Le TD Banknorth Garden
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston (wikimedia)

A hot local debate is about whether or not a basketball and hockey arena is a worthwhile project, and if the proposed site is the correct one. (My take: the public contribution here is below the going rate, and I’d like to see the NBA here; Sodo is the right neighborhood, but there are much better sites within Sodo). What there isn’t any disagreement about is that the proposed deal is a public subsidy to prospective basketball and hockey franchises.

The structure of the deal, on which see Goldy’s exceptional two-part series, is this. There is no diversion of funds from the current budget per se. Instead, most of the taxes levied on arena activity are dedicated to paying off bonds on that arena. The deal involves the credit of municipal government and there are numerous second-order effects, but in the broadest sense the government’s fiscal position should remain unchanged.

Whether or not you think this is a good deal, this arrangement should sound familiar. Although the structure of the taxes is somewhat different, this strongly resembles the arrangement the state’s motorists enjoy. Rather than levy sales tax on gasoline like on almost any other good, the state levies a separate, roughly equivalent tax that is dedicated to highway purposes. And yet people are arguing with my contention that this is a sweetheart deal for drivers.

All of our transportation modes are subsidized, and it’s not crazy to think that driving should be as well.  It’s also entirely coherent to favor a benefit for the wide base of drivers but not the National Basketball Association. However, there’s no free market transportation mode that’s getting unfairly dinged by mass transit subsidies.

105 Replies to “The Arena and the Gas Tax”

  1. I rarely disagree with Martin, but today he’s shockingly wrong. Sodo is not the correct location for another stadium. It’s not an industrial land use and is in contravention of proper and sustainable land use planning. We already have a location in the city that is highly underutilised and ripe for redevelopment. It’s even already under public ownership. For this project, we need a 25,000 seat stadium. That’s fairly small and the Seattle Center location already provides that. It also has ample transit frequency and capacity as well as plenty of parking. Why dump this in regionally protected industrial zones that are high paying, high productivity locations that actually drive our state’s economy. Sure, the Port overreacted in its press releases about the magnitude of impacts, but if we’re going to blow $200 million on a worthless team that won’t sellout (as it never did its last two decades) and hardly anyone is going to watch, we might as well not hurt ourselves more than we need to and do it right instead of implementing the entirely wrong decision. The cognative dissonance among proponents is blindingly disturbing. Sigh.

    1. The Seattle Center is “highly underutilised and ripe for redevelopment” but knowing the misery of a getting to and from the Seattle Center area when events were happening at the 17,000 seat Key Arena, it seems ridiculous to propose building a new 25,000 seat arena at Seattle Center (even if it’s never sold out). There are transportation issues that still need to be worked out in SODO, but building a bigger arena at the Seattle Center would cause even more problems in the Westalake/QA neighborhoods than it would solve in SODO. And the Port and BNSF would still be looking for their overpass.

      The builders of the new SODO arena are proposing to use Key Arena as a temporary game site while the new arena is built in SODO, then renovate Key Arena into a 6,000 seat hall that would be much more appropriate to the neighborhood’s transportation infrastructure capacity.

      1. Been to plenty of events at the Key and have family who live in Lower QA. There’s no such misery to speak of. And if there were, then that’s just reason for the developer and city to invest in additional capacity/upgrades. Win for the neighbours and the City. We do land use planning first. It doesn’t matter if there is transportation capacity that could allow a particular use. The fact is, land use policy trumps that and in this case regional policy dictates that Sodo remain primarily industrial, not creeping, destructive commercial uses, such as stadia. If we don’t stand by that, we lose those productive uses and jobs over time. That’s why we having zoning and comprehensive planning. This project isn’t going to happen anyway.

      2. The challenges to a Seattle Center location are nothing that excellent mass transit couldn’t solve. If people feel the need to drive, they can park downtown in the vast surplus of private garage spaces and take the envisioned “Red Line” to the Seattle Center. or the “Blue Line” and walk a few blocks, or Bus RapidRide or a street car or the Monorail.

        I’m also of the belief that industrial zones should not be endangered or supplanted by tourism and the like. The very fact that the Port of Seattle is raising serious concerns about this proposal is more than enough to say we need to stop and think about what we’re doing here.

