‘Way cooler than standing in line’: Mariners fans get first taste of Amazon tech in new ballpark market
Seattle Mariners fans enter the new “Walk-Off Market” at T-Mobile Park on Monday. It was the first game for the new food and beverage store featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
The Seattle Mariners and their fans would certainly be happy to have a few more walk-off wins this season. Perhaps a new “Walk-Off Market,” complete with Amazon’s cashierless technology, will satisfy their appetites for now.
The new food and beverage store at T-Mobile Park debuted on Monday night, bringing Amazon’s Just Walk Out tech to another sports venue in the city and presenting customers with the chance to skip long concession stand lines and return to their seats quickly.
On a night when the struggling Mariners drew just over 14,000 fans for a game against the Oakland A’s, the Walk-Off Market wasn’t getting an exceptionally heavy workout. But fans were curious about it as they passed by and those who entered were enthusiastic about how easy it all was — if a little confused about how and if they paid.
“This is way cooler than standing in line,” said Joey Duckett, a regular Amazon Go user in Seattle who said that he comes to a lot of Mariners games and usually avoids lines because he “knows the secret spots to get a beer quickly.”
The Mariners and hospitality partner Sodexo Live! announced the partnership with Amazon in April. Along with Just Walk Out, the market also features Amazon One, the company’s palm-scanning technology that allows visitors to enter and pay with credit card information that is tied to a biometric reading of their hand. Fans can register for Amazon One at a kiosk on the spot.
It’s the first time both retail technologies will be utilized in a Major League Baseball ballpark. The Houston Astros will be using Just Walk Out in two stores at Minute Maid Park. In Seattle, Climate Pledge Arena features four stores using the technology. Amazon also sells the tech to third-party customers and currently has nine partners utilizing Just Walk Out in 19 stores located in such places as arenas and airports.
Malcolm Rogel was recently promoted to vice president of fan experience for the Mariners, more than 23 years after he started working for the team. He’s seen his fair share of concession stand lines.
“We’ve been searching for something like this for years,” Rogel said. “We need to do whatever we can to satisfy demand and this kind of process is really just perfect for us.”
Customers enter the market through gates that require a credit card or palm scan. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Just Walk Out first debuted in 2018 in Seattle with Amazon Go convenience stores. It’s now used in some larger Amazon grocery stores and is spreading among sports and entertainment venues. Competitors are also getting in on the cashierless game at arenas in Boston, Dallas, Houston and San Francisco.
Just Walk Out relies on a number of cameras in the ceiling to track customers and what they pick up. The credit card a customer inserts upon entry or the one linked to their Amazon One ID is charged for the items the customer takes after they leave the store.
Located near section 126 behind home plate, the brightly lit market does stand out compared to other food and beverage kiosks lining the concourse. The walls are covered in white subway tile and an array of coolers are stocked with beer, wine, ready-made cocktails and soft drinks. The place has a larger selection of drinks than any other spot in the park.
The market has a small selection of merchandise along with many coolers full of beverages. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)Grab-and-go hot food in a case at the Walk-Off Market. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
There’s also snacks, candy, a hot food selection featuring hot dogs, pretzels and nachos, and a small merchandise display with foam fingers, beer coozies and M’s hats.
Rogel called the new market a “learning lab” to better determine what fans want to grab in a hurry. And fan reaction could determine future placement in the park for more of the technology.
“I hope I didn’t steal this,” Patty O’Toole laughed as she held up a hot dog that she walked out of the market with.
“I don’t even know how it works!” said David White after walking out with a bottle of water. “That’s the first time we’ve done it. It’s better than waiting in line.”
Fans line up for beers at a small kiosk across from the new Walk-Off Market. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
“Walk in, walk out — it was kind of weird. How do they know it’s me walking out?” asked Sierra Jordan. “I have some qualms with Amazon, but I’m also constantly buying stuff off of Amazon. That’s the direction the world’s heading in.”
As fans moved in and out of the new market, others were still lining up for drinks and food at traditional kiosks, unaware that a faster alternative was now in place. One fan who was fifth or sixth in line told GeekWire he was using the kiosk across from the new market because he knew they had the big beer cans he liked. Those cans and many others were available at Walk-Off.
A panorama of one section of beer coolers at Walk-Off Market. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
“It’s kind of nice because you can just come in and get what you like,” said Kristine Svehla-Brown, who uses a Go store regularly near her downtown office. She said ballpark concession lines can be a “deterrent” to getting out of your seat “if you know you’re going to be gone for a long time and you want to watch the game.”
Amazon had several ambassadors standing near the entry to the market, explaining what it was and how it worked. During the game, the Mariners played a big-screen promo letting fans know that Walk-Off was open and where it was located. The Mariner Moose was shown shopping at the market.
“Amazon wants to see this do well because they can roll this out to other venues,” Rogel said. “Sodexo Live! can sell more product. And for the Mariners it’s a way better fan experience to get in and out. Everybody has a lot of reasons to find success here.”