Nobody actually has money for suburban Seattle hockey arena plan, it may die by year’s end

There hasn’t been much news of late about the arena that former oil trader Ray Bartoszek said he was going to build in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, and apparently there are good reasons for that:

Bartoszek has said his previous investor pulled out in July, scuttling his plans to apply for an NHL expansion team.

Bartoszek has yet to find a replacement investor. He said there is still potential of one emerging by year’s end, but he could not guarantee if the land options will be extended.

So we’re back to what this whole Tukwila deal seemed like in the first place: Rich guy says he’ll build an arena with private money, as soon as he finds somebody else with private money to actually spend on it. Bartoszek has put down some money for extensions on land options already, so presumably he’s at least somewhat serious about this thing, though it could always just be something he sees as an investment in getting his name mentioned in NHL expansion owner discussions. There are worse ways to spend your money when you’re a billionaire.

17 comments on “Nobody actually has money for suburban Seattle hockey arena plan, it may die by year’s end

  1. Aside from funding and planning questions, arenas out in suburbs just don’t make sense to me.

  2. Anon…you bring up a good question:

    Assuming we forget about all the rhetoric and bad financial stuff we scrutinize and debate, WHERE is the right place for an arena or stadium?

    @ Niel: Has this ever been addressed in any study? Other than “where the people are, where transportation access is good and where infrastructure is available or can be installed in an economic way” what other criteria are there?

    Some stadiums/arena seem to have “thrived”** in the ‘burbs (e.g the palace at Auburn Hills, texas stadium, Gilette stadium)

    In another thread we have mocked the location of the glendale arena and tecnd to poo-poo tying arenas/stadiums to entertainment districts. But if there is a clean planning slate to work from, where would you build it?

    **I have no data sources that these stadiums actually thrive. They just seemed to from my naive observations.

  3. It’s a suburb for sure, but it’s not exactly the sticks, there are some transit options in town (for example it’s the last stop for light rail out of Seattle before the Airport), and the largest shopping center in the Puget Sound area is already located there. It’s conceivable that in the right location it wouldn’t be completely horrible

  4. “WHERE is the right place for an arena or stadium?”

    Why are you building it? Are you building it to capture a bunch of subsidy, well then wherever the people giving you the subsidy want it.

    Are you building it to acquire development rights to some prime real estate, then near that real estate.

  5. “Right place” in terms of the stadium/arena doing well? Mostly it’s a matter of people being able to get there, which is why NFL stadiums tend to do better in the boonies (lots of room for tailgating, on Sundays it doesn’t matter much how far you have to drive) while everything else works better close to downtown (since people have to get to weeknight games after work, then home after that).

    Of course, there’s also the little matter of land cost, but if the public is covering that, it’s less of an issue.

  6. …and you can probably find much better uses for “downtown” land than a facility that gets used maybe a dozen times a year. Football belongs in the exurbs – and would always be there if teams had to buy the land.

  7. I 99.9% agree with Neil. Football makes most sense in suburbs with cheaper land and ample parking with baseball/basketball/hockey more apt for city centers.

    That said, there is not quite a one-size-fits-all answer. You do have to consider the metro area, the health of a city and how people get around. Someone gave Auburn Hills as an example and in Detroit there’s really no public transit to speak of and most fans neither work nor live near downtown Detroit. New York would be the polar opposite.

    Seattle is somewhere in between, but all else being equal if you were to do a hockey arena you’d probably put it near Downtown Seattle. If you were going to do it elsewhere, you’d probably choose Bellevue. You definitely would not choose Tukwila which is neither near jobs nor people who can afford to buy lots of tickets.

  8. @Scola Tukwilla is near jobs. 45,000 people work in the town that has a population of 19,000. Also it’s roughly 10-12 miles from Bellevue and Seattle. Again, it’s not exactly the sticks. I’d argue if you can’t get people to go 10 miles in a car, or light rail, or Sounder Train there’s no demand for the place to begin with.

  9. There may be 45,000 jobs and 19,000 residents, but I don’t picture 8 teens working at Hot Topic pooling their funds for a luxury box.

  10. I’m in general agreement with the sentiments here and my perception is that baseball stadiums and basketball/hockey arenas are best placed very near downtown cores and transit option whereas football stadiums are better placed out in the suburbs.

  11. I believe it was Phillip Bess who wrote Baseball City Magic and he talks about how the right ballpark tied properly into the downtown infrastructure can be beneficial to the city (this was like 1998 so I don’t think he was arguing “beneficial” to the tune of 100s of millions but I may be wrong).

    I believe there is some logic to it and he cites examples like NY Yankee Stadium (precussor to the one standing today) ans Wrigley Field (no idea what he’d think about the renos going on) as stadia that benefit and make their communities better as opposed to the suburban monoliths that ruin communities (he cites Comisky Stadium).

    Very dated but some good ideas I’m sure smart people have repurposed to make arguments that a city should give up a small treasury for the privalege to build and own an arena they pull zero revenues from.

  12. Ballparks follow urban activity. They don’t create it.

    The example everyone uses as a “success story” is Camden Yards. It’s a great ballpark and really nicely done. However, it supports about 4 bars. An hour after the game 3 blocks away everything is dead. After the game everyone heads to a parking garage and drives to Howard County.

    For all the architectural praise and care, that stadium did essentially nothing to turn around downtown Baltimore.

  13. SoMa was booming well before AT&T was built. Gaslamp Quarter is slightly more complicated, but at most you can say that it and Petco developed together, not one because of the other.

  14. SoMa was not booming well before PacBell. I used to skateboard down there and there was a lot of rundown buildings, crappy warehousing space and plenty of drug use. I am sure the area would have been “gentrified” in that direction eventually but PacBell helped with the acceleration.

  15. The other end of SoMa was. I’ll agree with you that PacBell helped accelerate development southward, but the Camden Yards case is still true: By itself, a stadium won’t do much of anything to create ancillary development. At best it can direct where development that’s in the works anyway will settle.

  16. AT&T Park is proof of what I am saying. SF was a booming city. Baltimore is not. AT&T Park is essentially a clone of Camden Yards, except by water.

    The reason SoMa is booming is because of a couple of things. The first is the anti-Manhattanization movement of the 80s placed substantial limits on new developments in the Financial District. However, limits were less strict South of Market. As the economy boomed, things shifted south. This was intentional public policy. All you have to do is look at the current skyline from Dolores Park (Twin Peaks works too but the angle isn’t as clear) and see the line somewhere around Market St, pre-80s high rises on one side, 90s and later on the other. You’re not going to tell me the Salesforce Tower or One Rincon Hill was caused by a baseball stadium.

    The other, more obvious, one is the CalTrain station makes it a nice place to put a tech company. SF techies like it because they don’t have to drive down to the South Bay, and Silicon Valley techies can take the train so the commute is often better than a commute between Palo Alto and San Jose. The reason the Giants wanted to be there was the same: Access to CalTrain for their fan base in the South Bay.