If you plan to go to a major Seattle sports event in the near future, you have two choices; either pay over $20 in one of the parking garages adjacent to Safeco Field for the privilege of parking your vehicle, or park as far as 20 blocks away in order to get free parking. Thankfully, a third option is coming soon. On July 18th, the new Seattle Light Rail system will go online, making travel to your Sounders and Mariners game as easy as getting on a train.
Although the Light Rail system was approved in 1996, construction didn’t start until 2003, after battling a number of route and cost concerns. The light rail, or Link as it is called by officials, is expected to ease congestion around the Sodo district, especially sports traffic before and after games. The stations closest to the fields—the Stadium and International District stops—are each two blocks away from Safeco and Qwest Field, respectively. Their proximity will promote riding the Light Rail to the games and events, rather than obstructing the numerous businesses that use the area.
The first day of service will be a big test for the Link and Sound Transit as it coincides with the Sounders FC-Chelsea FC game, which is expected to draw up to 67,000 fans—the capacity for Qwest Field. Over 60,000 tickets have been sold so far for the game, and high public interest guarantees a packed house for the friendly.
Fares for riding the Rail to a game won’t cost more than $2.50. Currently, the cheapest parking that can be found in the SoDo district near the stadiums is around $5.
The train stretches from Sea-Tac Airport, where the terminal station is still under construction and won’t be in service until later this year, all the way to Westlake Center, emerging on the north side of the Paramount Theatre. After the Stadium station, the Link uses underground tunnels in conjunction with city buses in order to navigate downtown without disrupting street traffic.
By 2016, Husky fans will be able to get off at the University District stop just outside of Husky Stadium in order to catch their collegiate football, basketball, and baseball without hoping that the side streets haven’t already been taken over by parked cars.
In the next decade or two, things may be even easier for Bellevue College students to catch the big playoff game or motocross event. Plans are being finalized on a voter-approved line connecting to the current light rail plan to downtown Redmond and the Microsoft campuses. From there, it will go through a south-Bellevue station, which is a short walk or bus ride from the current Eastgate Park and Ride and BC.
There is a lot of support for a rail line stopping at Eastgate itself, which would be a boon to the numerous students ready to catch a Mariner game after school. Until then, the most convenient boarding locations for sports-goers will be Southcenter and Rainier Beach to the south, and Westlake and University Street to the north.