Thursday, June 14, 2012

In response to the Mariners' new arena traffic concerns

Two old white guys in suits being grouchy? It must be Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong!

The Seattle Mariners made it known far and wide that they were wary of a new Sodo arena. The building, proposed by Chris Hansen to serve both an NBA and NHL franchise for the city of Seattle in the near future (fingers crossed), was greeted with pure, unbridled excitement by nearly everyone in the city: Other than the Mariners.

The Mariners' biggest concern was one of traffic (or so the out-of-touch front office claimed). They postulated that the increased attendance of fans for NHL/NBA games at night would throw Seattle's gnarly, ridiculous traffic even further into the dredges. These are for games starting at 7 p.m. or so, mind you. And sure, the letter from Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln was probably a bit of a wake-up call for Hansen and his team that dropping an arena in that area was going to be harder than expected, even if it did come across as petty and underhanded from a baseball franchise struggling to attract fans, but now that there's some space between the date the letter was written and today, I think I have a little more perspective to put this silly Mariners traffic issue to bed.

Currently, the Seattle Mariners are 10th in the American League in attendance. They routinely have less than 15,000 fans attending each home game, in a stadium built to hold ~45,000 people. When the Mariners were successful, even when they're not, Safeco Field can hold 20,000-30,000 more fans than are currently attending. It's not a pretty sight at Safeco these days. So, from a logical perspective (from their own logical perspective, nonetheless), the Mariners' concerns about traffic should extend to their own franchise, right? If the Mariners start playing better and drawing more fans, can't we, the angry commuters of Seattle, assume that traffic will also be thrown into utter chaos, based on their letter to Hansen and the city of Seattle? Should the Mariners reduce the available seats in Safeco Field to ensure traffic sanctity in the downtown area?

Do you see what I'm getting at here? It's obvious that the Mariners were feeling nervous about the prospect of losing more fans to the returning Sonics or a hot-ticket new NHL team, or perhaps making the team less-favorable to sell because of more immediate competition in the area (perhaps?!?), and that this Sodo arena deal has absolutely nothing to do with traffic. It's really kind of sad and pathetic that they, beneficiaries of public subsidies and funds for their own arena years ago, would be the lone stick in the mud about a "competitor's" arena in the same relative location, just because they're trying to, I don't know, stay marginally-popular during the winter when the NBA and NHL would also be in action?

The problem with that petty buffoonery is that the NBA and NHL seasons hardly overlap with the MLB season, the games are played late at night when the main commute is finished and any maritime freight traffic is already shut down for the night, and traffic is a massive systematic issue throughout the state, not just within a small stretch of the downtown area. So there you have it, with a little logic, the Mariners can rest easy knowing that a new arena won't do anything to Seattle traffic that they hadn't already handled successfully when they were popular.

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