        There are also many other alternatives to building the SODO location. For example, the Sonics played for a time in the 30,000 seat Tacoma Dome. A location on a I-405 lid in downtown Bellevue has been floated. I’m interested in these ideas because they potentially balance economic activity in major urban centers around the region and not just near Seattle’s CBD.

      3. I think it’s time to re-think the land use plans for the Seattle Center area. The idea of a 25,000 seat arena should be the first thing to cross off the list of good land use ideas in lower QA. Seattle Center should be a great place for music, high school sports, scientific/cultural exhibitions and recreational activities–but please, no 25,000 seat mega events. Bumbershoot and Folk Life are fine–they occur on 3 day holdiay weekends, but lower QA and Westlake would be much better neighborhoods if they didn’t have to deal with the big event effects of parking and traffic hassles, an overwhelmed public transit system and the disruption of 25,000 additional citizens suddenly spending a couple of hours in your neighborhood. The SODO stadium district already has superior transit facilities with light rail and heavy rail close by and easier access to the interstate system for drivers. If we do decide to build a new arena, let’s not build it at the Seattle Center.

      4. I’m sure the arena group would love to “renovate” Key Arena into something much smaller, so that the big rock concerts that generate revenue at Key Arena have to move to the new arena. Clever. ;)

        Then all the winter concerts might have to move to Tacoma, since the NBA and NHL won’t leave much booking space.

      5. renovate Key Arena into a 6,000 seat hall

        WTF? Mercer Arena already fits that bill and is laying dormant. If the City wants to sweeten the deal just have the B-ball folks pay for the upgrade that would make it viable again. But I’d much rather push to have Hanson & Company dole out the money to return the old trolleys to service. Seattle and the surrounding area has lots of performance venues but not a transportation museum. A home for the MEHVA fleet or bust!

      6. Hate to say it, but I believe Norman is at least closer on planned capacity. 17.5 for hockey, 18.5 for hoops, and 19K for concerts, IIRC.

      7. 25,000 seats is in response to Mr. Fesler’s comment, not the planned SODO arena.

    2. The Sonics always drew well even when they sucked. Attendance was never the issue, bad ownership and an aging arena were.

      1. If we were to plant a new Seattle Center arena on top of a new Seattle Center subway station, serving a new West Seattle-Ballard subway line……

        Unfortunately, such a project would require a larger public investment. Which would turn the effort into a much larger, and slower-moving, deal.

      2. No, no.
        d.p. and I solved the riddle over the weekend and saved the region 2 Bil without breaking a sweat.
        New Green line from CPS, under Terry to elevated over Boren (SLUT Stn), to Seattle Center Stn, then off to Ballard via the proposed Monorail Green Line concept. New boxes in the Key, and voila, Basketball and Transit – the perfect marriage.
        Anyone have any Sonic season tickets they’re not using? It’s been a while.

      3. Of course, I never endorsed any particular corridor, but just expressed interest in the burgeoning thought experiments about how an existing junction might be reused to build a NW line for less.

        Mic, I’m quite sure that neither the city nor its citizens have any interest in an elevated line anywhere near downtown. Fortunately, your route suggestion makes a decent case for a partial cut-and-cover under presently non-arterial streets like Terry.

        Also, I think you might not be meaning “Boren” when you say it, but I’m not sure what street you actually do mean.

      4. As M says, the new Boston Garden is right on top of North Station, just as the old Garden was before it. If you enlarge Martin’s image up top, you can see the trains sticking out from under the arena in the lower right corner.

        Meanwhile, there are stairs to the Orange and Green Lines about 40 feet from the arena’s east entrance, no street crossing required.

        Most importantly, the arena opens up to honest-to-god city on three sides, offering plenty of pedestrian appeal and route diffusion.

        When will idiots like Goldy stop calling the new Snake Oil Arena well-served by transit? This is unpleasant as hell even in good weather, and nobody will want to do it on wintry nights.

        It’s pathetic how this city will plan for all the automobiles crossing the BNSF main line for games — they know nobody wants to park east of the tracks and walk over — but for transit users the grand tour of the underside of highway ramps and bus bases to a poorly conceived surface rail stop is a selling point?

