Rent? Never heard of it!
Rent? Never heard of it! STEPHEN BRASHEAR/GETTY IMAGES

“If you only include rent it’s a very skewed view to what we’re contributing every month,” Rebecca Hale, the Director of Public Information for the Mariners said.

This all started because, during a King County Council meeting in August, Councilmember Rod Dembowski was skeptical about the amount of rent the Mariners would be paying in their new 25-year lease.

The Mariners are asking King County to chip in $185 million to fund necessary stadium repairs. If they don’t get taxpayer money, they won’t sign the lease and will leave in five years.

The first rent from back in the 90s was in the $700,000 range. Most recently the Ms were paying $1 million. Now, as they’re negotiating the terms of this new lease and asking threatening the public to cough up some money, it’s been raised to $1.5 million.

This agreement is vastly below market value.

“Take office space for the team alone,” Dembowski said at that August meeting. “How many square feet is that? If you were to look at that alone—$1.5 million a year seems a little light.”

That’s because, according to the representative for the Public Facilities District then and Rebecca Hale now, there’s a lot more that goes into just paying the rent for the Mariners.

“If you’re talking about the rent that we pay,” Hale said, “that is only one part of what we are required to the PFD every year in annual support to Safeco Field.”

The other parts of the Mariners’ bill include $1.5 million revenue sharing with the PFD, a $3.25 million contribution to the Capital Expenditures Fund to help pay for ballpark capital needs. Plus, Hale made sure to point out, the $10 million the Mariners pay each year for upkeep. Now that that’s off the table, let’s bring it back to Dembowski’s question: How many square feet of office space do the Mariners have at Safeco Field?

Glad you asked.

Between club level administrative offices and suite level administrative offices, the Mariners have 35,135 square feet of office space.

According to CBRE Group in Seattle, a commercial real estate services and investment firm, the price for Class A office space, what the Mariners have, is rising in Seattle. Most recently, Class A office space is going for $47.06 per square foot in the downtown Seattle region. That was a $1.30 increase from just the first quarter of 2018. The rent is up $3.50 from three years ago.

All of that is just to say that premium office space is valued high and trending up in Seattle. Vacancy rates are also dropping as demand increases.

Some pretty simple math (it’s multiplication, okay) applying that figure to the Mariners' square-footage of office space shows that the Mariners’ rent is $153,453 below market value.

That’s just the office space. We’re not even taking into account THE ENTIRE BASEBALL STADIUM that they occupy. The Mariners are getting a deal on 35,000 square feet. What we can't forget is that they actually occupy a 544,881 square-foot space.

Yet, they still require public money and the public, as of now, is giving it to them.

Last week the KCC approved a referendum that gives in to the Mariners’ pleas. The county will use public money to help the Mariners patch up their supposedly worse-for-wear Safeco Field. This acquiescence, albeit $50 million less than the original asking price of $185 million, is absurd.

The KCC voted 5 to 4 in favor of the referendum. No matter the compelling public comment, or impassioned arguments posed by councilmembers, neither side was swayed. As of right now, when the KCC votes next, it will finalize whether to go forward with its current plan to give the Mariners $135 million of taxpayer money.

As Councilmember Larry Gossett pointed out, “I have not been able to find any reason that the Mariners would have to turn objectively, reasonably, or even profit-wise to the general public to have them pay.”

Where is the need? The new lease is a cakewalk for the $1.5 billion franchise. Especially when considering the additional revenue from all the profits from baseball, the money from new naming rights, and the ancillary television revenues—both local and national. They have enough money and they’re getting a pretty good deal. Just look at how much they’re paying for rent alone.