Our coverage of the Seattle Arena is probably one of the most consistently viewed topics on this blog (what that says about our coverage of college football and other sports is not worth thinking about). It is the best Arena deal you could ask for because it offers all sorts of public protection and it pays back the construction bonds using an increase on the already existing Admissions Tax for the arena. In other words the people who attend events at the Arena are the ones who pay the city back for the construction bonds. And that is what makes the opposition to the Arena just so mind-boggling to me.
Chris Hansen’s original proposal faced all sorts of public opposition similar to the opposition that Clay Bennett’s faux arena proposals faced. Eventually this proposal won over the majority of the people skeptics by his over whelming willingness to compromise with the Seattle City Council on several issues regarding this deal. That is probably the reason Hansen’s arena plan has moved so quickly through a political scene that is known for slowing down public/private projects to a crawl.
Notice in the preceding paragraph how I used the poorly phrased term “people skeptics”; well believe it or not that was intentional. The reason for this is that a collaboration of private and public corporations has officially opposed the arena deal in the SODO area and for reasons that, at least to me; do not make a lot of sense. And that is the point of this post, to take a look at the objections raised by the Seattle Mariners, Port of Seattle and the Longshoremen Union; and then to point out some of the flaws I see in their logic.
The SODO Arena will greatly increase the traffic in the SODO area and therefore affect the Port’s ability to handle freight and get it in and out in a timely fashion.
- Traffic is a HUGE issue in the SODO area; I-90 has its Western terminus there; I-5 has three exits there, the largest exit is by the stadium district; and Highway 99 also has one exit into the Port area from what used to be the Viaduct. And another thing to consider is that north of SODO I-5 narrows down to two-lanes, each way, as it heads through the downtown area and that causes traffic jams as cars switch lanes and make sure they still have a lane of travel in. Those traffic jams on the freeway will back up the city streets as cars are unable to get on to the freeway in a timely fashion.
The SODO Arena’s impact on traffic will prevent potential expansion of the Port AND impair the Port’s bottom line causing the Port to lay off workers [union members].
- The first point of this argument, that the Arena will prevent potential Port expansion, is pretty dumb and just doesn’t make much sense if you have any idea about the geography of the area. From what I can tell on Google Maps the Port has very little waterfront space to expand too; it is boxed in on the north end by the Ferry Dock that allows people to go to their homes in Bremerton/Bainbridge Island. As for the South End the Port curves around with the land around the southern tip of Elliot Bay. So basically there isn’t much more waterfront that the Port could expand too. If they were to try expanding eastward and into the SODO area itself they would have issues getting past the Alaskan Way Viaduct (and eventually the tunnel). After that there are numerous businesses in their way that probably aren’t too eager to sell. Traffic really isn’t going to be an issue that impacts the Port’s ability to expand.
- For that second point, impairing the Port’s bottom line causing the Port to lay off workers; this is fear mongering. As I pointed out earlier the traffic issue of traffic is already a serious issue and will almost always be a serious issue in the SODO area. The Port is making a lot of money despite the fact that the Sounders constantly putting around 67,000 people into Century Link Field during the week (Safeco Field’s capacity is 45,000+New Arena will probably be around 18,500=63,500 on the rare event that the M’s and Sonics play on the same night). Basically their fear that the arena would significantly increase traffic is complete bull.
If you would like to see what the Port has to say about its potential expansion (which includes Sea/Tac International Airport) look no further then here. From what I can tell it looks like the Port is focused on becoming more efficient and more green while adding around 100,000 jobs. Adding that any people will greatly affect traffic in the area no matter how you slice it and dice it. There is no doubt that the Port is one of the most important employers in the region but citing potential (yet to be approved and/or really studied) expansion as a reason to hold up the creation of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue from tourist.