      5. Rat’s. I’ve lost d.p. from the the team, so now I’m down to just me.
        I’m moving to Oklahoma City and taking my ideas with me where we can build a winning team. They like elevated lines. (and it was over Denny, not Boren. my mistake)
        Enjoy your Sodo Arena.

  2. The debt exposure to taxpayers alone should be enough to show how unnecessary this arena is. If ballgame lovers want to haul ass to yet another temple of sport they can pay for it themselves.

    1. And considering the combined net worth of the partners approaches $20 Billion, $200 million shouldn’t be a burden to them to come up with for total ownership of the facility. The city and county’s credit should be better used for rebuilding the sea-wall and other infrastructure.

    2. ArenaCo promises to pay cost overruns, but what happens if ArenaCo goes bankrupt? Then the taxpayers will have to pay off the bonds themselves.

  3. I couldn’t disagree more with this: the SODO site is in the city’s designated stadium zone, which also happens to be one of the most transit accessible areas in the state.

    Hansen has followed the city’s expressed land use guidance that this is an appropriate site for a stadium, and now he’s to be punished for it because the port has grandiose plans for expansion which will likely never come to fruition?

    The port should spend more time worrying about what it’s labor costs and inconvenient rail access will do to its business when the Panama canal expansion opens up ‘right to work’ southern ports to larger vessels rather than the incremental traffic increases the arena will cause, if you ask me.

    That said, there does need to be more infrastructure built down there to improve circulation. All three stadia and the port ought to be paying to grade separate Lander, and the historic streetcars ought to come back with an extension down Occidental or Utah to connect with link at sodo.

    1. Can you please cite the ordinance or DPD decision designating a formal stadium district?

      1. Patrick, that’s not in the overlay zone. They’d have to get a special SPOT ZONING to get the thing approved. Again, my point is proven. It’s in contravention of policy.

      2. The ordinance in question is SMC 23.74, “Stadium Transition Area Overlay District”

        The attached map shows the overlay area for stadium uses stretching right down to holgate. It also shows the kingdome, as this was adopted in 2000. It’s been city policy that this is an appropriate site for a stadium for over a decade.

      3. Actually, if you look at the overlay and the arena site, they line up exactly. First and Holgate, east to the tracks, north to Massachusetts.

        The question of whether this site is large enough for an arena has come up and the arena web site has a letter from sports facilities architects affirming it is.

      4. Sports and Transit Fan: They are dilluded if they think they have enough room. There’s 2 square *city* block avaialable for development. Not a chance. And, that’s assuming they share parking with Safeco and get the city to stupidly vacate the Occidental right-of-way. A lot of ifs and ignoring reality.

      5. Stephen, I struggle to believe that Hansen spent millions on site acquisition without first ensuring his project could fit on the project site. Not the kind of decision-making that makes you a millionaire in the first place.

    2. Anybody know why the port remains focused on trucks, rather than on making rail access work?

      1. because much of their interaction with freight is getting it to/from trains, and many of the piers don’t have direct rail access. And because much of the freight leaves town on trucks on I-5 and I-90 (the stuff that doesn’t leave on trains).

        And yeah, they were over the top, which is unfortunate, because it’s a legitimate issue that needs to be talked about.

    3. While the proposed SODO arena site may be in the Stadium Transition Overlay district it doesn’t come close to actually fulfilling the regulations regarding this overlay.

      The overlay specific designates Occidental from the Stadium to Holgate an area for pedestrian environment much in the same way Occidental Avenue is next to Quest Stadium. Not only is there no pedestrian environment wide sidewalks in that location, the city and the county would have to abandoning Occidental Avenue.

      Also, there is no way a 20,000 seat arena could fit with the necessary setbacks. It not only doesn’t meet the letter of the zoning, it does meet the spirit of the land use requirements for that location.

      Ordinance 119972 Any changes would require rigorous traffic analysis to ensure freight mobility and subject to appropriate management measure to limit traffic congestion caused by passenger vehicles I seriously doubt that 50K flawed study qualifies as “rigorous”.

