Mariners: Splendor in the grass

IF YOU THINK THE SOARING GIRDERS of the new Mariners stadium look impressive, consider what’s going in beneath them. Ten inches below the surface of SoDo—er, Safeco—Field, the nation’s top turf engineers are this week laying its fanciest sports-field heating and ventilation system. This half-million-dollar setup will include what may also be world’s biggest radiator: nearly 22 miles of polyethylene tubing, carrying 3,200 gallons of water heated to a steamy 122 degrees Fahrenheit. This will keep the turf at 62 degrees, assuring early and lush growth for the grass on which the Mariners will strut their stuff and take their falls, and giving new meaning to something sports operators have long specialized at: heating up the grass roots.

Running beside these heating coils will be an equally vast Subair system of drainage/ventilation pipes, functioning like a giant reversible vacuum. This will oxygenate the grass roots, further boosting growth. Or, with flow reversed, it will suck out water, drying the ground in the soggy season and before games. Paul Tabor, whose St. Louisbased firm Subsurface Technology is providing the system, says it’s similar to some high-end golf course systems but 10 times as powerful. “The groundskeeper says if you put a cigarette on the field and turn the system on, it will smoke the cigarette,” recounts Mariners spokesperson Rebecca Hale.

Tabor adds that though a few cold-country stadiums already warm their turf, the Mariners are the first team anywhere to install the full heating/cooling/ventilating combination. But not the last: Houston, Milwaukee, and Phoenix stadiums are expected to follow. All of which raises the question: Why? Heating coils may be needed to assure lush growth by opening day in Milwaukee. But Seattle and Phoenix lawns are already at their greenest in winter. Tabor concedes that “maybe you don’t even need the heating system some winters here.” But having the heating/ventilation/cooling combo will let the Mariners rent out to concerts, motocross rallies, and other turf-mashing activities in the off-season, and then speedily lay new sod each spring.

And, Tabor adds, this meticulously incubated field will look great—”much better” than the golf courses that pioneered the technology. The field’s entire $1.4 million budget—covering everything from high-tech tubes to grass blades—is less than one three-hundredth the cost of the whole publicly financed stadium. And if the Mariners play as badly in their new palace as they usually have in their old dome, it just may be more fun to watch the grass grow.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

More in News & Comment

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, who pushed for broadband funding in Washington schools. (Screenshot from
American Rescue Plan Act funding approved for broadband investments in WA schools

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pushed for the funding, which will benefit several King County school districts.

Courtesy photo
State offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

You can order the tests through the state’s new online portal.

Sen. Mona Das, D-47
Kent Democratic Sen. Mona Das proposes 1% cut in state sales tax

Starting in 2023; Republicans voice support for Senate Bill 5932

Federal Way police arrest suspect in fatal carjacking

35-year-old Tacoma man charged with murder in “random, brutal and senseless carjacking,” preosecutors say.

File photo.
Man accused of fatally shooting 11-year-old girl’s dog in front of her

The defendant is being charged with first-degree animal cruelty and reckeless endangerment.

Stock photo, Metro Creative Graphics
Auburn, Federal Way mayors speak out against multifamily housing bill

Leaders say they don’t need state intervention.

File photo
Non-profit sponsors study on how the pandemic impacted arts and culture in Puget Sound

The study helped identify challenges faced by residents and cultural organizations in Washington

File photo
WA lawmakers propose making companies responsible for recycling improvements

SB 5697 would compel industries to report data, invest in infrastructure, meet standards.

Governor Jay Inslee. Sound Publishing file photo
Inslee: Officials’ lies about election results should be crime

Governor wants lawmakers to pass legislation making it a gross misdemeanor.

Most Read