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