Kingdome debt finally due to be paid off this year, 15 years after Kingdome ceased to exist

If you like stadium schadenfreude, you’ll love this: Seattle is about to pay off the last of its debt on the Kingdome, 15 years after the building was imploded:

Back in 1994, tiles fell from building’s roof, prompting an emergency closure and multimillion dollar fix. It was financed on a 20-year debt payment structure and was set to expire at the end of 2015.

King County Budget Director Dwight Dively confirmed Wednesday the county has collected enough money through hotel and motel taxes to pay off the debt nine months early.

If you’re asking yourself, Wait, how can paying off a stadium that’s been gone a decade and a half be “nine months early”?, well, that’s how bonds work: It’s buy now, pay later, and intentionally so. Everyone knew in 1994, or if not then shortly thereafter, that the Kingdome probably wasn’t going to be around at the end of the debt payments, but it was decided that rather than pay for the whole repair cost in one lump sum, it would make more sense to pay it off over time, so that what King County did.

Neither system is any worse, really, any more than taking out a mortgage to buy a home is any better or worse than paying cash, which is why I’ve previously disparaged “taxpayers are still paying off that pile of rubble!” stories as missing the point. The problem isn’t when the payments are made, but how many of them: Seattle taxpayers have now paid for building the Kingdome ($67 million), repairing the Kingdome ($51 million), demolishing the Kingdome ($10 million), and most of building Safeco Field (about $400 million). That’s a sizable slab of dough, regardless of which structures were still standing when the payments were made.

8 comments on “Kingdome debt finally due to be paid off this year, 15 years after Kingdome ceased to exist

  1. My God, I think I was a teenager when they blew that dump up. It’s the gift that keeps on giving….

    Is the Key Arena paid off? Geeze.

  2. Key Arena is paid off and is actually making money for the City of Seattle. All of that changes the minute Chris Hansen’s new arena opens, if it ever does. The message for all cities to take away is: If you have an arena (I don’t think it’d be as easy to make money with a large stadium) is to let your team move to another city, and then you’ll have events that utilize the building and pays actual rent. It’s a novel concept, and one I don’t expect to take off or anything, but it works for us.

    And for those who feel that sports are a driver of quality of life we’re doing pretty good up here. Tons of apartment towers being built, Amazon is taking over 4 million square feet of office space, etc. If sports teams and their cheerleaders want to claim the vitality they bring to a city, shouldn’t it be brought to the attention of all that a team left and the city has done better economically?

    What’s that you say? The two aren’t connected? Well now we’re on to something….

  3. And the Mariners may finally be done “rebuilding” their team enough to not elicit groans when they start negotiating their 2017+ lease.

  4. Well, at least other cities will look at this example of Seattle as a warning why not to spend public money on stadiums…. wait, why’s everyone laughing?

  5. BS!!!! American cities should not be beholden to any fat. bloated sports franchise, period. They hold cities hostage with threats of pulling out; now that really demonstrates a love for their home turf and its fans. You are an apologist for unwise political decisions that aggrandize corrupt developers and franchise owners at the expense of the taxpayer. Far better idea for private capital to build it’s own stadiums, pay taxes on it, and reap it’s reward for investing. Take a few Economics courses and you might then comprehend this a little better. Oh, and maybe you’ll be willing to sign the petition that requests the NFL and others be removed from non profit status in America.

  6. MODERATOR’S NOTE: Normally Carl’s comment would be disallowed because it contains a personal attack (“you are an apologist”), but as I can’t actually figure out who he’s calling names, I’m going to let it ride.

    If it’s directed at me, Carl, I think you’re missing the point of this item: Yes, it’s terrible that Seattle is saddled with debt for two different baseball stadiums, neither of which does it get to reap any rewards from. (Aside from, arguably, the ability to continue watching the Mariners, if you consider that a reward the last decade or so.) But articles that cluck over how the stadium is gone but the debt lives on imply that it would be preferable if the debt had been paid off before demolition — and Seattle taxpayers wouldn’t have been any better off if they’d been presented with that $51 million renovation bill as a lump sum rather than as a series of spread-out payments.

  7. Let’s not forget that Paul Allen (net worth of $17.5 billion), owner of the Seahawks, ripped off taxpayers for 83% of the cost of the Century Link Field.

  8. Neil, I’d disagree that the timing of payments isn’t important. In almost all cases, when bonds are issued for infrastructure, it makes sense to spread out the burden of payments because future taxpayers will also get to enjoy the use of the school/bridge/hyperloop. In cases like the Kingdome, however, the burden of payment was shifted onto taxpayers that were not able to enjoy the product they’re paying for so the current taxpayers are subsidizing the consumption of previous Seattleites. Although, if people could buy sports cars and stick their children with the bill, I’m sure many people would.