BY SPNW Staff 03:19PM 04/05/2012

Mariners, port object to arena site; do you agree?

The Mariners’ objection to the location of the proposed basketball/hockey arena in their SoDo neighborhood drew a big response from the sports community. Vote here.

The SoDo District, hard by the busy Port of Seattle, is the proposed site for a basketball/hockey arena. A citizen's review panel gave its OK Wednesday to proceed with plans for the $5o0 million facility, but he Mariners and port are not OK with the site. / Wiki Commons

A citizens advisory panel charged with reviewing a proposal for a $500 million basketball/hockey arena in the SoDo District informed Seattle and King County officials Wednesday to go forward with the idea, calling it “an unprecedented opportunity to bring two professional sports teams back to Seattle.”

Greg Smith, a Seattle real estate developer and a member of the Arena Review Panel, declared, “We should ask how to make this happen, not say why it shouldn’t happen.”

By letter and by word, the Seattle Mariners objected, squawking that the arena shouldn’t happen, and wouldn’t, in their neighborhood. Backed in their stance by the Port of Seattle, the Mariners argued that having two new pro sports teams near Safeco (Mariners) and CenturyLink Field (Seahawks/Sounders) would create scheduling conflicts, traffic nightmares and parking problems that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate.

(Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest weighed in on the issues Wednesday: SoDo Arena, The Truth And The Mariners.)

The Mariners say they aren’t opposed to new franchises entering the city’s sporting mix, but that SoDo is not the place for them. The Mariners suggested Bellevue or Renton.

“We had a great relationship with the Sonics before they left (the Sonics did not play right under the Mariners’ noses) and, quite frankly, I was a Sonics fan before I was a Mariners fan,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln told ESPN 710 radio. ”So we’d love to see the NBA back.

“Our concern is the siting of the proposed NBA arena and the transportation issue and what we anticipate will be the need to expend significant public funds to mitigate the transportation problems we have down there, and to build appropriate infrastructure so the transportation issues are at least eased.

“What we’re saying is, ‘Let’s have a public process that determines the best site for the arena.’ We simply don’t think the site right next to our parking garage works.”

Team president Chuck Armstrong went so far as to tell KJR radio that proposed arena developer Chris Hansen would “rue the day” he built in SoDo.

Despite the Mariners claim that “hundreds of millions” would be required to fix the traffic tangle that would happen with 200 or so event dates at the arena, that didn’t give the Arena Review Panel pause Wednesday, deeming the argument no deal-breaker. In fact, former Seattle City Councilwoman Jan Drago pointed out that the SoDo area is already zoned for stadiums.

“One goal of zoning is predictability,” Drago said. “It’s a stadium district. I don’t think there’s any other place in the city it (a new arena) could go.”

Since Lincoln sent the complaint letter to city and county officials Tuesday, the Mariners have received considerable criticism to the effect that their real agenda is not congestion, parking snafus, or the amount of money it would take to alleviate those issues, but a fear of competition that new franchises inevitably would bring.

Due to their annual on-field feebleness over much of the past decade, the Mariners have lost a significant portion of their fan base, with no end to the bleeding in sight. They have also lost much of their credibility with the public.

So even if the Mariners are right about the cost, congestion and chaos that a new arena would create, they are unlikely to sway zealots such as Smith, who see this is as perhaps Seattle’s best opportunity to return to the NBA.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I don’t get why an arena HAS to be in SODO.  No matter where it goes if an NBA/NHL team is in it people will go whether it’s in SODO, Seattle Center, Bellevue or Renton.  Exploring all possibilities is the smart thing to do IMO.

    As far as traffic goes I think it’s a legitimate concern but currently not this huge mistake the M’s paint it to be.  However growth in the area should be studied.  When I-5 was built it was constructed to accommodate the population of the time it was built and has been too small for Seattle for quite awhile now because growth was never considered.  I don’t think that mistake should be repeated.

    I’m also surprised that Chris Hansen wants to put the arena in SODO.  When Key Arena opened it opened to rave reviews.  The M’s and Seahawks looked at it, especially the luxury suites, and made their own stadiums better, taking the Sonics luxury box suites dollars from them and people went to Safeco and Century Link Field.  (though the Sonics having barely .500 seasons contributed to declining attendance as well)  Sure if an arena is put next to the M’s and Seahawks stadiums it creates competition for the public’s sport dollars but it goes both ways.  Seems to me it would be better for this arena to be away from SODO so there isn’t so much competition for everyone’s dollar.  Especially for an NBA team because fact of the matter is there are still hard feelings for the NBA and a lot of potential for what’s happening in Charlotte to happen in Seattle if the NBA returns.  That community is still smarting from their own arena controversy and have yet to really embrace the Bobcats as a result.  Would Seattle fans support an expansion franchise that goes several years with some lean seasons?  Or would they look at that and go “been there, done that?”  I can see fans waiting until they get to the stadium and arena, looking to see which has the better seats for their dollar depending on attendance and choosing that venue.  I’d rather sit in the 200 level of the CLink or the Safe than the nosebleed section of a new arena.  And I can see people doing that as well.  And the cheap seats in the stadiums are usually cheaper than the cheap seats of an NBA arena.