  4. I’d be happy to have a new Sodo stadium only if we build Seattle Subway AND we tear down Key Arena and build lots of LQA housing in its place. We don’t need a 4th stadium, but replacing our 3rd stadium while redeveloping a neighborhood sounds like a palatable tradeoff. We’d reduce often-vacant commercial uses in LQA/Seattle Center, we’d spare ourselves the Denny/Mercer traffic nightmares brought on by the likes of Joel Osteen and Katy Perry, and we’d give lots of plush Amazonians a place to live within walking distance of work. And Sodo can handle it (at least after the AWV mess is done)…one stadium site isn’t going to irreparably harm industrial interests.

    1. It’s interesting to note that there was a 5000 seat Arena in LQA that is long shuttered and forgotten. But is still there.

  5. “Rather than levy sales tax on gasoline like on almost any other good, the state levies a separate, roughly equivalent tax that is dedicated to highway purposes.”

    Rather than levy a tax on transit fares, like on almost any other good, the state levies ZERO taxes on transit fares.

    By the way, in WA state there are many things which are not taxed, such as groceries, medical bills, dental bills, prescription drugs, and many others, which amount to a large part of many peoples’ budgets. I would expect that, with all the medical and dental bills I have this year, about half the money I will spend this year will not be taxed at all. However, every dollar I spend on my transportation by motor vehicle will be taxed.

    And, what is the tax on transit users to pay for their transit? There is NO tax on transit users — no sales tax on fares, and no gas or diesel tax on the buses and trains. So, whereas motorists are taxed on basically every dollar they spend on their transportation, transit users are not taxed anything on the money they spend on transit. Motorists pay the state gas tax, the federal gas tax, sales tax on their vehicles; sales tax on maintenance; sales tax on repairs; sales tax on parts such as sound systems; license fees; MVETS, et. al. Which of these taxes do transit users pay on their expenditures for their transit trips?

    And, whereas motorists pay the full operating costs of their trips (PLUS TAXES on them), transit users in our area are subsidized by about 70% to 80% just on the OPERATING costs of their trips, and 100% subsidized on the capital costs of the transit systems.

    There is just simply no comparison: motorists pay their own way; transit users are freeloaders off of taxpayers.

    1. “I would expect that, with all the medical and dental bills I have this year, about half the money I will spend this year will not be taxed at all.”

      Freeloading scumbag!

      1. Freeloading off of whom? I pay all my bills myself. My medical bills are not tax-subsidized. They are tax-free, but I pay the full cost myself, unlike transit users who pay only about 20% to 30% of the OPERATING cost of their trips and zero of the capital costs of their trips. The rest is paid with tax subsidies.

      1. Transit users do not pay their own way and they do not pay for any of the externalities and environmental damage, either, either (UW Link tunneling, e.g.).

    2. Norman, if you are defining any payment to a government entity as a “tax”, and transit fares themselves are taxes.

      They cover a portion of the cost of providing transit service, with the remainder coming from other general and dedicated sources.

      Just as your gas taxes cover a portion of the cost of providing roads, with the remainder coming from other general and dedicated sources.

      You fail basic logic, big time.

  6. Martin’s analogy is faulty in another way: taxes generated by the arena would be used to pay for the arena. That would be analogous to taxes on gasoline used to pay for that gasoline. That is not what the gas tax is used for. The gas tax is used to pay for roads — not for the gasoline the gas tax payer is buying.

    If the taxes generated by the arena were used to pay for roads leading to the arena, or for police traffic control around the arena, that would be an entirely different scenario.

    But, the taxes generated by the arena would be used to pay for the arena. That would be like the sales tax generated by the sale of a new car being given back to the cay buyer to help pay for the car. But sales taxes paid on cars are not used to pay for the car — they are used to pay for other things, like roads.

    So, Martin’s analogy is fatally flawed.

      1. Not at all. There is an extra cost attached to gasoline to pay for highways (and transit). The extra cost attached to arena events is used to pay for the arena.

        Big difference.

        But, there is no disagreement that transit users are not paying either for the operating cost, or any of the capital cost of the transit systems they use, through the fares they pay. That is undeniable.

