Seattle Arena

The King County Council Moves Forward on SODO Arena and the Seattle City Council Takes Center Stage Anyway

On Monday July 30th, 2012 the King County Council voted “Yes”, with a six to three vote, on Chris Hansen’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Chief Executive Dow Constantine about a new arena involving public construction bonds. On Monday July 30th, 2012 the Seattle City Council sent a letter to Chris Hansen with several request about modifying of the MOU. The City Council wants better financial protection for the city and taxpayers; they also want some of the Arena revenues to help pay for traffic improvements around the SODO Area.  
The City Council is basically grandstanding and (it feels like) trying to be the center of attention. Hansen’s plan calls for arena revenues and rent to pay back the bonds, and after the bonds are paid off some of the arena revenue can be rolled over into the City’s general funds.  If there is a short fall in the Arena’s annual income Hansen and his ownership group will make up the difference putting no extra stress on the city’s finances. 

The MOU gives the city as much financial security as it can possibly get from getting involved in an arena deal, but the city is petrified. After all the Rose Garden in Portland went bankrupt in 2004 and the issues with the 1995 Key Arena renovation are the primary drivers for the city’s fear of getting involved in another arena deal.[1]And the Port of Seattle’s traffic concerns are the perfect way for the City Council to drag their heels on agreeing to Hansen’s proposal. 
Granted traffic in South Downtown Seattle (SODO) is horrible on a regular work day and it could use some improvements. But those traffic issues are not a reason for holding up the creation of a few thousand construction, usher, concessioners and security jobs. And the Seattle City Council should not be holding Chris Hansen and his ownership group responsible for “paying” (redirecting Arena revenues) for improvements that the City promised the Port it would do a decade ago
Again I don’t disagree that SODO needs some massive improvements in traffic. I was down there in the middle of the game where the M’s inducted Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson into the Mariner Hall of Fame and it took me eight to ten minutes to move a city block. But making Chris Hansen and his ownership group finance improvements that have been promised (and needed) for a decade is just wrong.
Especially since Hansen’s ownership group wouldn’t be the only major employers down in the region. There is an interesting collection of industries down there that include (but aren’t limited to) Starbucks headquarters, the Seattle Mariners, the Seattle Seahawks, the Seattle Sounders FC, and the Port of Seattle. These are all multi-million dollar industries that employ a lot of people down in the area. Since all would benefit from improvements that Hansen and his group would have to pay for, why not make them also help pay for it?
I mean it’s only fair (especially since the Port of Seattle has raised the biggest stink about traffic issues). The other corporations that would benefit from traffic improvements should also have to pay for it. Clearly the City Council doesn’t want to deal with financing improvements they promised to make long ago, somebody else does. And that somebody else shouldn’t have to be one ownership group that is already planning on employing a lot of Seattleites and creating a new tax revenue source for the City.

[1]The Rose Garden’s bankruptcy came from a dispute between Paul Allen’s ownership group and the private financers who helped fund the construction of the building

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