BY Art Thiel 04:39PM 11/15/2012

Thiel: Forget screen. What about Safeco traffic?

Go ahead, make your jokes about the Mariners’ investment in a hood ornament. After that, here’s a question: Why not spend money on the “fan experience” of traffic and parking?

Safeco Field

The park is OK. Around it, and in it. . . now, those are the questions. / Wiki Commons

Trying not to go there.

There is little I can say that most Mariners fans haven’t already thought, said and written about the irony of the Mariners investing $10 million in bling instead of bat. Too easy. Insert your own joke.

So to be perfectly perfunctory about the new screen:

Safeco Field’s failing screen was 13 years old. The Mariners are required by the lease to keep the facility in first-class condition. The money for capital improvements is a budget line separate from business operations, as it is for any business. I’m sure a state-of-the-art screen that will make the view of Felix Hernandez’s nostrils seem like the Carlsbad Caverns will be cool.

Argh. Couldn’t help myself.

But let’s move beyond the obvious to another question regarding the Mariners’ money decisions posed by the new spend:

What about investing in another capital-improvement project: Helping fix SoDo traffic and parking?

Egressing back to the issue of the proposed arena, you may recall that the city council in September extracted $40 million from arena developer Chris Hansen’s plan and re-dedicated it to a transportation infrastructure fund. The council’s idea was that if Hansen’s arena was part of increasing the traffic and parking problem, the least he could do was be part of the solution. Hansen bought the notion, the deal was re-jiggered, and the city and county councils passed the amended memorandum of understanding.

City council member Tim Burgess, who helped lead the city’s negotiation, told me at the time that Hansen’s contribution could be used to leverage some money from the involved constituencies who would benefit from improvements.

But so far . . . crickets.

In an interview with Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln in October regarding the Mariners’ arena opposition, he basically told the city to drop dead.

“We have no intention of making any contribution,” Lincoln said.  “And frankly, our political leaders know that $40 million is a drop in the bucket. Let’’s get real.”

It may be true that that the amount finally raised won’t be enough to solve the problem, and the traffic mitigation rightly is a city problem, not a ballpark capital expense. But we also know, without question, that doing nothing only makes SoDo worse, given the pace of SoDo’s redevelopment independent of the arena.

Any truly big solution probably awaits use of the deep-bore tunnel in 2016 that replaces the Alaskan Way Viaduct and discovery of what drivers will do to avoid the tunnel toll. But even the mere commitment (not the spending) of cash now to help the city and Hansen mitigate smaller problems would go a ways toward getting the franchise out of the acid bath in which it finds itself with a sports public that is increasingly uninterested in the club’s problems.

Not sure what the cost in public goodwill has been for the Mariners, but we can start with $10 million and argue from there. Think about it: When the club is mocked for investing its own money in the ballpark, how low is its public cred?

A new screen? Well, sure. But I’m willing to bet that Mariners fans would take happily a screen that is smaller than a runway at Sea-Tac for $5 million, if the other $5 million went into stadium seat warmers for April, May and June.

And those same fans would probably argue that if the Mariners can find $10 million in the budget for a video screen whose functionality is replicated by devices in the purses and pockets of most fans, the Mariners could find $10 million to help the city and Hansen with a way to “ingress and egress” more easily to/from Safeco.

After all, traffic and parking are very much a part of  “the fan experience,” the altar at which ownership, from their own words, claims to worship.

The Mariners seem to be investing in a new hood ornament when a sports public is disinclined to buy the car, at least partly because it’s too hard to drive and park it.

But in the club’s defense, the scoreboard will give them many years more service than highly overpriced free agent hire Josh Hamilton, and probably pinch hit just as well as Chone Figgins, for almost the same money.

Jeez. Can’t help myself.


  • You said it all, Art. One can only add, “badda bing, badda boom”. Cheers.

  • Big

    The Safe, The Ball Park. It’s been about Safco Field and not the ball club. Well, why not amusement rides? A Wild Mouse mini rollercoaster or _______________ (your favorite amusement ride).

    • Jamo57

      Well said, Big. By coincidence I’ve taken to calling the franchise the Disney Ms as they are less a ball club and much more merely a corporate entertainment provider. At least I think that is how senior management views their business operations and reason for existing.

  • Jamo57

    Whenever politicians, pundits, and talk radio hosts rail against ‘entitlements’, the ‘welfare society’, and the 47% that just ‘want things’; they usually cite examples of where folks are getting public handouts while spending money on inappropriate things like liquor, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, etc.

    Given as how the Ms are residing in what could be argued as publicly subsidized housing, is Howard Lincoln guilty of buying the equivalent of a 60 inch plasma TV while receiving food stamps? He whines about wanting to be given a solution to his traffic woes while contributing nothing,

    Check the back of the new scoreboard for a wires running over to the Clink and see if the Ms are stealing the Seahawks’ cable feed.

    Howard Lincoln, welfare queen.

  • dawgtoe

    no one is mentioning about added traffic from the coal train that will add 1-2 hrs congestion in the Sodo area. why are the ship workers union and M’s not opposing the coal factory up north that will add to the congestion w/o offering to help w/ Sodo traffic problems?

    • 1coolguy

      They can run the trains at all hours, so if after midnight, no issue.

  • RadioGuy

    The thought of seeing those stupid Atari-esque “hydro” races on a 200-foot screen is a little unsettling. That fans often find them more entertaining than the game on the field is worse.

    • Pixeldawg13

      No, that they ARE more entertaining than the game on the field is what’s worse.

  • mtk

    Seat warmers for April, May and June? We’d appreciate them more in October and November if we could get to the World Ser… oh, never mind.

  • 1coolguy

    Maybe they can play 1st run movies during the M’s games – Now those would be worth watching!

    As to the M’s, until Licoln and Armstrong are gone (common thread throughout the M’s demise) I sure won’t be spending my entertainment money on their poor offering.

    Best thing they can do is offer Gillick or Beane the moon to turn the ship around and step aside.

  • jafabian

    $15 mil? Guess we now know why ticket prices went up….