  • jafabian

    I don’t get why an arena HAS to be in SODO.  No matter where it goes if an NBA/NHL team is in it people will go whether it’s in SODO, Seattle Center, Bellevue or Renton.  Exploring all possibilities is the smart thing to do IMO.

    As far as traffic goes I think it’s a legitimate concern but currently not this huge mistake the M’s paint it to be.  However growth in the area should be studied.  When I-5 was built it was constructed to accommodate the population of the time it was built and has been too small for Seattle for quite awhile now because growth was never considered.  I don’t think that mistake should be repeated.

    I’m also surprised that Chris Hansen wants to put the arena in SODO.  When Key Arena opened it opened to rave reviews.  The M’s and Seahawks looked at it, especially the luxury suites, and made their own stadiums better, taking the Sonics luxury box suites dollars from them and people went to Safeco and Century Link Field.  (though the Sonics having barely .500 seasons contributed to declining attendance as well)  Sure if an arena is put next to the M’s and Seahawks stadiums it creates competition for the public’s sport dollars but it goes both ways.  Seems to me it would be better for this arena to be away from SODO so there isn’t so much competition for everyone’s dollar.  Especially for an NBA team because fact of the matter is there are still hard feelings for the NBA and a lot of potential for what’s happening in Charlotte to happen in Seattle if the NBA returns.  That community is still smarting from their own arena controversy and have yet to really embrace the Bobcats as a result.  Would Seattle fans support an expansion franchise that goes several years with some lean seasons?  Or would they look at that and go “been there, done that?”  I can see fans waiting until they get to the stadium and arena, looking to see which has the better seats for their dollar depending on attendance and choosing that venue.  I’d rather sit in the 200 level of the CLink or the Safe than the nosebleed section of a new arena.  And I can see people doing that as well.  And the cheap seats in the stadiums are usually cheaper than the cheap seats of an NBA arena.

  • Markbell360

    People forget to realize the sodo district is the stadium district. Chris Hansen already owns the land and is doing way more than his share to get the Sonics back. No offense Bellevue or Renton etc. But fans want teams that are in key locations of their city, not suburbs. If your going to have a 500 mil. dollar arena you want it to be surrounded by nice scenery right? Even if Mariners and Sonics games sold out on the same night it would still be less fans than a sold out seahawks game. Besides it is vital that people from all over the puget sound are able to hop on a ferry and walk to the games……………….THANK YOU Chris Hansen.

  • Markbell360

    People forget to realize the sodo district is the stadium district. Chris Hansen already owns the land and is doing way more than his share to get the Sonics back. No offense Bellevue or Renton etc. But fans want teams that are in key locations of their city, not suburbs. If your going to have a 500 mil. dollar arena you want it to be surrounded by nice scenery right? Even if Mariners and Sonics games sold out on the same night it would still be less fans than a sold out seahawks game. Besides it is vital that people from all over the puget sound are able to hop on a ferry and walk to the games……………….THANK YOU Chris Hansen.

  • Loyal Mariners fan

    Hansen owns the land and is willing to spend his (and his investors’) own money to build an arena and acquire NBA and NHL franchises.  Look for alternative sites?   You’ve got to be kidding.

    As Art Thiel pointed out in an earlier story, money earmarked to fix traffic snarls and congestion in Sodo  was diverted by the mayor and council to the Mercer Project, designed solely to satisfy Vulcan Inc.’s plans for its South Lake Union development.  The hundreds of millions being devoted to the Mercer Project will not reduce traffic congestion at all.

    The city should do what it can to address the Sodo problem.  But, even without a fix, congestion there is hardly as bad as in many other big-city stadium areas.  Ever try driving or parking near the Staples Center in L.A. or near Fenway in Boston?  Let Hansen proceed.  In the meantime, the city
    should prepare a new plan to ease Sodo congestion.  After all, the new arena at best is several years away.

