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Don’t be fooled by arena opponents’ fancy tricks

By Mike Salk

The editorial board at The Seattle Times has spoken. The one daily newspaper left in this town has made its opinion quite clear: it is not in favor of a new arena.

That’s OK. We are all entitled to our own opinion, especially on matters of hundreds of millions dollars. And I am all for monitoring big business and government to keep them both honest.

But come on. Let’s at least strive for accuracy. Let’s not use a bunch of fancy writing tricks to make a point.

In this case, The Times is using a report from the Municipal League of King County as its conduit to take thinly veiled pot shots at the arena proposal.

“Where will consumers find the money to buy tickets?” asks the editorial. “And at what cost to Mariners baseball and Seahawks football? The arena and its tenants and events are competing for a finite amount of entertainment dollars. Who loses in the economy when one is substituted for another?”

Ah, this is a great oratorical trick by the (anonymous) author: asking questions that sound rhetorical and obvious but actually are based on false premises.

Since when are there a finite amount of entertainment dollars?

Personally, I love the NHL and likely would attend at least a handful of games each season. Maybe right now, I stay home on those nights and do nothing. Essentially, the NHL would open up my wallet in a way that currently does not exist.

Yes, the money would have to come from somewhere. But how does The Times know it doesn’t come from my (admittedly small) vacation fund? Or money for stocks? Or my daughter’s college fund? Are they going to tell me how to spend my money now?

And should we never open any new venues for entertainment anywhere in the area? No more movie theaters. No more museums. No more skating rinks or golf courses. Sorry. Those would just take money from the “finite” pool of entertainment dollars.

Furthermore, the major sports have distinctly different audiences. Who is to say that a hockey fan also likes baseball? Or that a basketball fan also enjoys soccer? On the other hand, why am I surprised that this sentiment comes from a newspaper that often buries its articles on the major pro and college sports in order to highlight human interest stories from the world of Olympic sports that are considerably less popular.

I could try some fancy oratorical tricks myself. I could go on to mention that there has already been a pro basketball franchise in town that flourished except for its need for a new arena that no one wanted to finance. I could mention that many of the questions asked about how the proposed deal would protect us from “investor default and bankruptcy” have already been answered in the memorandum of understanding. I could mention that asking if “this metropolitan area [can] support this banquet of professional sports and busy collegiate schedules” is an insult to a city this size and with this much wealth.

But I won’t. (See what I did there, Cicero?)

Instead, I’ll leave you with this:

Even if the teams are forced to compete for our dollars, isn’t that a good thing? Maybe that competition would force our teams to spend more money or spend it more wisely.

Oh, forget it.

Then the city might have to come up with enough money for a parade or two. Can you imagine The Times editorials then?