BY Art Thiel 07:30AM 06/11/2013

Thiel: Who says you can’t play ’em 2 at a time?

A big international soccer match and a small domestic baseball game will happen simultaneously in SoDo Tuesday. Thank — or blame — the Mariners.

Two games at once in SoDo? Test your patience and brakes Tuesday night. / Wiki Commons

Apparently Seattle is not on the verge of a one-night “Carmageddon.” When I called the Seattle Police Dept. Monday to ask about what the cops have planned for Tuesday night traffic in SoDo, the detective said, “What’s going on?” Hmmm. As Yoda might say, a big deal this not is.

But it is believed to be the first time that the baseball and futbol stadiums have held virtually simultaneous games: U.S. vs. Panama international soccer at 6:30 p.m. and Mariners vs. Astros at 7:10 p.m.

What in the name of ingress/egress is going on?

A permissible collision of the worlds, according to the parties involved. So far, panic in the streets or the Port of Seattle has gone undetected. As the detective indicated.

A written agreement among the the Mariners, the First & Goal organization that operates the Sounders/Seahawks and the city planning department spells out the rules for event scheduling in SoDo. The purpose was to bring as much order as possible into the goofiness that comes with two stadiums in the same square mile as a big downtown, with a deepwater port on one side and a half-dozen railroad tracks on the other.

Whether it works depends a lot whether you are truck driver late with a load, or a downtown worker who commutes to sports events by foot, or a Panamanian soccer fan in town for the first time who thinks it’s quicker to get through the Canal than First Avenue South.

Everyone gets to draw their own conclusions Tuesday night. But the reason for a murmur rather than hysteria is summed neatly by Richard Sheridan, a spokesman for the planning department:

“This isn’t Monday Night Football.”

Any week-night crowd for a Seahawks game, be it Monday or Thursday, will draw 68,000 customers for a 5:30 p.m. kickoff, putting Pioneer Square in lockdown, and with the potential of plugging I-5 from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. Fortunately by now, most area residents who aren’t Seahawks fans learn the NFL schedule well enough in advance to be in Kabul rather than Seattle on game nights.

However, Tuesday night will bring to town a number of soccer tourists perhaps for the first time. The game is a rare chance for them to see the U.S. national team play a meaningful international game on home sod (albeit rental grass), as well as to visit Seattle and be confused by the famous traffic lights that dither between red and green but produce no discernible influence on vehicle movement. The newbies have potential to complicate matters.

Fortunately, two factors mitigate against madness. The agreement stipulates that that the estimated maximum attendance for the combined events cannot exceed 58,000, and that simultaneous events can occur no more than twice a year. The Sounders agreed to cap the sales of tickets at 42,000 for the U.S. Soccer event. As of Monday, pre-sale was around 36,000.

The second factor is that the Mariners and Astros are the two worst teams in the American League. Monday night the teams drew 12,118, an estimated 3,000 of which were seagulls.

But what if the Mariners were, well, attractive? Apparently the possibility didn’t come up.

“There really weren’t any negotiations,” said Randy Adamack, Mariners vice-president of communications. “We got a call from First & Goal advising us that the event was happening at 6:30 p.m. on June 11, and they were capping ticket sales. We estimated that the (baseball) crowd would be light, and that it would fit within the parameters of the agreement” for simultaneous events.

Announcement of the game’s location, date and time came March 11, well after MLB’s schedule was announced. For all the obvious reasons, MLB is resistant to making schedule changes, even going from a night game to a day game.

“We’d have to get permission (to move the start time) from MLB and the visiting team,” Adamack said, “but frankly, nobody asked.

“In an ideal world, there would be no overlaps. But since this was a national/international type event and the (baseball) crowd would be light, we figured it could work.”

The Mariners deserve credit for being cooperative neighbors. Or is it discredit for being a bad baseball team? The only way to know is to have had the Yankees in town three days later than they were, for a potential 40,000 in each stadium. Wouldn’t that have been amusing?

