The Seattle Mariners do not come off smelling good in this situation. Even when their representatives try to explain themselves.
Plans for a new arena in Seattle continue to move forward with both the city and county councils expected to approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the developer next Monday. Developer Chris Hansen has taken the project to the point it’s all but a done deal — the financing is in place — and even NBA Commissioner David Stern was speaking well of it when asked at a press conference before one of the NBA preseason games in Europe.
“The answer is there seem to be plans moving along for a new arena in Seattle,” Stern said. “There was general agreement in the past that Seattle needed a new arena. It would be my hope that within the timeframe that you mentioned five years that if everything works out perfectly, there would be a new arena and a new team in Seattle. That’s always, for the NBA board of governors, but I know that many governors are favorably inclined.”
But there is still opposition to the arena planned in the South Downtown area of Seattle.
By the Mariners. The baseball team. Which is racking up bad will among Seattle sports fans with said opposition.
So Crosscut gave the Mariners’ CEO Howard Lincoln a chance to explain why they oppose a new arena in the same neighborhood as their own Safeco Field — the reasons are parking and traffic.
“We’ve looked at NBA and NHL master schedules. Depending on playoffs, you’d typically have six to 12 conflicts annually if both teams were here and made the playoffs. Roughly half the teams in each sport make the playoffs, so that would occur roughly half the time. We think it would be on average three regular season games and three playoff games for each sport….
“The difficulty is other events. The traditional wisdom on arenas is that you need 200-plus events to be successful; Chris Hansen has been saying 200-250 events a year. It’s the concerts, circuses, ice shows, trade shows and everything else that is typical to most arenas that’s the biggest problem. As many as a third to a half of our games can be conflicted. You start to get in a fight every Friday night with a concert versus a ballgame…
“But at the end of the day, (Hansen) wants the arena at the end of our parking garage, and we don’t think it will work. There’s nothing to negotiate.”
So their concern is the area will become too popular and that will keep people away? The Mariners are not the only ones with concerns, the Port of Seattle is nearby and is concerned about area traffic congesting their cargo flow. My first thought is that now is the time this can be worked out. There has to be mitigation.
From where I stand as a fan, I want more things — arenas, restaurants, bars, shops theaters — in one area. While you need parking and flow, you want more attractions in an area because people are drawn to it. From personal experience, is it harder to get to Staples Center for a Clippers game the night there is some big event at the nearby Nokia Theater or at nearby USC? Yes. But those nights also have the best energy around the arena. Those are the nights people go out before or after the game, enjoy the experience then think “we should do that again.”
Plus, if you’re providing people a good product, people will come to see it. That may be the Mariners biggest problem.