      2. There is “no disagreement” — between anyone not in denial or a troll — that drivers are not paying either for the capital cost or the maintenance cost of the roads they use, through the gas taxes they pay. (Even if you ignore the above-mentioned externalities of a car-dependent society.)

    1. The analogy being used is used everywhere. Yes it’s flawed. Take a look at your cell phone bill. Assuming you don’t use a prepaid plan, there are many “taxes” that are basically being placed into the telecoms pocket.

      I don’t like how the arena deal is working out. Our new ‘world class’ stadium will soon be obsolete. Bonds for the king dome still have not been paid back yet. If Hanson and co. Have the money to build a stadium themselves, they should not use government credit. What happens when the sonics leave for a second time and we are left with another useless stadium?

      1. Hansen’s answer to that is “the county and city are protected”. Magic fairys, I suppose. Either way, the public pays for this boondoogle and land use white elephant.

      2. If you have the money to pay for the full cost of your bus or train trip, we should not be using other people’s taxes to subsidize your transit trips.

        Hansen, Ballmer, et. al. can afford to pay for their own arena, and should. You can afford to pay the full cost of your transit trips, and you should. Why should people like Seattle City Council persons, who make around $100,000 per year, get subsidized trips on buses or trains? They “need” tax subsidized transportation?

      3. So, Norman, should drivers be paying their full price? And I don’t just mean tolls, but the real total internalised cost that taxpayers are paying out of general funds and other programmes to mitigate against it?

      4. Drivers do pay the full cost of their transportation through a myriad of taxes, fees, tolls, etc.

      5. Except they don’t, Norman, and you know that. Most of it comes from property taxes, which pays for ALL users, but mostly cars. Get back to me when you’re willing to be honest.

      6. Norman, if you premise each and every argument on a lie, your arguments will be fraudulent.

        And as Stephen says, you know that.

        So save yourself and the rest of us some time and stress, and just don’t do it.

  7. I would generally want any major quasi-public infrastructure (City Hall, museums, symphony hall, main library, etc.) downtown. However, as the labor unions are pointing out, this land is much more valuable for port purposes. They are also making arguments about traffic that are kinda in the ridiculous range. At any rate, without labor on the pro- side, any project like this is doomed at the ballot box.

    Want a site for a new arena? Try Northgate. It’s time to prepare to raze that mall and put more density in its place.

  8. In general I want industrial land protected. But isn’t this parcel a parking lot? What’s the chance of an industrial warehouse being built on it if the deal fails? Probably little.

    But the traffic problems are real and major. The south end buses get delayed every time there’s a game, and traffic is worse than rush hour. At the UW graduation I sat in an unmoving northbound 23 for twenty minutes. (I would have transferred to Link at Lander but I was carrying heavy packages. Finally, north of Stadium I did get off the bus mid-block and walk to the station.) This is all without the basketball stadium. So traffic is supposed to get worse than this and that’s OK?

    One statistic I read that dumbfounded me is that 80% of Seattle’s stadium patrons come by car. How can people be so insane as to sit in traffic and park several blocks away knowing that they will have to do this?

    1. “But isn’t this parcel a parking lot?”

      No, there are several businesses on the parcels that Hansen has acquired.

      It’s too bad the Centurylink Field north parking lot is already being redeveloped, it would have been a much better location for this arena. It’s much closer to transit and downtown hotels than the proposed site. A small arena could have easily been integrated into a hotel, office, condo project.

      1. That’s not unfortunate at all. It’s a mixed-use property and has been for a long time. An arena there would be a disaster in land use planning terms.

      2. Like I said, “A small arena could have easily been integrated into a hotel, office, condo project.”

        How is that not mixed use? And how is the current arena proposal good land use planning?

      3. Because there’s no way an arena of the that size would accommodate a high-density, mixed-use development. Most of the 4 blocks would have to be dedicated to a single use plus its parking. There would be no offices or residential or towers to speak of. It would be a disaster and in contravention of the Pioneer Square neighbourhood plan and subsequent policy and regulatory efforts. It just doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.

      4. “Because there’s no way an arena of the that size would accommodate a high-density, mixed-use development. Most of the 4 blocks would have to be dedicated to a single use plus its parking.”

