Top 5 Reasons Why the New “Sonics” Stadium is Safe for Seattle
The City of Seattle’s budget director has joined the Brock and Salk v. Seattle Times Editorial Board fray over the proposed SoDo basketball stadium. Writing on the Mayor’s blog, Beth Goldberg says she was “was surprised and dismayed to hear how little [Times editorial writers Bruce Ramsey and Kate Riley] knew about or understood the actual proposal. The Times has a basic responsibility to get their facts straight–even if those facts don’t help them advance their particular view of reality.”
I’ve seen some strange arguments put in play myself. There are the people who wonder whether Seattle–the city that supported the Sonics from 1967 to 2008–can now afford to support “another” team, as if the previous 40 years didn’t exist. That’s a bit of a head-scratcher.
There’s the concern about congestion in the stadium district–my god, congestion! Shall we get rid of those other two stadiums while we’re at it? Or is it a good idea to plan and build for the influx of thousands of sports fans into a central area, rather than half-ass that infrastructure in multiple places?
And of course you’ve heard the instinctive backlash to out-of-towner Chris Hansen and his outlandish plans for seventy-six trombones in the big parade. When the news broke the backers actually included Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom family, Bruce Ramsay at the Times doubled down and laid into Paul Allen as well.
Then there are the true-but-off-point arguments: Won’t KeyArena be useless if there’s a new basketball arena? KeyArena is what’s known as a sunk investment. It is already useless for NBA basketball–for better or worse, the Sonics are not coming back to play in KeyArena. “I hate taxes!” Great. But the arena’s tax revenues are only created by its construction and operation, so to avoid these, don’t build it or visit it. Isn’t the NBA’s David Stern, in the parlance of the day, an asshole? It certainly seems like that may be the case, but again, this isn’t something that comes up unless local ownership sells the team to Oklahomans.
Goldberg, impersonating Jonathan Franzen, lays out her “corrections” to the misapprehensions promulgated at the Times:
- There is a non-relocation stipulation in the proposal. Home is where the contract says it is: SoDo.
- There is no outlay of City or King County’s over-stretched funds. Bonds issued would be backed by rent, paid by the investment group, and by “incremental tax revenue” generated by there being an arena.
- There are multiple guarantees and “what-ifs” in place, including the investors agreeing to pay rent first ahead of other obligations, building a reserve fund to cover revenue fluctuations, agreeing that if the team is sold the City and County are in line for proceeds.
- “The City and County would own the land and the property under the terms of the [Memorandum of Understanding].”
- Finally, “the investor is responsible for all maintenance and operational costs of the arena,” and is required to make those investments, so the arena would not lapse into decrepitude.
Finally, no one knows yet what the actual cost of the arena, so far as the City and County are concerned, will be. People have been throwing a “$100 million” figure around, contrasting that with Hansen’s estimate purchase price of the land ($40 million), but the $100 million is actually a cap, not an agreed-upon assessment.
For more details on the proposal, go here.