Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln has remained steadfastly quiet this season. Rarely will he speak to the media on the bigger issues surrounding the organization. He usually leaves that up to team president Chuck Armstrong.
Occasionally though, Lincoln will grant interviews. And he did so this week talking with Art Thiel, the founder, editor and main copy producer of Sportpress NW.
The main subject of this interview was the perception of the team after publicly speaking out against and working to stop the approval of an all-purpose arena in the SODO district. Let’s be honest, the Mariners took some heavy criticism over this stance, and for good reason. I won’t editorialize too much, other than to say I’ve been a proponent of this arena from the very beginning. And I’ve thought the Mariners stance has been, at times very myopic, short-sighted and disingenuous. But they have their reasons and Lincoln tried to explain them to Thiel . One other piece of news from the interview was that Lincoln called any talk of an outside group buying the team – “pure nonsense.”
From the Q and A …
Q: Isn’t the primary reason for your opposition to the arena the threat posed by one or two more sports teams crowding the market?
Lincoln: I don’t think we’ve done as good a job as we should have in explaining our position to our public and our fans. I think our only issue is the ability of our fans to get to Safeco Field because of the worsening congestion in this area.
We’re not concerned about competition. The Sonics were here before we were. When they were here, we never even thought about competition. Our view is there is room in this market for the NBA, and the NHL as well.
This ownership group is the steward for major league baseball here. We felt an obligation to speak out and alert political leaders of our concern. It’s strictly about fans getting here. If they can’t get here, then baseball doesn’t work.
I was an NBA fan long before I was a Mariners fan. I saw Lenny Wilkens play at Seattle Center. My heroes were Freddy Brown, Dennis Johnson, Lonnie Shelton and Jack Sikma. I was at those games before the 1979 championship. I remember (Golden State All-Star) Rick Barry almost running over my head when somebody threw beer at him.
The idea of the Sonics coming back is great. We don’t think an NBA arena works next to our parking garage. We are very pleased the way this is going — an environmental impact study that addresses fully the traffic and scheduling issues.
The one thing we didn’t make clear in the April 3 letter is we have a problem that is unique regarding scheduling. MLB announces its schedule in August each year and we have no ability to change the schedule. Other sports have more flexibility.
Q: Why do you think your position is misunderstood and denigrated?
Lincoln: Sports fans are pretty emotional. There’s a ton of people emotionally involved in getting the Sonics back. It’s easy for them to say the Mariners shouldn’t say anything, and that the Mariners have problems other than the one we expressed (congestion).
To the extent they have misunderstood what we’ve tried to say, I’d be the first to apologize.