On the desks of the political leaders of Seattle and King County, sits a proposal from Chris Hansen and the investment group he represents. Their nearly $300 million would be the third-largest private investment of any arena in this country’s history.
In response, they need $200 million from the city and county which would be paid back, plus interest, through taxes acquired by ticket and concession sales generated only by the arena.Thousands of jobs would be created. Businesses like hotels, restaurants, bars, and more would thrive. Seattle would restore its legacy of professional hockey as the Seattle Metropolitans, who were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917. The SoDo area would flourish. The city would have its Sonics back.
But it might not happen. Click to read more…
Former Chief Justice Earl Warren used to say, “I always read the sports page first, it shows man’s accomplishments and none of his failures.”
My name is Jason Rubenstein and I was employed by the Seattle Sonics and Storm from 2005-2007. I worked in the Front Office as an Account Executive, providing businesses, families, and individuals with a great experience, by purchasing season tickets and packages. I saw firsthand, the significant cultural impact of a uniting force such as a multi-purpose facility, on the city. When the Sonics moved, I had to leave my job. I now sit on the ArenaSolution.org Advisory Council working to get the word about this phenomenal opportunity for our region.
I’d like to start by telling you about a former client of mine, Gus Mansour. Gus is a real estate broker from Lynnwood who purchased a 16-game package from me every year. Gus wasn’t a Sonics fan. He wasn’t even a basketball fan. He was a fan of his 6-year old son. As a single parent, each game he would call me to let me know he was bringing his son to that evening’s event. I would go out of my way to tour them courtside, introduce them to players, and I would always have a different 8x10 autographed picture for Gus to give to his son. Gus was a hero on those nights. Professional sports brought them together and strengthened their bond.
In 1998 CNN and Sports Illustrated produced a study on Michael Jordan’s effect on the economy of the city of Chicago. It was determined that every time Jordan stepped on the court, between $8 million and $10 million were pumped into the economy of Chicago. That could account for over $600 million over the course of the year; from parking, concessions, souvenirs, restaurants, bars, hotels, and tourism. The results for away games: even higher. While Jordan no longer plays, superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and yes, Kevin Durant will drive similar tourism revenue.
With a new arena proposal that requires no new taxes and has the 3rd-largest private investment for any arena in North America, I am in full support of this proposal. It’s important to the city. It’s important to our local businesses. It’s important to the community.
However, there are vocal opponents of a new area in Seattle. If the city were to bring back the NBA and NHL, we would become the third-most saturated sports city, per capita, in the US (behind Cleveland and Denver). Can our market support six professional franchises? How will the addition of another stadium in SoDo effect traffic and infrastructure? What will be the impact on the Port of Seattle – the foremost public opponent of the arena proposal? Will the $200 million that the group is requesting take up all or most of the city’s bonding capacity? Didn’t we just build a KeyArena? Can’t a new team play there? And lastly, the NBA spurned us once, do we really want them back?
Well, let’s take a look:
Traffic Infrastructure – An influx of traffic will occur on certain nights and weekends, of course. However, only a small handful of games between all our teams will coincide, with minimal traffic concerns. Regarding the outlining roads, shouldn’t we want people to use these facilities and attend events? With sporting and entertainment events, the resulting tourism dollars will far out-weigh the investment in infrastructure.
Port of Seattle – The Port has argued two major points: traffic and jobs. The Port closes weekdays at 4:30pm. The earliest a weekday basketball/hockey/concert would start is 7:00pm. I wasn’t a math major, but this doesn’t seem to make sense.
Jobs however, are a concern. So, King County hired an expert panel to review the employment impact at our city’s vital maritime industry. Here are the findings:
The port plans to expand operations in the next 25 years, but it's difficult to calculate how many jobs that would create, and that could be negligible. The Port also could have difficulty meeting its expansion goal because of competition and global issues, unrelated to the proposed arena.
Negligible. Unrelated. Look, the Port wants an overpass to help with the expanding commercial and retail growth in the area. It is my opinion, that strong-arming the city, county, and private investors is not an appropriate response. They should be willing to help in this process and share the cross-industry benefits of additional infrastructure. Besides, the port has wanted this overpass for years, woudln't a flurishing SoDo likely make the city/state more likely to build the overpass?
Future Bonded Projects – King County owns a superb AAA bond rating. It is in our best interest to continue to hold this rating. The proposal states that we cannot break ground until an NBA team is secured, protecting our investment. With repayment coming in the form of taxes generated from the arena itself, this is the safest investment we can make. What’s even greater is that it will boost the economy intrinsically as well. Here’s what the expert panel had to say:
The proposed public-private partnership is one of the most favorable to the public of any recent partnership. The public investment carries little or no risk to the county's financial well-being, its bond rating or its general fund.
Future of KeyArena – It was said by a guest at a Town Hall event last week that “KeyArena is a sunk cost. Why get $1 for $1 when a new arena can produce $2 for $1?” The NBA has specifically stated that no basketball team can thrive in KeyArena. While it works from a fan point-of-view, the building and surrounding area makes it extremely difficult to host successful events. In the last 10 years we’ve seen a precedent set for multi-purpose entertainment facilities that are high-quality, fan-centric, and support concerts and sports alike.
Why Sports? - It's romantic to be a sports fan. The flight of a ball or the swoosh of the net can bring a man to agony and another to Ecstasy. To love something without reciprocation. It's unconditional. It's said that you don't know what you've lost until it's gone. Maybe that's what happened in Seattle. An Emerald City so full of love and passion and community. Ofgrowth, diversity, and technological advancement. A pillar in the Northwest that embraces change and hope. Somewhere we forgot that it's important to nourish cultural equity. We spoke, but what did we do? Often in life you are given a second chance.A too good to be true moment that overcomes you with past emotions of betrayal, hopelessness, and anger. It’s time to forget about past mistakes and embrace opportunity.
Stand up. Wash that Payton/Kemp/Allen/Potapenko jersey. Make yourself heard. Go to www.ArenaSolution.org and be a part of change.