SEATTLE -- The Kingdome's falling ceiling tiles -- and the unexpected road trip that resulted for the Seattle Mariners -- have given new impetus to efforts to build a baseball stadium.
King County, owner of the Kingdome, already had begun a study of whether to renovate the Kingdome or build a new baseball-only facility, after Mariners owners said the team couldn't continue to play at the Kingdome because of its limits on revenue. In particular, the dome does not provide profitable amenities such as club seats or luxury suites with a good view of the field.
The roof crisis "adds a new element to what the Sports Council already feels is a compelling argument," said Carl Behnke, a Seattle businessman who is a member both of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce's Sports and Events Council and King County's Stadium Alternatives Task Force.
Yesterday, directors of four of baseball's newest pleasure palaces -- Denver's Coors Field, Chicago's Comiskey Park, Cleveland's Jacobs Field and Phoenix's yet-to-be-built facility -- visited Seattle to give their views of what kind of project would
Meanwhile, for all the scurrying, the meetings, frantic telephone calls and looking skyward, authorities still don't know how long it will take to make the Kingdome safe.
"Until we get our forensic evaluation of what happened done, we're not going to know the extent of the problem," said Jim Napolitano, King County's facilities manager.
Carol Keaton, media and promotion director for the Kingdome, said, "We're aiming for July 30."
Engineers continued working yesterday to determine what caused four of the dome's insulating tiles to fall Tuesday, causing postponement of two games with the Orioles and moving a four-game series to Boston.
The fallen tiles have been sent to a lab for testing. Today, a giant crane will be used to remove tile samples from all over the dome roof for additional tests, Napolitano said.
"Time is money, obviously, and we're going to get this done as quickly as humanly possible," he said. "But we have to do it deliberately, because we can't take a chance on this happening again."
A likely cause of the tiles' fall is moisture that seeped through the concrete over time and was aggravated by current efforts to clean and reseal the 7-acre roof, Keaton said.
Moisture may have deteriorated the tiles, causing them to pull away from the metal clips that hold them in place.