3 important messages from town hall meeting on arena
By Mike Salk
I attended the town hall meeting Tuesday night put on
by King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson and Seattle City
Councilmember Mike O’Brien. I came away not only reminded
why I got out of the political arena, but also frustrated
at how difficult it is to convince people of anything that
they don’t want to believe.
Roughly 200 people attended the meeting. I would guess
that one third of them were wearing Sonics gear. More than
half seemed to support the arena. There was a huge age gap
between the two sides.
And everyone seemed to have made up their mind already.
The goal of the meeting was for the public to ask
questions and hear answers from the elected officials. It
was a worthy goal.
The reality was that almost everyone who was granted
time made a statement that revealed their bias.
I came away with a few observations:
Chris Hansen has deemed
KeyArena an untenable long-term venue and has already
invested in SoDo, which is better equipped to handle an
influx of people. (AP)
• I was surprised at how many arena
opponents wanted the councils to re-explore using KeyArena
instead of the proposed site in SoDo. They seemed
unwilling to recognize that Chris Hansen is the one
committing the lion share of the upfront money (and paying
back the loan in the form of rent) and he has not only
determined that the Key is not workable but he has already
invested in SoDo.
Furthermore, there is only one designated stadium area
in Seattle and that is in SoDo. One attendee pointed out
that SoDo is uniquely equipped to handle an influx of
people, given the public transportation options that exist
there. Seattle Center doesn’t have the access to light
rail, heavy rail and ferries, let alone sitting at the
crossroads of the two largest freeways in the region, plus
State Route 99.
KeyArena is no longer a money maker for anyone, and
it’s no longer important to keep tenants there since there
is no more money owed on the building. The longer it is in
use, however, the closer it gets to needing major
renovations that would be expensive. This proposal would
actually improve KeyArena because Hansen would need to
modernize it in order to temporarily play there while the
new arena is being built. This proposal is the Key’s best
hope for survival, or for saving the city money on it.
• I was not surprised at how many people still
believe that the city would be using new taxes on its
residences to pay for this arena. It doesn’t seem to
matter how many times the opponents are told that their
taxes will not be raised nor will the general fund be
affected; they will not recognize it. This is precisely
the reason I have worked so hard to hold our local
newspaper accountable for the leading
statements, thinly veiled personal shots and loose
interpretations of the facts. Most people get their news
from institutions like The Times that interpret those
facts. When they use terms like “public funding,” it
allows misinformation to flourish.
• Councilman Ferguson is planning to propose that
a “robust” economic impact study occur to determine
exactly what effect this will have on jobs, taxes, bond
ratings and tax revenue. The report would examine claims
by the Port that another arena will cost them money and
ultimately jobs. It would clarify what potential revenues
would be lost or gained by the city and county. It would
determine how this would effect the excellent AAA bond
rating that the county enjoys. This report, conducted by a
third party, would be done before the mandatory
environmental impact report (SEPA) would be done. As a
(hopefully) fair-minded arena supporter, I think that is a
worthy goal, though the timing of it would be very
I don’t think any real information was exchanged
Tuesday night. It felt like most everyone there had
previously made up their mind. Most folks (on both sides)
weren’t there to learn the truth – they simply
wanted to make their voices heard. That’s OK. The 200
attendees represented those who felt passionately enough
about this issue to take time out of their busy week to
show up. The real question is whether the 18 members of
the two councils are sifting through the misinformation,
complex financial models and real economic realities to
find the truth.
I think if they do that, they will ultimately vote in
favor of this proposal, or some reasonable compromised
version of it.