The agreement probably would have meant that the city, despite the chance to host a once-every-25-years event, would have told soccer fans to drop dead — and protect the rights of a team that has been fighting the city hard about its desire to permit a basketball arena nearly on its front porch.

Twist your sporting hearts around that one. I just wanted to see the photo from space of a ribbon of brake lights from Canada to Mexico.


  • maqman

    If there are that many Panamanians in Seattle who’s watching the canal? The ships must be prow to fantail by now. Bush Sr should have set something like this up before we invaded them last time. Maybe next time.

  • jafabian

    Glad I don’t work downtown anymore. That’s gonna be a zoo there. All we need now is an NHL team to play in the proposed arena. That’s the fun of all sport venues being bunched together!

  • Jamo57

    “The Mariners deserve credit for being cooperative neighbors. Or is it
    discredit for being a bad baseball team?”

    Let me offer an option C: Perhaps this was never about traffic with the M’s but is more about not wanting competition from two more major league franchises in town. As the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals are currently going on, remember if Seattle were so fortunate to host one or both of these we would be talking about a crowd of 20,000 fans. Or 53% of the soccer crowd that will be attending the game.

  • billy bob

    There’s traffic in big cities? What next? Dogs and cats living together? Mass hysteria!

  • Leon Russell

    “The only way to know is to have had the Yankees in town three days later than they were, for a potential 40,000 in each stadium.”

    When the Yankees played at Safeco Field last Thursday night, attendance was only 18,776 — not close to 40,000. Week night games don’t draw nearly as many fans as weekend games, including Friday night games.
    On the other hand, weekday day games usually draw better than weekday night games, so moving tonight’s game to this afternoon probably would have been a smart move for the M’s, attendance-wise. I think the city limits how many weekday day games the M’s can play each year, though, so maybe the city would not have allowed the M’s to play this afternoon instead of this evening.

  • Kirkland

    Or, US Soccer could have scheduled the Seattle game for next Tuesday, when Salt Lake City has them. This avoids a conflict with the Mariners, who are on the road then, and would have made travel from Jamaica (their previous game) to SLC easier than Jamaica to Seattle.

  • bugzapper

    There were no games going on last Saturday at 2:15pm when the entire University District was gunnysacked with cars. I-5 southbound was jammed alright, but you couldn’t attribute it to a game or the fact the Mercer Street ramps were closed. Even NE 50th west of I-5 was bumper to bumper going westbound.

    Seattle traffic is no longer about arenas, stadiums or who’s playing when. It’s about the fact the city has been overbuilt, too many rats crammed into the cage. And there isn’t a single one of those “density” geeks who’ll acknowledge it. Similarly, there isn’t a single new high-rise urban ghetto whose move-in rules state, “Yes, you can live here, but you may NOT own a car.” So we all do.

    The Mariners F.O. should just STFU and worry about their stinking lousy team.

  • Tom G.

    What an odd agreement.

    You can host Monday/Thursday Night Football with 68,000+ but you can’t have joint events with more than 58,000. Ridiculous, but whatever.

    I’d be shocked if there was just no way the Sonics could get their new arena built in SODO.

    As far as the Sounders are concerned, they could schedule LITTLE TO NO weekday home games in April/May/June so they wouldn’t interfere with the NBA and/or NHL playoffs.

    For the Mariners, they could rewrite their agreement with the City of Seattle saying either they could have 6 prescheduled weekday afternoon games + any days that’ll conflict with the NBA and NHL playoffs OR they could switch some prescheduled weekday afternoon games into weekday night games.

    For the Seahawks, obviously the NBA and the NHL would be DUMB to schedule games that would conflict with 68,000+ crowds. So that isn’t going to happen.

    And finally, for the NBA and NHL teams, you just form an agreement saying there will be no back to back weekday playoff games.

    All Peter Steinbrueck and the Mariners are doing here is grandstanding.

    Just let the stupid EIS run its course and see what it says.