Seattle Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln Says NBA/NHL Arena "Does Not Work" For Them

By Lars Hanson

SEATTLE — With a sports city like Seattle success comes once in a blue moon. Since the Seattle Sonics left the city in 2008 for Oklahoma City there hasn’t been a team that found consistent success amongst the major for sports leagues NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL. Since the city only has the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks it doesn’t help that neither have found consistent success.

When San Francisco based hedge fund manager Chris Hansen announced that he had an NBA and NHL arena deal that would work with city laws it was welcome news. While fans had their hopes raised about having basketball return and professional hockey come to the city the deal still has to pass by the Arena Review Panel.

So far nothing negative has come from the panel, Mayor Mike McGinn or any of the teams within the city including the Sodo district which houses the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders and where Hansen’s arena would be built. Today that changed with Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln sending a letter to McGinn, county executive Dow Constantine, the Seattle City Counsel and King County Counsel.

In that letter which was obtained by Sports Radio KJR in Seattle Lincoln claims that it would create scheduling conflicts  along with traffic and parking problems. “It would bring scheduling, traffic and parking challenges that would likely require hundreds of dollars to mitigate.”

Hansen’s proposed arena location is about a quarter of a mile south of Safeco field with the clubs parking garage between the two sites. The Mariners season runs from April 13th (home opener) to October 3rd (final home game). The Portland Trail Blazers schedule during a normal 82 game season would run from October 5th to April 13th plus any playoff games. So essentially we’re talking about one or two weeks of overlap that could possibly conflict with the Mariners.

The exact same scenario would play out with a hockey team in the city. The Vancouver Canucks 2011/2012 season runs from October 6th to April 7th.

In terms of traffic “problems” the team would only have a couple of days where the two would overlap on game day which would make it a rare problem. On those days Hansen could either build his own parking garage and not have to worry or the two sides could work out an agreement to have NBA/NHL fans use the Mariners garage with some financial compensation coming back to the Mariners.

There will always be congestion in any city let alone downtown Seattle so anyone could make that claim but it’s about as useless as one could make.  Lincoln does insist clearly twice in his letter that the organization is firmly behind having both and NBA and NHL team to the city. However, they don’t want it anywhere near the Sodo area or more specifically Safeco field.

Lincoln also states that should an extensive search for a location to house an NBA and NHL team show that the current proposal in Sodo is the best fit then the two sides would work to eliminate these current “problems”.

In reality the letter sent by Lincoln is nothing more than an organization crying out to the city to prevent another two teams taking whatever little amount of fans the Mariners have left. A Jamie Moyer fastball has been more productive and attracted more fans over the last four to five years than the Mariners have.

Since 2008 when the Sonics left the Mariners seasonal average for attendance has gone down every year.  2008: 28,762. 2009: 27,105. 2010: 25,749. 2011: 23,411.

The Major League Soccer Seattle Sounders have had a higher average attendance (granted over a shorter season) over the Mariners since 2009 when the club was created.

Needless to say the letter from Lincoln hurts the Mariners PR more than it does help them. With a city so deprived of a successful sports franchise the sports fans of Seattle deserve to have an NBA franchise back and welcome an NHL team that is committed to being successful more than just once in a decade.

The Seattle Seahawks continue to build on the right track having made the playoffs in 2010 and the Seattle Sounders already one of the elite teams in Major League Soccer. Even the WNBA Seattle Storm won the WNBA title in 2010 and consistently make the playoffs.

The Mariners are a fledgeling franchise to say the least with their last playoff game October 22, 2001 against the New York Yankees. Since then the club has more seasons with 75 or more losses than 75 or more wins. That includes two 101 loss seasons, a 95 loss season in 2011 and 99 losses in 2004.

The Mariners became the first organization in MLB history to lose 100 or more games AND have a payroll over $100 million in 2008.

Simply put the Mariners can’t afford to have two more teams come into the Sodo area and that’s solely on the Mariners organization. That’s not on the Seahawks, Sounders and future NBA and NHL teams. Fans will not pay to come watch a team lose badly year in and year out.

The reason the Seahawks continue to sellout CenturyLink field is because the club, while not elite, is still a strong competitive team that competes every year. The Seattle Sounders have dominated MLS and have now started to have international success as well in Concacaf Champions League.

Having a horrendous product on the field is one thing. Compounding it with a boneheaded letter which kills your PR is detrimental.

Here is letter Lincoln sent to McGinn and the city.

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