Sports

SIDELINES: Lincoln's letter isn't doing the Seattle Mariners any favors

The hometown Seattle Mariners don’t want an arena that could house the rebirth of the SuperSonics and maybe an NHL franchise built near their Safeco Field. - Courtesy of the Seattle Mariners
The hometown Seattle Mariners don’t want an arena that could house the rebirth of the SuperSonics and maybe an NHL franchise built near their Safeco Field.
— image credit: Courtesy of the Seattle Mariners

The hometown Seattle Mariners don't want an arena that could house the rebirth of the SuperSonics and maybe an NHL franchise built near their Safeco Field.

It's the same Safeco Field that was publicly funded for $400 million after the public voted down a ballot measure in 1995.

The team's brass made that clear Tuesday in a letter to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and members of the Seattle and King County councils.

"The proposed Sodo location, in our view, simply does not work," wrote team Chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln. "It would bring scheduling, traffic and parking challenges that would likely require hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate."

Although the concerns of the Mariners are probably valid ones, it makes zero sense for Lincoln to actually pen a letter that he knows is going to be seen by the public.

It's a no-win situation for the team. The only way it can be perceived by the taxpaying public is petty and stupid. The letter comes across as the Mariners hoping to prevent two teams from stealing their fans.

The Mariners are essentially an insecure Hollywood husband who doesn't want George Clooney to move into his posh neighborhood because he thinks he will steal his wife. Another comparison would be Walter Matthau's character, Max Goldman, in the movie "Grumpy Old Men," the gold standard of the classic not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) attitude.

Chris Hansen, a San Francisco hedge-fund manager who grew up as a huge Sonics fan, has proposed cutting a $290 million check in a $490 million new arena next to Safeco and Century Link Field, as well as purchasing an NBA team and securing an NHL team for the arena.

According to previous reports, Hansen said he chose the location because the land is served by light rail, buses and ferries, is easily accessed by both I-90 and I-5 and is zoned for stadiums. These are the exact same reasons why the location was chosen to contract Safeco Field.

It was even announced Thursday that Hansen will be paying for a study out of his own pocket to determine the impacts of traffic and parking following the Mariners' complaints.

I haven't noticed any opposition letters being produced by the owners of the Seahawks and Sounders FC. They seem to be logical enough to know this is a fight that can't be won.

All the Mariners are doing right now is alienating an already dwindling fan base. The team hasn't played in the postseason since 2001, and the allure of Safeco Field has died out. The team's bad baseball has yielded loss after loss and numerous crowds in the 10,000-fan range. The 2011 edition of the Mariners drew a record-low average of 23,411 a game, down from 43,710 in 2002.

Lincoln has tried to validate his public opposition to the arena with an excuse I've heard my kids float at me plenty of times: "Dad, I wasn't the only one who didn't do my chores."

Lincoln was quick to note that the Port of Seattle has raised concerns over traffic issues that could negatively affect its business, potentially putting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in maritime business revenue at risk.

"I think it's fair to say that both the Port and Mariners are aghast at the way this process, so far, is being handled," Lincoln said.

A day after the opposition letter was made public, Lincoln was quick to point out to several media outlets that the Mariners would love to have a new NBA/NHL arena in Seattle.

"If we could get the NBA back to Seattle, that would be a tremendous thing for everyone," Lincoln said. "As a longtime NBA fan, I'd be the first one to buy tickets. I'd just like to make sure it's sited in a place that works, not just for the Mariners and the Port, but also for Chris Hansen."

Wow, such great advice from a CEO whose team hasn't played a postseason game since Oct. 22, 2001, and became the first organization in history to lose 100 or more games and have a payroll over $100 million in 2008.

Here's my advice to you, Mr. Lincoln. Keep your mouth shut and start working with, not against, Hansen to bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle. Losing the Sonics in 2008 also hurt the Mariners. Clay Bennett's move to Oklahoma City sucked the life out of sports fans in the area and made them numb to the billionaires who run them.

Two new professional sports franchises would create a much-needed jolt to the region's jaded sports fan.

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