Assault at Safeco Field raises safety concerns at The ‘Pen

May 27, 2013, 1:38 PM | Updated: May 28, 2013, 10:39 am

An assault that left a man with a fractured face raises questions about safety inside The ‘Pe...

An assault that left a man with a fractured face raises questions about safety inside The 'Pen at Safeco Field. (KIRO Radio/Brandi Kruse)

(KIRO Radio/Brandi Kruse)


On a busy weeknight at Safeco Field hundreds of fans packed The ‘Pen – a quasi-beer garden next to the Mariners bullpen behind left-center field.

The Mariners trailed the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the sixth and patrons stood in line to get another drink before the “last call for alcohol” that comes during the seventh-inning stretch.

It was College Night at the ballpark and The ‘Pen was full of mostly 20-somethings. A young man and woman were engaged in an intense make-out session at a high-top table while another couple dirty danced in the middle of the crowd. Two King County sheriff’s deputies, who were hired by Safeco Field to serve as additional security, stood watch nearby.

“Fans like to come here. They come out here during the game and even before the game,” said Rebecca Hale, director of public information for the Mariners. “It really has become an event within an event at Safeco Field.”

The team’s official website calls The ‘Pen a “9-inning party.”

But the party was cut short earlier this season when an argument over a table led to a fight that left one man with multiple fractures to his face. The incident occurred on Salute to Armed Forces Night and there were “several hundred people in the Pen Bar area drinking and enjoying the game,” according to court documents.

The victim suffered five facial fractures and had three metal plates placed into his head to reconstruct his eye socket, the documents read.

His injuries were so severe that the King County Sheriff’s Office sought the assistance of Washington’s Most Wanted to track down those responsible. On May 17, the program aired surveillance video of the fight given to deputies by Safeco Field. One week later, on May 24, the two suspects turned themselves in.

One suspect, a 51-year-old man, faces a felony assault charge.

The incident raises questions about safety inside The ‘Pen, which has grown in both size and popularity.

Roughly 660 square feet were added to the area this season when the Mariners organization moved outfield fences closer to home plate to improve offense at the ballpark. The lower patio of The ‘Pen went from 897 square feet to 1,559 square feet, according to numbers provided by the Mariners.

Hale said The ‘Pen has become more popular since it underwent a renovation in 2011. As a result, she said the number of uniformed police officers, private security guards, and alcohol enforcement officials are increased for special events such as College Night.

“Fan safety and fan experiences; those are two very, very important things for us,” Hale said. “We do know that we need to have a certain higher level of attention out here with regards to security.”

Hale said fights like the one that occurred on April 13 are rare, but the ballpark will use it as an opportunity to reevaluate staffing and security.

“It is a great concern to us,” Hale said. “We never want to have our fans get injured at the ballpark. It does happen and when it does, we want to try to learn from those experiences.”

The ‘Pen is open to all ticketed fans and is not off limits to those under the age of 21. It is treated as a restaurant for permit purposes because of the amount of food available in the immediate area, Hale said.

Team: mariners
Date Starting Pitcher
Tuesday, June 6 @ 6:40 pm Mariners' Logan Gilbert RHP vs. Padres' Joe Musgrove RHP

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