College Night ($5 beers and a DJ) and there was a whiff of celebration in the air. Felix Hernandez, the club’s star pitcher, made his final home appearance of the year, and a section of his loyal rooters wore yellow “King Felix” T-shirts and flashed K cards for every one of his strikeouts.

Many in the crowd of 23,014 headed for The ’Pen, open to all ticket holders, to hang at Edgar’s or stand at a drink rail adjacent to the bullpens. Some were oblivious to the game, texting and flirting at the field-level space. In the visitors’ bullpen, an A’s pitcher came over to greet a toddler.

Safeco’s recent upgrades extend to a public fireplace in right field, a new wine bar on the main concourse and MLB’s biggest video board, which debuted in April.

A new cellphone charging station in The ’Pen co-branded for the Mariners and MLB’s mobile applications was installed during the final homestand.

Next summer, Safeco Field turns 15 years old after opening midseason in 1999. The Mariners run the only stadium with a roof in rainy Seattle and the machinery operating the retractable structure is rusty and needs repairs. The team has hired Skanska, the same construction firm that built MetLife Stadium, to replace the wheel assemblies on the roof, Jenkins said. The first 16 of the 128 wheels will be replaced this offseason for a project that will last eight years.

The Mariners will pay the $8 million total cost of the project and be reimbursed by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, the trust leasing the ballpark to the team, Jenkins said.

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