Yes. Built in 1994
at a cost of about $92 million, with some $74 million of bonded indebtedness, Key Arena has
had a shelf life hardly longer than canned beans. Now, they tell us Key
Arena was supposedly
obsolete the day it opened for business.
here to read how the project was described by its constructors at the time, a short eleven
The financial structure
for payment of the bonds by revenue generated at the facility through luxury box
seats sales has failed. Now the Sonics, who were responsible for those
sales, and whose former principal owner is undoubtedly one of the world's best
marketers, say they could not sell the high priced luxury seating that is
responsible for debt service on the facility. So the Sonics want the City of Seattle
to pick up the tab.
demand for tax subsidies for professional basketball at Key Arena has many other
factors driving it. The team payroll has ballooned in the last year from
$34 million to $50 million. Check
out the Sonics payroll here. The Arena has to compete with Safeco Field and Qwest
Field. Despite lavish salaries that are competitive in the
league, the team languishes.
Sonics not only want the
taxpayers to pay that bill still outstanding from 1994, they want an entirely new facility. That
facility will have about 900 more seats (475 of which are standing room only), even fancier luxury suites, a practice arena,
and a bigger concourse for restaurants and other facilities that get people to
spend more money. Those new businesses will compete
with other private businesses ringing Seattle Center. And the Sonics want
to control the new Arena, keeping nearly all the money from all the events--not
just basketball. But to make the proposal
palatable, they've thrown a bone to the arts--about one in seven of every dollar
raised by the proposed tax increase will go to fund arts organizations in King
get legislative support in Olympia, they tell legislators that the proposal
really helps Seattle--that it gets rid of losses at Seattle Center that drain
money from other city programs. This is the same logic that wasted the
Kingdome--they argued that the Kingdome was a drain on King County's
budget. So they shift it to the capital facilities side of the ledger,
with a tax increase on somebody else to pay the bill. That tax increase is real,
it hurts workers, and it hurts--to quote a Republican or two--our children who
will eventually pay it. This kind of self-indulgent, fiscally irresponsible
policy-making helps nobody.
tax increase slams restaurants, hotels and motels, and hits taxpayers directly
through a county-wide diversion of sales tax revenue to the facility. See
the House Office of Program Research Analysis here. And the proposal--House
Bill 3233 and Senate Bill 6849--not only has no public vote--it eliminates the public vote
on sports stadium remodeling projects in Washington State forever. The salt
in the wound? Under the current proposal,
tearing down the Kingdome and rebuilding it would have been a remodeling
project. Had this proposal been law ten years ago, there would have been
no Seahawks stadium vote, no Mariners stadium vote.
playbook for the Sonics proposal is nearly identical to that of the
Mariners. Claim losses, make threats to leave, hype the economic impact of
the team. Shed crocodile tears about not being loved. Bring out a
citizen's report and economic analysis that shows how much money they contribute
to the community. What's worse, the consultants Seattle Center retained to
tell us how to deal with Key Arena now, are the same ones who could not get it
right, back then. Go figure. The strategy would be laughable, if it did not
work, not only in Seattle, but in other cities throughout America.
citizens report can be viewed here. One thing it does say is that Key
Arena is viable without the Sonics. It also states that, at least with
respect to Seattle Center, the problem is a $3 million per year problem.
That begs a question, which it does not address, which is why the solution to
that problem will result in the issuance of bonds, at a cost of some $10 million
of the well voiced public outrage over it, this proposal did not make it through the
legislature. However, the Governor and others are still trying to make a
deal happen. It is imperative that you call or write your legislator, the
Governor, and the King County Council and Seattle City Council.