Things we learn from SeattlePI reporter Stephen Cohen’s article “comparing the proposals” for a new or renovated Seattle arena:
- “Barring a major political shakeup in the next few months, Mayor Ed Murray is going to adopt one of the KeyArena redevelopment plans,” not Chris Hansen’s longer-simmering SoDo plan.
- Since the city owns KeyArena, it won’t have to wait on Hansen to build anything, and also won’t have to muck around with the Port of Seattle on closing streets, which is what tripped up Hansen’s plan when it seemed on the brink of approval last year.
- Neither Cohen nor the PI’s copy editors knows the difference between “loathe to” and “loath to.”
Things we don’t learn:
- Anything at all comparing the two KeyArena proposals by Oak View Group and AEG, which was supposed to be the point of the article, unless the headline writer got as confused as the copy editor.
- Anything at all about how the KeyArena plans would be paid for.
Fortunately, SBNation’s Sonics Rising blog this week ran a long analysis of the Oak View Group proposal, which notes that though “the financial information section of the proposal was redacted from public consumption” (seriously?), OVG wants to “repurpose some of the tax revenue collected each year on admissions, retail sales, parking, and the leasehold excise taxes they would pay in lieu of property taxes for use of a private building on public lands.” That’s more specific than the “identify a mechanism for reinvestment of new revenue streams back into the project” that OVG listed in its initial pitch, and, as Sonics Rising notes, could amount to a significant public subsidy, though it’s hard to say exactly how much. When Hansen was seeking similar tax kickbacks, just the admissions, property and sales taxes added up to $90 million, so it’s a fair bet we’re talking that same price range here.
Given that AEG’s plan similarly calls for using “revenues that would not exist but for the renovations proposed for the Seattle Coliseum,” neither KeyArena proposal exactly meets the “no public money” pledge that Seattle officials said they were seeking. Of course, neither does Hansen’s, but it still seems a little rash to be committing to a KeyArena plan before running the numbers on how the public subsidy would compare to Hansen’s proposal. (Or how the numbers would compare to not doing any arena building at all, for that matter.) Seattle was looking for a minute there like it was going to do a bang-up job of playing off competing arena developers against each other — if they end up throwing $100 million at a renovation plan just because it’ll make local political interests happy, that won’t be the worst arena deal ever negotiated, but it will be pretty disappointing in a grasping defeat from the jaws of victory kind of way.