Well we are inching the closer to the City and County Council voting on the Hansen proposal and I thought I would sum up the current state of affairs. For the record, I am trying to be as objective as possible here but I know I can’t be since I would love for a hockey team to come here. I certainly don’t want a team no matter what I take the public financing and/or subsidies very seriously but I am sure I have some bias here.
The main issues that are pretty much listed in priority order with the top 2 being the most contentious:
- I-91 Compliance
- Port of Seattle & Traffic
- Job Impacts
- Key arena (way down the list)
I-91: In my opinion this is the biggest issue and has council members the most concerned. Well, it has the Seattle City Council members the most concerned. Chris Van Dyk, long standing sport stadium subsidy opponent has threated to sue the city because he says it is not I-91 compliant.
As you may or may not know. I-91 basically says that any sports stadium subsidies must make the city money at a rate no less than the US T-bill rate. Well, turns out that it isn’t written that well to deal with the Hansen proposal and has thus caused some discrepancy in how to calculate rate of return since the city is not putting in cash for this project. Unfortunately, the City’s staffer’s analysis showed that the projections would not make the city money. Hansen countered (publically) claiming that the analysis by the city was flawed. I’ve tried to make sense of it with some healthy and spirited debates on fieldofschemes.com but hard for me to identify who is right and who is wrong. The author of the site and book of the same name seems to think the truth is somewhere in the middle and that this could cost the city anywhere from 50Million which even to him, is a really good deal. That doesn’t make it I-91 compliant though so it is hard to get a real answer from everyone. I believe it comes down to a difference of financial approach to plead whatever side of the fence you are on.
Port of Seattle and Traffic: The most vocal group opposing the deal from the start has been the Port of Seattle. They have claimed the added traffic will lead to job loss. To date, they have provided no data publically. Hanson funded an independent traffic study that came back with data that said it would be immaterial and several news reporters showed that there was no traffic around 4 which would be the typical time the area would start to see traffic on game nights. My take, this is just a leverage play by the Port of Seattle to get something they want. They were promised an overpass with the construction of Safeco but those funds were diverted to the Mercer project and thus they are feeling a little swindled.
Job Impacts: The complete job impacts are not known. Very easy to lean back and say 3 to 5 years construction will lead to significant job growth and certainly there will be people need at the arena and team operations etc but what about key arena and potentially the port. Nothing to meaty here other than it gives people ammo to question the deal if there is no data to say it adds jobs. I am fairly certain the net of it will add jobs but I don’t know definitively especially the port jobs, should there be an impact.
Key arena: There are many constituents that question why Key arena can’t be used. At a town hall, one of the King County councilmen reaffirmed that it really isn’t an option on the table. They need to consider the potential impact to key arena rev streams but Hansen has been adamant that the Key is not an option….and I don’t want to go into all the reasons for it.
That’s the lay of the land on the Arena proposal. After following this the last 3 to 5 months it is clear people (public) have their minds made up and do not research the structure of the deal. There certainly are some confusing aspects of the deal but when I went to the town hall on Tuesday, I would say 50% of the questions or comments had some kind of in accurate facts claimed (on both sides).
If it were to go to vote now, I think the county passes it and the city rejects it. It will be unfortunate if Seattle misses this opportunity because it may not come around…ever.