        Never heard of Madison Square Garden?

        My point was that if there absolutely has to be a new arena built, that the north lot would have been a better location for it in regards to the proximity of transit and other services than the proposed location.

      5. Pourquoi?

        Because you think the Madison Square Garden site is an example of good mixed-use development?

        Because you insist on drawing hypotheticals in case “there absolutely has to be a new arena built”, when a sports arena by definition could never be a necessity?

    1. Well, by your logic, Los Angeles is not large enough because they’ve failed to secure even 1 NFL team in over a decade. Despite having multiple stadia that can seat > 100,000 people.

      1. What the fuck are you talking about? Click the link, Seattle has as many sports teams as the size of the local economy suggests it should.

        What logic are you talking about?

      2. I was referring to the illogic of basing region support of a team based primarily on the population because as you can see by your chart, Los Angeles has nearly 3 times the population per team and yet still can’t support an NFL team.

        Indeed, I remember when the Seahawks were being formed one of the assessment criteria was that people from as far away as Oregon or Spokane would travel to attend games.

        The primary motivator for support of a team is demand by fans and attendees. How much they are willing to pay for tickets and other merchandise, how much TV revenue can be generated etc. This can work in a smaller market.

        The Seattle has been fortunate that the support for its teams has been generally good. Mariners get healthy attendance. And our Sounders! They lead their leagues in attendance. Seattle fans are crazy for them.

        That is what the F** I’m talking about…

      3. Yes, because the sonics got great attendance?


        Oh nevermind, they had below-average attendance.

        And LA’s problem was attendance?

        Oh wait, nevermind, they were the most attended NFL teams in history. You simply don’t know what you are talking about.

        In honest reality, Seattle was overbuilt by sports teams in the 80s and 90s which is why teams kept trying to leave in that time frame: first the M’s, then the Seahawks, then the M’s again and finally the sonics. We are sort of in the sweet spot now and shouldn’t risk losing our MLB team to gain an NBA team.

        This is probably the best deal we’ll get, so I guess take it, but if we’re too eager we may risk the bigger prizes (MLB and NFL) to get the little ones (NHL and NBA)

      4. Charles knows exactly what he’s talking about, Andrew: that it’s ridiculously simplistic to draw even preliminary conclusions about Seattle’s ability to support a certain number of teams based on the chart you linked to above.

        Also, those attendance figures are borderline meaningless. Just for one of several examples, the Sonics drew below the league average during their mid-nineties run only because average league attendance was higher than the Key’s capacity. The Sonics essentially sold out four straight years starting in the fall of 1995, but only bettered the league average in the strike-shortened ’98-’99 season.

        A more meaningful set of numbers would at the very least control for historical winning percentage and include percent-of-capacity to account for arena size differential.

      5. Andrew, I’ve been around the block more than a few times and more often than not, I have a clue about things. I can admit that I can miss the mark on somethings but most people are at least polite in pointing out a difference of perspective or a downright error. In this case though, I don’t think I’m wrong. I know this because I remember when the Sonics played in the Kingdome. Do you remember the Kingdome? Big ugly utilitarian multipurpose stadium where people could enjoy a baseball game in shirtsleeves or a football game without being rained on or suffer really bad acoustics while watching a rock concert. Built for less than $50 million (1970 dollars). Anyways, the Sonics often drew massive crowds while playing there and in deed, they had to limit attendance so as not to piss off other NBA owners.

        For a time the Sonics played in the Tacoma Dome, again to very good crowds that either came from Pierce County or made the trek from wherever Sonics fans live.

        The issues surrounding the Sonics leaving had nothing to do with fan support and everything to do with a disingenuous owner and league commissioner who thinks that teams must play in sparkling new palaces paid for by taxpayers.

        While sports teams contribute greatly to the aura of a city, and to its economic vitality, never forget that they are also essentially play things for the 1%. The reasons they buy and sell teams often have little to do with rational economics and more to do with egonomics.

        There are so many important things that need doing in our community. So much important infrastructure that needs to be maintained or built. I think people need to see through the fog of testosterone for a moment and ask ourselves what is the marginal utility of building another stadium.