    • Jamo57

      I listen the Vancouver sports radio over the internet as I follow the Canucks and I heard an interview with Mike Gillis, the GM of the Canucks, right after Hansen arrived on the scene.   He was asked if the Canucks would support a team relocating to Seattle and he was very enthusiastic.   His comment about SoDo was really telling.   He said something like, ‘the stadiums in Seattle are great, easy to get in and out of.’    Having been to a game at Rogers arena, I understand where he is coming from.    Sometimes listening to others who have been to other cities is really helpful in realizing maybe things aren’t so bad here.

  • Loyal Mariners fan

    Hansen owns the land and is willing to spend his (and his investors’) own money to build an arena and acquire NBA and NHL franchises.  Look for alternative sites?   You’ve got to be kidding.

    As Art Thiel pointed out in an earlier story, money earmarked to fix traffic snarls and congestion in Sodo  was diverted by the mayor and council to the Mercer Project, designed solely to satisfy Vulcan Inc.’s plans for its South Lake Union development.  The hundreds of millions being devoted to the Mercer Project will not reduce traffic congestion at all.

    The city should do what it can to address the Sodo problem.  But, even without a fix, congestion there is hardly as bad as in many other big-city stadium areas.  Ever try driving or parking near the Staples Center in L.A. or near Fenway in Boston?  Let Hansen proceed.  In the meantime, the city
    should prepare a new plan to ease Sodo congestion.  After all, the new arena at best is several years away.

    • Jamo57

      I listen the Vancouver sports radio over the internet as I follow the Canucks and I heard an interview with Mike Gillis, the GM of the Canucks, right after Hansen arrived on the scene.   He was asked if the Canucks would support a team relocating to Seattle and he was very enthusiastic.   His comment about SoDo was really telling.   He said something like, ‘the stadiums in Seattle are great, easy to get in and out of.’    Having been to a game at Rogers arena, I understand where he is coming from.    Sometimes listening to others who have been to other cities is really helpful in realizing maybe things aren’t so bad here.

  • Jamo57

    One thing Chris Hansen has going for him is the willingness to take on the problems a site presents and address the concerns of the citizens in an area, and do so with his own capital.     It seems his approach has been 180 degrees from the approach the Ms took in getting their publicly financed stadium built.   Hansen has been cooperative and proactive rather than belligerent and demanding as I remember the Ms being in the building of Safeco.

    This whole idea of looking at Bellevue and Renton being floated by the Ms is silly.   I am sure they looked at them as well and decided SoDo was the best solution for their stadium.   SoDo is at the junction of our two major interstate highways and already has light rail and express bus service into the area.   And it is already zoned for stadiums which Jan Drago pointed out will save 3-4 years on the project.  

    Mariners, are you taking notes on how to be a good citizen of the city?   Mr. Hansen is providing a text book example on how to be one.   If your egos can’t allow you to see that, I’m afraid your team will fall further out of favor with the sports fandom and citizenry of the Puget Sound region.

    Mr. Hansen has been a breath of fresh air on our region.

  • Jamo57

    One thing Chris Hansen has going for him is the willingness to take on the problems a site presents and address the concerns of the citizens in an area, and do so with his own capital.     It seems his approach has been 180 degrees from the approach the Ms took in getting their publicly financed stadium built.   Hansen has been cooperative and proactive rather than belligerent and demanding as I remember the Ms being in the building of Safeco.

    This whole idea of looking at Bellevue and Renton being floated by the Ms is silly.   I am sure they looked at them as well and decided SoDo was the best solution for their stadium.   SoDo is at the junction of our two major interstate highways and already has light rail and express bus service into the area.   And it is already zoned for stadiums which Jan Drago pointed out will save 3-4 years on the project.  

    Mariners, are you taking notes on how to be a good citizen of the city?   Mr. Hansen is providing a text book example on how to be one.   If your egos can’t allow you to see that, I’m afraid your team will fall further out of favor with the sports fandom and citizenry of the Puget Sound region.

    Mr. Hansen has been a breath of fresh air on our region.

  • Grover

    Two more pro sports teams in our area would be two too many.  There is no way 6 major sports teams (including the Sounders, who draw more fans per year than the Sonics, or Seahawks, and Husky football in their new stadium).  There just simply are not enough corporate dollars to buy all the luxury suites, club seats, in-stadium advertising and season tickets for six major sports teams in the Seattle area.

    If Hansen’s group wants to put up 100% of the money for the arena and teams, then that’s his business.  But this is a really stupid idea for the City of Seattle and King County to invest in.  There should be no public money whatsoever in this newest version of the “pro sports stadium scam.”

