Remember the movie scene in which Pee-wee Herman takes an unexpected header off his cool bicycle, leaps to his feet, and exclaims "I meant to do that!"? That's something like the explanation given for an extraordinary fault line that has suddenly appeared at the base of the $33.5 million Safeco Field parking garage. The angled concrete driveway on the south side of the House That Junior and A-Rod Built and Abandoned was supposed to shift, crack, and break away—even if it has left a jagged, 1- to 3-inch-wide gap and caused portions of the driveway wall to crumble.
That's the Mariners' story, anyway, in explaining the flaws of one of the world's most expensive playing fields (public cost $600 million, with interest, not including $100 million in overruns the M's last week finally said they'll pay). The garage is naturally shifting and settling—the site is atop an earthquake zone and tide flats—and the concrete cracks were expected, the club insists.
The taxpayers' stadium watchdog, the now barely existent Public Facilities District, sees no real problems since the driveway is supposedly a temporary structure. "As I understand it," says PFD interim director Kevin Callan, "the driveway will be replaced once the new Highway 519 interchange is built," bringing traffic into the garage from new off-ramps.
To retired construction engineer and stadium critic Vince Koskela, the sinking driveway is only part of the problem. A fixture at past PDF meetings and a fount of information on the two-year-old park, Koskela says Safeco's structural shortcomings include cracks in the stadium's concrete foundation, steps, and walkways; lack of proper rebar in the garage structure; and buckling blacktop caused by the driveway shift.
The Mariners and PFD say these problems aren't new or unfixable and may be partly solved when the $178 million highway interchange is built, which will include direct links to both the Mariners' and Seahawks' stadium parking garages. That gets Koskela really worked up.
"Almost $200 million—to connect to privately run parking garages!" he says. "Anyone remember voting for that?"