Friday, May 31, 2013

My Home Away From Home - The Kingdome

Kingdome under construction- mid '70's

You've heard of a home away from home? Well, I had one of those. It was the largest freestanding concrete structure in the world at the time—the Kingdome, built in 1976.
My family moved to Seattle from Florida in 1975. There are two things I remember most about arriving in the Pacific Northwest. The first was driving through Snoqualmie Pass and seeing real mountains for the first time. The twin sister volcanoes, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier greeted us as we approached the Cascade Range. This Florida flat-lander was 14 at the time and the mountains served promise of new adventures. 

After passing through the mountains, we approached downtown Seattle and turned south on I-5. That’s when I saw the grey concrete mushroom called the Kingdome as it sat, surrounded by cranes and scaffolding putting on the finishing touches. For as long as I can remember, I've been in awe of stadiums. I don't know why, maybe it's the bigger than life aspect of the monument to sports. Maybe it’s the history like in the Orange Bowl in Miami, that has witnessed Super Bowl Champions including Green Bay in Super Bowl II and the famous Joe Namath Super Bowl III.  
Whatever the case, I was in awe. I couldn't take my eyes off of the structure. Little did I know that in a few years, it would become my home away from home. Most people hated the Kingdome. It was sterile, cold and uncomfortable.
It didn't matter to me, I loved it. I got to know all the security guards, ushers, vendors and caterers. I became friends with the grounds keepers and the ticket office. The clubhouse guys would have sleep over's in the locker room and play baseball on the turf in the dark. I felt like I owned that stadium. There's a really eerie feeling when you walked out onto the field with 70,000 empty seats and a concrete roof that soared to 250 above your head. The massive empty space absorbed sound and then sent an echo from what seemed like miles away.
Before games we would have our clubhouse world series, Mariners clubhouse personnel against the visiting clubhouse. A couple of the Mariners players would join in on the fun. I still remember hitting a home run, just over the fence, off Edwin Nunez, one of the closers on the Mariners. Outside, the ramps made for a great workout. I would run the ramps up to the three hundred level and back down, over and over. The location was great, too. When it wasn't raining, I would take a run down the historic waterfront in Seattle.
photo source: Admrboltz
During games, after my batboy days, I would hang out in the photo bay on the first base side. I made friends with many of the season ticket holders over the years, with them sharing their lives with me.
You could also get about anywhere in the stadium under the stands. Not the prettiest of places, but it led to some interesting sites and times. The ballplayers complained of the stadium, too. The turf was too hard, the ball bounced erratically and air conditioning was pointed toward the field to reduce home runs. Twice, once during my batboy year, balls were hit during play that never came down. Rupert Jones hit a ball into the low hanging speaker and it got stuck, eventually, the umpires ruled it a strike. It happened again in 1983, after that, they raised the speakers.
Alas, they imploded the Kingdome in 2000. After ceiling tiles started falling and the incredible Mariners run in 1995, the Mariners were able to get their current home at Safeco field, just across the parking lot from the old location. The new Seahawks stadium now occupies the resting place of the old Kingdome. Although THE CARD , is set in Safeco, I use many of the memories from the Kingdome to build the world around Van Stone.
I'll always have fond memories of the Kingdome. I flew back out to Seattle for the implosion. Truth be told, I shed a tear.

  is the author of the #1 Kindle Bestselling Young Adult novel, The Card. He's also a healthcare consultant specializing in helping healthcare companies and practices develop a social media marketing platform, and maximize cash flow. You can find him posting weekly to Indies Unlimited and occasionally as a contributor on Yahoo!

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