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Groz: I had a key to the Kingdome, and more memories of the gray behemoth

The Kingdome was demolished in 2000, making way for CenturyLink FIeld. (AP)

They demolished the Kingdome 20 years ago today, soggy tiles and all. When those ceiling tiles fell in 1994, forcing the Mariners to play the last 20 or so games of that strike-shortened season on the road, you knew its time was short. It was gray, drab and ugly, but there were many good times had.

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For me, my first trip to the Kingdome was 13 years before I moved to Seattle. I was a college student in New York and came to visit my family in Sacramento for the summer. My dad was managing a group of radio stations that included KMPS in Seattle and had secured tickets to a game. We took the train up and it was one of two highlights of my first trip to Seattle (the other was a Van Halen concert at the Seattle Center Coliseum). Like every first-time visitor, I suppose I found it was truly unusual and pretty cool.

Flash forward to 1992, I was hired by KIRO Radio and part of my duties were hosting pregame and postgame shows for the Mariners. Now back then the Mariners were getting about 8,000 to 10,000 fans a game and the place was emptied out after games it seems in 10 minutes. So I was approached by a legendary character, Carol Keaton, who handled PR and a whole lot more. Since I was usually staying in the building for an hour and a half after the games were over, she asked if I wanted a key for the Kingdome.

I was puzzled, but the key got me in and out of every door and gate in the building. It was a totally cool thing to have when friends visited from out of town. I’d casually ask if they wanted to see the Kingdome and give them tours of the locker rooms, take them to the field, the works.

When I left KIRO in 1996, I gave the key up.

Of course seeing the prime of Ken Griffey Jr., an NCAA tournament final, Seahawks games and even several Sonic games were my Kingdome highlights. But so was smoking cigarettes in the King Street bar, and going to concerts (which sounded terrible because the sound would echo off the concrete), and watching baseball games from the suite where you couldn’t see fly balls, or sitting in the part of the stands where the seats faced the outfield.

Now 20 years later, I don’t actually miss the Kingdome as a place to see a game or concert. But it was what it was – a part of Seattle’s past – and I’ve always treasured a drawing I bought in Pioneer Square shortly after I moved here, picturing what Seattle looked like when the Kingdome dominated downtown in all its gray, drab glory.

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