        While I very much believe that the area can support an additional professional sports team, I don’t think the public needs to be on the hook to pay for the venue. Team owners can willy nilly up and move the teams reminding us that the teams were never really ours but their own private play thing. Do you think Clay Bennett in the face of moving the team to a much smaller metro realized that he would get overall lower revenues there than here? Did that stop him? Why is Chris Hansen interested in a team in Seattle when he lives in the Bay Area? Because this is his hometown. That he makes some speculative profit off of real estate is a bonus.

      6. Yes, I remember the kingdome. I caught Mark McGuire’s career longest homerun sitting in the outfield there (it bounced off the wall, btw). It was awesome. The drunk “old Seattle” people made me through it back onto the pitch. Which made me cry, and my dear old dad pretty upset (but he was English so it was a “throw the bloody ball, Andy, and stop crying.” moment).


        So yeah.

        Sounds like we’re pretty much in agreement, anyway. I don’t have a problem with a basketball team. I just don’t want the mariners to leave because we over subscribed to sports packages on our civic system.

      1. Good Riddance too. Hell, the fields alone could support several basketball teams at once. Build it and they will come.

      2. The Denver area has Baseball, Football, B-Ball, and the NHL and supports them all with a similar population size to Seattle.

      3. The Denver area has Baseball, Football, B-Ball, and the NHL and supports them all with a similar population size to Seattle.

        That’s a good counter-point. Denver is a nice place too, in the summer at least (never been there in the winter, can only imagine).

    2. Andrew, is there really always such a need to get so defensive and confrontational? The answer most certainly does not appear to be “no”—certainly not from the data provided in that link.

      The author merely demonstrates that some markets have more teams relative to population than others. He makes no effort to demonstrate whether teams in those markets disproportionately struggle at the gate or in television ratings compared to teams at or beneath the trendline.

      There’s no effort, in other words, to correlate residents-per-sports-team with quantifiable measures of support. That’s what you need to even begin to answer the question of whether Seattle can support the extra franchises—before entertaining myriad other variables that would influence the answer.

      1. Confrontational? Yes, you may not be a long time reader of this blog, but I’ve always been confrontational.

        Defensive, I don’t think I was in this case. Anyway. If someone says “logic” I expect logic. Is that too much to ask?

        All I remember was this: in the 1990s, sports teams kept trying to leave Seattle. In the meantime, seattle grew. But not enough: the sonics left. And now we want to bring two more teams back?

      2. Five years ago I was the only writer at this blog, so you would know how confrontational I have been. And I really don’t care if you like it or not :)

    3. LA has three pro football teams: the Galaxy, Chivas, and the Trojans. How many do they really need?

  9. What is the attitude of Chris Hansen and the other proponents of the new stadium to public transit in general? If it’s not extremely positive to the point of generous offers to help pay for transit access equivalent to Portland and Boston, my attitude, and vote, will be extremely negative.

    Also uneasy about any major construction south of Jackson. There are great old maps showing a lot of marine traffic directly over where ballparks are now. Am I wrong that Qwest and Safeco are located on ground that’s really water with a little dirt in it?

    Rebuilt Key Arena with a subway station serving ST electric rail between Ballard (what BRT should be and isn’t) and Link lines Downtown- let’s talk about that kind of stadium.

    Mark Dublin

  10. From today’s NY Times:

    With No Vote, Taxpayers Stuck With Tab on Bonds

    Surprised taxpayers are finding themselves obligated for parking garages, hockey arenas and other enterprises that can no longer pay their debts.


    1. The city council here has passed “councilmanic” bonds for such things as parking garages under downtown malls.

  11. I’m with Martin. This is a stunningly good deal, and frankly looks all but done. Lots of misinformation on this board, which is a little surprising and disappointing.

    What’s most intriguing at this point is whether Hansen is interested in being as forward-thinking about designing the project as he has been about constructing its financing.

    First off, we in the States are terrible at designing sports venues (seriously, that is a great read—check it out if you have any interest in architecture or urban design). If this arena is to be owned by the city, if it is to be a civic asset, if it is to be viewable from downtown and from I-5 and from the waterfront, let’s build something of architectural integrity, something we’ll cherish, maybe even something to give us an icon beyond the needle and the Pike Place Market sign.