    Remember, the Huskies did not get any tax money from the state, and they are going ahead with their new stadium with all private funding.  Hansen should do the same thing.

    • Jamo57

      The Huskies didn’t have to acquire the land.    And the state is putting a light rail station in next to the stadium.    Of course the station will serve the entire campus but it sure will come in handy on game days.

      But I’m glad you brought up the Huskies.   I have never stopped being impressed with how creative they got when they were faced with traffic issues and neighborhood resistance  to their stadium expansion back in the late 80s.   The set up with the Metro busses that shuttle fans to the stadium from area park and rides is terrific and makes ‘ingress and egress’ much more efficient.    It would be nice to see the Ms try and be creative too.

      And I must respectfully disagree about our market’s ability to support all the teams.   We are the 13th largest media market in the country and the wealth that has been created in the Puget Sound region in the last 25 years is astounding.   We are not the middle class city the Ms found in the 80s that Art references in ‘Out of Left Field’.  Seattle is a pretty affluent city.   The corporate dollars can be found, the teams just need to go out and look for it.   Competition is good and maybe the franchises could find ways to bundle their suite sales and corporate sponsorships.

      How did these folks make their fortunes with these negative attitudes?   Or is it all just posturing?

  • Grover

    Two more pro sports teams in our area would be two too many.  There is no way 6 major sports teams (including the Sounders, who draw more fans per year than the Sonics, or Seahawks, and Husky football in their new stadium).  There just simply are not enough corporate dollars to buy all the luxury suites, club seats, in-stadium advertising and season tickets for six major sports teams in the Seattle area.

    If Hansen’s group wants to put up 100% of the money for the arena and teams, then that’s his business.  But this is a really stupid idea for the City of Seattle and King County to invest in.  There should be no public money whatsoever in this newest version of the “pro sports stadium scam.”

    Remember, the Huskies did not get any tax money from the state, and they are going ahead with their new stadium with all private funding.  Hansen should do the same thing.

    • Jamo57

      The Huskies didn’t have to acquire the land.    And the state is putting a light rail station in next to the stadium.    Of course the station will serve the entire campus but it sure will come in handy on game days.

      But I’m glad you brought up the Huskies.   I have never stopped being impressed with how creative they got when they were faced with traffic issues and neighborhood resistance  to their stadium expansion back in the late 80s.   The set up with the Metro busses that shuttle fans to the stadium from area park and rides is terrific and makes ‘ingress and egress’ much more efficient.    It would be nice to see the Ms try and be creative too.

      And I must respectfully disagree about our market’s ability to support all the teams.   We are the 13th largest media market in the country and the wealth that has been created in the Puget Sound region in the last 25 years is astounding.   We are not the middle class city the Ms found in the 80s that Art references in ‘Out of Left Field’.  Seattle is a pretty affluent city.   The corporate dollars can be found, the teams just need to go out and look for it.   Competition is good and maybe the franchises could find ways to bundle their suite sales and corporate sponsorships.

      How did these folks make their fortunes with these negative attitudes?   Or is it all just posturing?

  • 1coolguy

    If McGinn and the City Council had a true perspective on what’s best for Seattle, they would carve off the Key Arena property and sell it, LAND and building, to Hanson for $1.00.

    Hanson saves $200m (land and remodel costs) and the city saves the Seattle Center.

    Win / win.

  • 1coolguy

    If McGinn and the City Council had a true perspective on what’s best for Seattle, they would carve off the Key Arena property and sell it, LAND and building, to Hanson for $1.00.

    Hanson saves $200m (land and remodel costs) and the city saves the Seattle Center.

    Win / win.

  • Tian Biao

    well, this is a site for sports fans, so for what it’s worth, YES, i want the arena, and i want the NHL and the Sonics back. Also, the district is zoned for sports facilities, so it makes sense (acknowledging the traffic issues that need to be solved.)

    I do have one question. In a previous post, in a response, Art wrote “But suites sales and ticket sales are secondary to media rights, which
    would be enhanced if Seattle became a full menu sports town.”

    I’m not sure what that means. It implies that more sports teams would increase media revenue. If that were true, why wouldn’t the Ms want to cooperate with the new arena and the new teams, to grow the pie and increase their own revenues? Why would the Ms muck it up if it meant more money for them as well? Either they are stupid or short sighted or both (definite possibilities to be sure) or I missed something.

