Mariners tell city, county: Don't put another sports arena in Sodo
The Seattle Mariners sent a letter to city and King County officials saying Sodo is no place for a new basketball and hockey arena.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Arena Advisory Panel's final meeting
Where: City Hall — Bertha Knight Landes Room, 600 4th Avenue.
When: 5 p.m. Wednesday
More information: www.seattle.gov/arena
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In a strongly worded letter to city and county leaders, the Seattle Mariners say to find another spot for a new sports arena.
"The proposed Sodo location, in our view, simply does not work," wrote team Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Howard Lincoln, in a letter Tuesday to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and members of the Seattle and King County councils.
"It would bring scheduling, traffic and parking challenges that would likely require hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate."
The letter comes a day after the Port of Seattle wrote a similar letter to the city's Arena Advisory Panel studying the proposal. In that letter, Seaport Managing Director Linda Styrk warned of negative impacts on Port operations, potentially putting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in maritime business revenue at risk.
"Based on the information provided so far, this project may put those jobs and economic benefits at serious risk without significant mitigation," she wrote.
Lincoln says the Mariners in general support bringing in NBA and NHL teams, but he suggests that city and county officials look at alternate locations in Bellevue, Renton, Seattle Center and South Lake Union. He said a single investor should not be allowed to determine the site.
Chris Hansen, a San Francisco hedge-fund manager, has proposed making a $290 million private investment in a $490 million new arena in Sodo, as well as purchasing an NBA team and securing an NHL team for the arena.
Hansen declined to comment on the Mariners' letter, but has previously said he chose the Sodo location because it is zoned for stadiums and is served by light rail and buses, as well as having freeway access.
Mayor McGinn said the transportation issues raised by the Mariners will be addressed in the environmental-review process for the arena.
"This is a Seattle-specific proposal to locate an arena in Seattle's stadium district, which was created for stadiums after an extensive process of review. As mayor, I will work to address the Mariners' concerns, as I continue working with King County and Chris Hansen to bring an NBA and NHL team to Seattle."
County spokesman Frank Abe said Wednesday it's too early to draw any conclusions about transportation impacts, but noted "that after an extensive process the city zoned this area of SODO for stadium uses."
"Of the potential sites the Mariners suggest, Sodo is the only one served by high-capacity rail, not to mention access by ferries, buses and cars," he said.
The Mariners' objections to the location had surfaced after Hansen proposed a new arena. A transportation manager for the team in February emailed a Sodo business group, saying an arena would add to gridlock and traffic congestion in the area.
The Mariners at the time said that was the manager's personal view, and not that of the team.
The Public Facilities District, which oversees Safeco Field, where the Mariners play, is advertising for a public-affairs specialist to coordinate the team's response to the proposed location of the new arena.
Over the weekend, some local residents received telephone calls that seemed designed to erode support for an arena, said Brian Robinson, the head of ArenaSolution.org.
Robinson, whose group has sought the return of the Seattle Sonics since they were moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, said some of his supporters received polling calls asking whether they would support a sports arena over public schools, or a sports arena over low-income housing.
"The Mariners have emerged as the No. 1 opponents to the new arena," he said.
Robinson noted that Safeco Field was a publicly funded $400 million stadium and that the region has spent "hundreds of millions" in offramps and access to the stadiums and "billions on light rail" that services the stadiums.
The concerns the Mariners and the Port have about traffic congestion and gridlock are shared by maritime labor and manufacturing groups. At previous meetings of the Arena Advisory Panel, representatives from the longshoreman union and the Manufacturing and Industrial Council said the city and county have not delivered on transportation improvements promised with the construction of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks and Sounders play.
Dave Gering, executive director of the Manufacturing Industrial Council, said the city's original plans for the stadium district were to build three overpasses. One was built, he said, and some money for the second was diverted to complete the Mercer Street corridor improvements.
He said the movement of freight from the Port through Sodo is crucial to the maritime industry's survival and the city's economic future. The arena proposal didn't address the freight-mobility issue or the public cost of meeting it, he said.
"The problem isn't just 'game days.' It's the congestion that already exists at 8 a.m. every weekday morning," Gering said.
Lynn Thompson: 206-909-7580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.