Mariners question new arena in SoDo neighborhoodon April 3, 2012 @ 4:56 pm (Updated: 4:48 pm - 4/4/12 )
But, the proposed location of an arena that would house an NBA and NHL team seems to be a point of contention for the residents of Safeco Field.
In a three-page letter sent to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and members of the Seattle City and King County Councils, Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln cites logistical concerns as reasons why SoDo wouldn't be the right neighborhood for a new arena.
Safeco Field already experiences scheduling headaches with its neighbor, CenturyLink Field.
Lincoln says the Mariners work closely with the Seahawks and the Sounders to avoid overlapping events, which creates traffic and parking challenges.
Mariners President Chuck Armstrong said their concerns are regarding the fan experience.
"What we hear more from our fans than anything else is how hard it can be to get to the ballpark with the traffic jams and the gridlock we have already," said Armstrong. "If you plop another venue down there with 200 event days per year, we just have some serious concerns about how that will all be scheduled."
Lincoln notes that the city permit conditions imposed on Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field prohibit major events from occurring simultaneously and require a four-hour window between the end of one event and the start of the next event.
Adding the arena, he says, would only compound the scheduling problem.
"The key factor is that when Safeco Field was planned and what's now Century Link field was planned, the city imposed conditions on both of us; we can't have major events on the same day. We have permit restrictions that prevent us from having games on the same day," explained Bart Waldman, Mariners Executive Vice President of Legal and Governmental Affairs.
But McGinn, in an interview with 97.3 KIRO FM, says that the 'stadium district' has already been purposed for housing sports complexes. The SoDo neighborhood has already gone through extensive public and environmental review processes when it was created.
Lincoln says site selection is a critical component of the new arena plans, and that when Safeco Field was more imagination than reality in 1995, the Mariners looked into four or five "alternative locations" to their present home. Lincoln suggests officials should instead consider Bellevue, Renton, Seattle Center and South Lake Union as potential homes for a new arena.
The proposal for the arena, however, is Seattle-specific, says McGinn. "We have a really promising proposal for Chris Hansen, which involves hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment and we can self-finance the arena with the taxes on the arena itself."
The letter from Lincoln was received by the mayor's office Tuesday, on the heels of speculation about the Sacramento Kings. The team is looking for arena funding of its own, and its owners say they won't foot the bill for the team's new home.
Back at home, Hansen has been meeting with a panel to address the concerns that building the complex would bring to the city and county, as well as what financial burden the arena bears.
McGinn hasn't spoken with Hansen since receiving the letter, but the panel is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss independent reviews of the arena proposal.
Hansen has said it's his job to get Seattle prepared to build the arena as soon as a team becomes available.
"We'll work with the Mariners on their concerns," McGinn says, "but we're going to keep working with Chris Hansen and King County on bringing a NBA and a NHL team to our stadium district in Seattle."
Waldman also agreed that the Mariners will work with the city and Hansen if everyone agrees the SoDo neighborhood is the best fit for an arena.
"If at the end of that process the city decides that that's the best place to locate it, we'll work our hardest with Chris Hansen and his group and the city to make it work the best it can."
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