    • Jamo57

      Geoff Baker has been putting out a lot of information about the changing media landscape in sports and seems pretty knowledgeable about where that is going.   I will try and paraphrase and simplify and maybe Art will correct me or add more context.   The big local media deals appear to be coming from the franchises partnering with a local/regional sports network and creating their own ‘network’ so to speak.   Similar to what the Pac-12 network is going to be.     As baseball is not played year round, in this scenario the Ms would try and partner with a winter sport(s) such as an NHL or NBA team-or maybe both.

      The Pac-12 media deal with the creation of the Pac-12 network and other national tie-ins has resulted in a quantum leap in revenue to the schools.  Texas Rangers and the Angles have also done similar deals that has created huge jumps in their TV revenue.

      As Geoff has wondered, either the Ms don’t appear interested in doing such a deal or may be positioning the team for a sale and will leave such work for a future owner to do.   In any event they run the risk of falling behind their competition and if their intent is to block the arena due to the fact their long term plan is to sell, then the hoops and puck fans of the Seattle area will suffer.

      • Tian Biao

        ah, that explains a lot, thanks Jamo, I appreciate the reply. But it raises another question which i am sure has occurred to you: why aren’t the Ms pursuing this sort of media partnership package? I mean, even if they were positioning themselves for a sale, surely the prospect of greater future TV revenue would increase their equity value and sales price? As always, the Ms are hard to figure out. sort of like when they thought yuniesky betancourt was big-league material.

        • Jamo57

          That is the big mystery.   I believe their current deal still has 2-3 years before they can opt out and pursue a different type of deal.   But being obstructionist toward an NBA/NHL partner would lead one to assume they aren’t looking that far down the road.   Which leads to the conjecture that they may be looking for a buyer.

  • Tian Biao

    well, this is a site for sports fans, so for what it’s worth, YES, i want the arena, and i want the NHL and the Sonics back. Also, the district is zoned for sports facilities, so it makes sense (acknowledging the traffic issues that need to be solved.)

    I do have one question. In a previous post, in a response, Art wrote “But suites sales and ticket sales are secondary to media rights, which
    would be enhanced if Seattle became a full menu sports town.”

    I’m not sure what that means. It implies that more sports teams would increase media revenue. If that were true, why wouldn’t the Ms want to cooperate with the new arena and the new teams, to grow the pie and increase their own revenues? Why would the Ms muck it up if it meant more money for them as well? Either they are stupid or short sighted or both (definite possibilities to be sure) or I missed something.

    • Jamo57

      Geoff Baker has been putting out a lot of information about the changing media landscape in sports and seems pretty knowledgeable about where that is going.   I will try and paraphrase and simplify and maybe Art will correct me or add more context.   The big local media deals appear to be coming from the franchises partnering with a local/regional sports network and creating their own ‘network’ so to speak.   Similar to what the Pac-12 network is going to be.     As baseball is not played year round, in this scenario the Ms would try and partner with a winter sport(s) such as an NHL or NBA team-or maybe both.

      The Pac-12 media deal with the creation of the Pac-12 network and other national tie-ins has resulted in a quantum leap in revenue to the schools.  Texas Rangers and the Angles have also done similar deals that has created huge jumps in their TV revenue.

      As Geoff has wondered, either the Ms don’t appear interested in doing such a deal or may be positioning the team for a sale and will leave such work for a future owner to do.   In any event they run the risk of falling behind their competition and if their intent is to block the arena due to the fact their long term plan is to sell, then the hoops and puck fans of the Seattle area will suffer.

      • Tian Biao

        ah, that explains a lot, thanks Jamo, I appreciate the reply. But it raises another question which i am sure has occurred to you: why aren’t the Ms pursuing this sort of media partnership package? I mean, even if they were positioning themselves for a sale, surely the prospect of greater future TV revenue would increase their equity value and sales price? As always, the Ms are hard to figure out. sort of like when they thought yuniesky betancourt was big-league material.

        • Jamo57

          That is the big mystery.   I believe their current deal still has 2-3 years before they can opt out and pursue a different type of deal.   But being obstructionist toward an NBA/NHL partner would lead one to assume they aren’t looking that far down the road.   Which leads to the conjecture that they may be looking for a buyer.

  • Tian Biao

    re my previous post: i meant to say: I want the arena in Sodo. bellevue and renton are too far away; they would mean long drives and parking lots and a complete lack of charm. plus, the Sodo proposal is already underway; anything else would be starting from scratch.

  • Tian Biao

    re my previous post: i meant to say: I want the arena in Sodo. bellevue and renton are too far away; they would mean long drives and parking lots and a complete lack of charm. plus, the Sodo proposal is already underway; anything else would be starting from scratch.