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Mariners: New SODO Arena ‘Won’t Work’

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SEATTLE (AP) — For now, the Seattle Mariners believe a proposal to build a new NBA/NHL arena in Seattle needs to find a different home.

The Mariners sent a formal letter to the city of Seattle and King County officials on Tuesday opposing the idea of a new multipurpose arena in the same neighborhood as the Mariners home of Safeco Field.

The letter, signed by Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln (pictured), cited concerns about traffic and scheduling of events taking place in an area that already features Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field — the home to the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders.

In the letter, first obtained by KJR-AM and later by The Associated Press, Lincoln says the franchise supports the idea of the NBA returning to Seattle, but that an exhaustive examination of various sites for a new arena in the greater Seattle area needs to be conducted.

“The proposed SODO location, in our view, simply does not work,” Lincoln wrote. “It would bring scheduling, traffic and parking challenges that would likely require hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate. We doubt that an arena could succeed financially at this location, given mitigation costs and necessary scheduling limitations. Without highly restrictive scheduling limitations, traffic gridlock would put all of the area’s teams at risk.”

The Mariners are the first and largest local organization to express its desire for Christopher Hansen to look at other site options for his proposed arena. Hansen, a wealthy San Francisco venture capitalist and Seattle native, owns land adjacent to the Mariners parking garage and has proposed a new arena that would cost between $450 and $500 million and would include $290 million in private investment. Hansen’s group would also be responsible for the purchase of an NBA franchise and finding a partner interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Seattle.

The public financing component of the proposal would be capped at $200 million and paid back through taxes and rent collected on the tenants of a gleaming new building. An arena review panel created by Seattle mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine is expected to give its recommendation about Hansen’s proposal on Wednesday.

In his letter, Lincoln says the Mariners are completely in favor of the NBA returning to the region following the departure of the SuperSonics for Oklahoma City following the 2008 season.

Lincoln suggested suburbs of Renton and Bellevue, along with Seattle neighborhoods of South Lake Union and Seattle Center — where KeyArena sits — should be looked for a new facility. The Mariners cited the decision on where Safeco Field sits, saying that site was settled on after a year of public conversation.

“Regardless of which site is ultimately chosen, this needs to be a thoughtful public process that balances the preference of one investor with all of the region’s important commercial, transportation and maritime interests, as well as the long-term interests of the region’s fans,” Lincoln wrote.

Later Tuesday, the Port of Seattle released a letter it sent to the arena advisory committee expressing its concerns over traffic in the area of the proposed venue and supporting the idea of looking at alternate sites.

Lincoln later wrote that should an extensive evaluation determine the neighboring site is best for a new arena that the Mariners will work with the city and Hansen’s group to mitigate as many issues as possible. McGinn later issued a statement saying the issues the Mariners raised about transportation would be raised in the environmental review process.

“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,” McGinn said. “As mayor, I will work to address the Mariner’s concerns, as I continue working with King County and Chris Hansen to bring an NBA and NHL team to Seattle.”

– Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth

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