Remembering My “Childhood 2nd Home” - The Kingdome

A Sporting News column in the early 1980s ranked the Major League Baseball home stadiums. The writer gave his grade and a brief description of the ballpark.

Seattle’s Kingdome - came in near the bottom.

The columnist compared the home of the Mariners to a dark dreary indoor parking garage. He might not have liked it - but I don’t think there was a place with a better home-field advantage than the absurdly loud Kingdome. The place was so loud - opposing quarterbacks couldn’t call plays in the huddle. The NFL used to at one point - give the Seahawks a penalty if it was deemed “too loud.” 

Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners
Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners

This over-the-top home-field advantage carried over to the current Seahawks home (at the time of this writing - Lumen Field.) Paul Allen insisted that the upper deck roofs needed to be designed to funnel the crowd noise down to the field.

The first time I remember seeing the Kingdome was from a Seattle ferry.

I was about 7 or 8 years old - Looking at the grey clamshell building, I thought - and this is hilarious to share - I thought the Kingdome was an airport. I thought this because the roof of the Kingdome seemed to me where people's luggage would slide down to airport travelers.

I didn’t know at the time that it - The Kingdome - would become my favorite place to visit and enjoy in the coming twenty-plus years.  Yes, I was there to see Edgar’s “Double” which scored Ken Griffey Junior. That memory rivals the very first time, I visited the “2nd home” of my youth. 

Credit:: MOHAI
Credit:: MOHAI

Memories from my first Mariners game visit as a 9-year-old boy

I remember giving my ticket to the ticket taker. Behind him was someone with a very loud voice that seemed to vibrate everyone’s eardrums - “Geeeeeeet Yer PROGRAMS!” I bought one. The smell of a game day program was wonderful - all fresh from the printer. Magic was in the air.

The date was July 2nd, 1977. The M's played the Milwaukee Brewers.  I don't remember much about the game - But walking into the dome for the first time is like a movie in my mind.

After getting the program, the hike up the Kingdome rampway began.  It was some serious work - just to get up just the 100 level. Imagine having to trudge up to the 300 level - something I will come to do countless other times in the future.

Once finally inside, I would look up and gaze upon the orange and white Kingdome “maps” that showed me which direction I had to walk to get my assigned aisle number.

Then I saw it.

Walking past one of the aisle entries into the seating area - I first saw the exciting view into the lit-up interior of the Kingdome. 

I can’t put into words how exciting to see this place for the first time.

The smells of hot dogs, pretzels, fries, popcorn, and other food items filled up the Kingdome walkway. The souvenir stands with hats, plastic batting helmets, shirts, jackets, pennants, and souvenir magazines were like heaven to an elementary-aged Mariner fan.

When the aisle on my ticket lined up with the aisle number in the hallway - I got to finally walk in. Pure magic, awe, and amazement. 

Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners
Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners


One of my favorite memories of the Kingdome was when my 6-year-old- sister attended a Mariners game with me.

I was only 14 years of age at the time. Heidi and I made the huge hike up to the 300 level and sat right by the yellow right-field foul pole.

That night Reggie Jackson was making his debut in a California Angels uniform.

The hype for the game had the Kingdome packed to near capacity. Walking out after the game, Heidi held on to my back pockets - then somehow, her little hands slipped and let go. 

I looked back into the immensely crowded stadium hallway -  for a brief moment - little Heidi disappeared from my sight. It was probably only ten seconds that I couldn’t spot her - but it felt like an eternity. Then Heidi reappeared. I could see the fear in her eyes. I firmly held onto to hand for the rest of the trip through the hallway and down the outside ramps.

Almost 20 years later - It was announced that the Kingdome was going to be replaced by an outdoor stadium.

The Kingdome was to be torn down. At the time, I was living in Long Island, New York. I decided to fly in and watch my favorite old stadium fall with Heidi - now a 23-year-old, living in Poulsbo. We were planning on leaving for the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal to watch the implosion in person - when her phone rang. It was her boss at the furniture store - asking if she could cover a shift for someone who called in sick.

“I’m sorry, but I gonna have to take this shift”

I assured her that it was okay. And suggested we watch the final moments of the Kingdome on TV before she had to drive to work.

We held hands and watched it dramatically the Kingdome come down. Tears streaming down my face, i  held her hand tight. Just like I once did in a crowded Kingdome hallway.

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