WHILE MANY IN Seattle are hitting their snooze button at 8:00 a.m., wide-eyed members of the Public Relations Society of America are having their monthly meetings. The meetings are a chance for members of the public relations industry like Krista Bunch, manager of community relations for the Seattle Mariners, to get together, have some pastries and coffee, relax a little, and talk about dealing with the public. Bunch, the featured speaker of June's meeting at the Plaza downtown, talked about the problems the Mariners faced after the Safeco Field debacle, which she offhandedly referred to in PR speak as "voted down syndrome."

Last year the Mariners had a public relations disaster when they opened a $339 million stadium that voters rejected, and then asked taxpayers to front more cash for $100 million in cost overruns. Since then, the Mariners have been in PR overdrive to clean up their image, not only to repair the past, but to make nice for the future--when they ask for more taxpayer money.

Indeed, in the last month, the Mariners and the Public Facilities District (PFD), have been having hush-hush "high-level talks" to decide how much more public money the Mariners will get (if any), says Mariners Director of Public Information Rebecca Hale.

To help grease the wheel of public opinion, several changes have been made in the Mariners' management and public relations strategy. "We're looking very hard internally about what's going on outside the game," says Hale. For starters, they brought in a new CEO, Howard Lincoln, former head of Nintendo, to invigorate the team and streamline its business. Second, the Mariners are focusing on improved relationships with the community by serving on local business associations and by investing money in various projects, like $5,000 for the International District's Summer Festival. Finally, the Mariners have intensified the marketing of the players and the stadium by involving the players in community events, framing them in advertising as your next-door neighbor, and selling Safeco as a public asset. (Hell, they even landed a front-page, team-colored cover story in the Seattle Weekly.)