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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mariners Break Ground On Their Future

Associated Press

Thousands of Seattle Mariners fans swarmed over an empty lot - some with shovels in hand - to cheer groundbreaking ceremonies Saturday for a $414 million ballpark to be built south of the Kingdome.

About 8,000 people braved a chilly wind to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the gravelly lot and try for a glimpse of All-Star right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. on the stage.

U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., noted that baseball has gone to the depths and heights in Seattle.

“And today we begin a high that’s gonna last for the lives of all of us here,” declared Gorton, who brokered a deal involving county and city funds that persuaded the Mariners’ owners to reconsider their December decision to sell the team.

“And from now on, we’re not going to worry anymore about politics and money and construction; we’re just going to worry about the game and our team. Long live the Seattle Mariners,” he said.

Children ran around the bases on a grass playing field created temporarily on one section of the site where the retractable-roof ballpark will be built. The stadium is expected to be ready for Opening Day of baseball season in 1999.

Although the project still needs state Supreme Court approval of bonds for funding, fans participating in the bring-your-own-shovel event gave the ballpark their enthusiastic approval - for the long run.

“I think it’s really exciting, just the fact that we’re at the groundbreaking event not only for older sports fans but for my son here, who’s only 2,” said Chauncey Anderson, 29, of Tacoma.

“We like to think of baseball being in Seattle forever,” he said.

Camp notes

Seattle lost it’s third consecutive exhibition game Saturday, when a lineup almost without regulars was held in check by the Anaheim Angels in a 6-3 defeat. … From Anaheim Angels general manager Bill Bavasi, on the ground-breaking for Seattle’s new stadium - and the future demise of the Kingdome. “I’d like to have been there to help dig the hole. I hate the Kingdome. I’ll help tear it down. We’ve never done well there. The Kingdome had one thing going for it: The best location in baseball.”

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