    Second, the most intriguing aspect of Danny Westneat’s streetcar proposal is not whether the Benson trolleys in particular can be saved, but more generally whether Hansen is open to investing in transit improvements.

    Just tossing out initial ideas on top of Danny’s, you can’t help but wonder what would be involved in extending the FHSC down to this arena for event-only runs, perhaps with a SafeCo/CenturyLink stop or two along the way. If the entire SLUS was built for $50 million in a public/private partnership, how much would this cost, and would the Mariners and/or Seahawks potentially chip in as well? Alternately, what’s the cost of an event-only Link infill station at Holgate, and would Hansen be willing to foot some portion of that bill? Just two top-of-the-head ideas—I know part-time stations are not universally popular. The point is that finding even an extra $10, $20, or $30 million for public works projects these days is a nightmare, but it might not seem like much to Hansen, whether he views it as an investment in his project or as a political lubricant.

    1. An even cheaper solution would be to construct an event-only Sounder station next to the new stadium. There is existing track there already (it’s part of the Sounder/Amtrak yard) and it seems like the cost to add signage, lighting and a bare-bones platform would be relatively inexpensive. Why isn’t Hansen or anyone else discussing this option for mitigating event traffic?

      1. Why would Hansen want to pay more? Plus, Sounder rarely services special events. Especially events as small as this arena would have. I can’t imagine that will change much in the near future.

      2. Reverse Sounder trains already in operation today could potentially serve events on weekday evenings, provided people have a way to get home. Maybe people would be willing to ride the 578 home from a game if they could ride the Sounder train through rush hour to the game.

      3. It’s a negotiation with a partner who brought an innovative proposal to fruition, Stephen. The city has nothing to lose by seeing how receptive Hansen is to the idea of amending the MOU to include a private investment in transit improvements. If such an investment can mitigate the number of new parking spaces built that’s a win-win for the city and the developer. Hansen himself alluded to other cities that “back streetcars up to the door” to work around a lack of adjacent arena parking.

    2. Not to mention the two reasons I referenced in my original post. First, lubricating the process and engendering goodwill can be a powerful motivator in itself. Second, he might simply view transit improvements as a good investment in his product: the easier he makes it to get to and from events at the arena the more success those events are likely to enjoy—especially if he is trying to make the block between the arena and SafeCo a place people choose to hang out before and after games.

  12. Martin, when you say “Sodo is the right neighborhood, but there are much better sites within Sodo” What other sites are you refering to?

    1. From a transit perspective, any of Ryerson Base, Atlantic Base, or Central Base are all big enough and by necessity parking lots. :) Salvation Army site would be good too.

      If you look south to Sodo station (although not in the stadium overlay), there is still that empty USPS garage at 4th and Lander. Surrounded by flea markets, stonecutters, and taxi bases.

      1. PSF, Ryerson, Goodwill and 4th/lander are too small and I doubt that metro would have been open to selling off Atlantic or Central.

        I agree that the current location is not ideal. (The ideal would have been quest field north lot) But its not terrible and has the size required.

    2. Anywhere closer to the stations. Midway between the stations and on 1st is about as bad as you can get in that area.

  13. Also, SR99 should be elevated from the south portal of the tunnel to the Duamish bridge. The port could then use all the land under the elevated SR99 to relieve its constraints and congestion. In addition, Holgate and Lander streets should be elvated from 1st ave to 6th ave with on/off ramps at 4th ave.

    Build Baby build!

  14. Why in the world does anyone think this is a justifiable public investment? It’s nothing more than pan et circensis while the streets are rotting.

    Nero comes to mind.

  15. So…here we have 3 billionaires.

    Well…one a 3/4 billionaire, one a multi-multi-billionaire, and one a billionaire of indeterminate order.

    All of them, in business and finance with access to capital beyond the wildest dreams of the average millionaire even.

    And yet…


    Somehow the lynchpin of the deal is some kind of intricately and arcanely crafted reduction in interest on a 200 million loan?


    Why is this even needed…

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