Regarding the Mariners Letter to Seattle/King County on SoDo Arena

I realize that there is another post on the topic of the letter, but thought this would be too long for a comment.

I got started after I saw Mike Salk's tweet:

you are reading too much into a legitimate question.

I believed this stance was merely maintaining company line, and contributing to the desire of the Mariners to derail the arena. I realize Salk is in an awkward position, and probably is excited about the possibility of the arena. But sports talk radio ought to be the base for the largest push for a new arena, and Salk is a major contributor to that environment. That does not mean that sports talk radio should be irresponsible and blind in the support of an arena, but in this case it seems as if the Mariners are not being completely honset as to what their true issues are with a new arena. They should not be protected from fair criticism, as I argue in the post below.

Essentially I vent my frustration that the team is possibly blocking a tremendous civic assest because of their fears of becoming irrelevant (which I believe is the true motive behind their letter). I use the Colorado Rockies as an example that the Mariners could not only exist, but thrive in a city that has six major sports attractions.

As a huge Mariners fan, and Seattle fan in general, the timing of Lincoln's letter could not have come at a worse time. I'm anxiously awaiting the beginning of another Mariners season, yet the club I vehemently support is acting as a roadblock to the potential resurrection of my beloved Sonics.

I don't want LookoutLanding to become too infested with arena/Sonics issues. But the Mariners have become directly involved, so for the moment I'm contributing to the trend.

Hopefully this blows over quickly, and politics on our sports radio stations and blogs disappear. I eagerly anticipate the day where I can watch the Mariners, Sonics, and Totems/Metropolitans/Steelheads/Kodiaks/Sullivans.

While Howard Lincoln's letter may state that they their concerns lay with possible traffic congestion, it's clear that their real concern rests within the strong likelihood that they will continue to see a drop in attendance, corporate sponsorship, and private suite sales. This is something that Brian Robinson, one of the most plugged in persons connected to this arena issue, has written over the past week on

Lincoln mentions infrastructure (specifically regarding traffic congestion) within their letter as their primary concern of the proposed arena in the stadium district. Currently the SoDo stadium district is able to support a Seahawks crowd of over 67,000 people descending upon the area. The Mariners averaged just over 23,000 fans a game last year, and Chris Hansen has stated that he believes the arena will seat 17-20,000 people. Add those together, and that is 43,000 people that could possibly be going to the SoDo area on the very rare dates that an NBA/NHL game overlap with a Mariners game. That is 24,000 less people than those that comfortably go in and out of the stadium district during Seahawks games. Even if the Mariners are able to sell out a game and it happens to fall on the same date as a NBA/NHL game, it will be about 65,000 people. Still less than a Seahawks game.

The fact is that with the arrival of two brand new professional teams in Seattle, the Mariners are in dangerous territory of becoming the fifth or sixth most important sports attraction in the city. That is their concern. The Seahawks are undoubtedly the #1 priority and moneymaker as a member of the untouchable NFL. Husky football will always remain popular and survive purely on their alumni base alone. The new Sonics/NHL teams will have the "new car smell" and new arena to draw fans (thus making it appealing to corporate sponsorship), not mentioning the dormant passion for basketball this city possesses. Then the Sounders are growing exponentially, and have evolved into one of the best owned/operated professional clubs in the country.

The Mariners realize the danger of falling behind all of these teams because they have used up every ounce of goodwill that was established in the early 2000's. Fan and corporate money are directed to where the attention of the public is. If the Mariners continue to struggle, the focus will be on all of the other teams in the Seattle market that are succeeding. Lincoln and the rest of the front office are weary of this. Blocking the arrival of two new teams is the only way they can preserve their current standing, despite it already disintegrating in the absence of the Sonics/NHL.

Saying they support the arrival of the teams, just not the location, is bogus. They throw out potential sites like Renton, Seattle Center, and Bellevue. The fact is, Renton will never happen. If the Mariners worry about infrastructure, then Renton would never even be considered as a feasible site. This was clear during Clay Bennett's supposed "good faith effort" in 2006/2007. The possibility of the Renton site was merely a pawn to get the team out of Seattle. By mentioning Renton as a possibility, the Mariners are using the fallacy that it is a feasible site no differently than Bennett in order to derail the potential arrival of the Sonics/NHL.

The NBA has stated that a renovated KeyArena does not work, immediately removing Seattle Center from the conversation. Bellevue may be feasible, but land has not been purchased and is far, far behind anything Chris Hansen has currently in place in the SoDo district. The three "most likely" of the sites that Lincoln so "graciously" offers to Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle/King County councils are immediate death sentences to the potential arrival of the Sonics/NHL.

The fact is if the Mariners begin winning again, then fans will return to Safeco Field and the club will be able to solidify their spot with the fans and corporate sponsors. Since the Hansen plan began emerging, many have been comparing Seattle to Denver in terms of our potential ability to support six major sports attractions. Denver has a similar sports hierarchy with the Broncos being undoubtedly the most popular team in the region, followed by (in no particular order) a nearby college football team that the state is passionate about in the University of Colorado, an NHL team in the Avalanche, an NBA team in the Nuggets, an MLB team in the Rockies, and an MLS club in the Rapids (although the Rapids are nowhere close in popularity in attendance or attractiveness to corporate sponsorship as the Sounders).

The Rockies were once in a somewhat similar position as the Mariners, as they never finished above 4th place in the NL West from 1998-2006. They were able to maintain attendance in the early stretch (like the Mariners in their current stretch of losing/mediocrity), drawing over 3,300,000 fans in 2001 despite finishing last in the NL West and winning only 73 games. This high figure was mostly likely due to Coors Field still being relatively new and an attraction for fans. But attendance began to fall, bottoming out in 2005 when they drew under 2,000,000 fans. Suddenly a miraculous thing happened. They actually began winning games. 2007 was their miraculous World Series run, and during that season they drew 2,400,000 fans, a 500,000 improvement from just two years prior. Now that they have re-established themselves as a club, the Rockies drew almost 3,000,000 fans last year, up 1,100,000 fans from 2005. Despite the presence of the NFL, college football, NBA, NHL, and MLS, the Rockies were able to draw fans and (presumably) saw a rise in corporate sponsorship.

The fact is that if Mariners return to winning games on a consistent basis, they will be more than fine in an atmosphere of six major sports attractions. This is something the Rockies are currently proving in the Denver sports market. Quite honestly I don't know if Lincoln/Armstrong are aware of this. While I'm sure they want and desire to win, it has never seemingly been a true passion and drive of theirs to accomplish. This has often been a complaint of Mariners fans, though one I did not necessarily posses.

This letter was the nail in the coffin for me. I was indifferent about Lincoln and Armstrong before because I didn't believe they had too much of a hand in the on-field product. But when they get in the way of a civic asset, a possible $500 million gift to our region, the return of our first professional team that was beloved by our region, and the creation of thousands of jobs in the face of a struggling economy? When they opt for complacency because of fear of competition? I'm done.

I'm done with Lincoln and Armstrong. I'll always support the Mariners team, but it has never been more clear to me that the aspect holding back our baseball club are the people sitting on top of the organization. This letter to Mayor McGinn and the Seattle and King County councils ought to be the last remnant of the Lincoln/Armstrong era.

Unfortunately, it won't be.

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