The Mariners have now scored more than half a billion dollars in public subsidies for one stadium

And the Seattle Mariners owners have gotten their $135 million in tax money, as the King County council voted 5-4 to give final approval to the same stadium renovation fund plan as it approved two weeks ago. The same councilmembers who objected and proposed amendments last time — including that the Mariners be required to open their books or share future naming-rights revenue with the public — did so again yesterday with the same result, albeit with some added absurdist comedy:

One notable moment was when Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer accidentally gave an affirmative vote to one such amendment. His colleague, Councilmember Reagan Dunn looked down the line at him.

“Pete,” Dunn said. “You meant to vote no.”

Von Reichbauer, flustered, quickly changed his vote.

If you’re scoring at home, the $135 million in hotel taxes that will now be handed over the Mariners owners for upgrades plus the $380 million taxpayers spent on building Safeco Field in the first place brings the total public cost for construction and upkeep to $515 million. (And significantly more if you include the discounted rent the M’s are paying on the building that they operate and control all revenues from but don’t own because who wants all the headaches of home ownership?) Or, if you prefer to look at this deal on its own, King County is paying the Mariners $5.4 million a year for a 25-year lease extension, and while there have been worse deals in recent sports lease history, those teams also had more options for relocating than the Mariners ever did, so King County had a hammer here that it never even unwrapped from its packaging.

As part of the deal approved yesterday, some hotel tax money will also go to the arts, affordable housing, and tourism. But that will be less than critics of the deal had hoped for — in particular, tourism projects will now get a piddly $8 million, which councilmember Rod Dembowski took particular umbrage to:

“$8 million scrap thrown at you, while 94-plus percent is given to one entity? That’s not right, that’s not the intent of the legislation, that is not a compromise. It is a heist. It is a fleecing. And it is not good policy.”

But anyway, at least Seattle’s wildly lucrative pro baseball team will now get some really nice toasters. And isn’t that what public spending priorities are supposed to be all about?

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6 comments on “The Mariners have now scored more than half a billion dollars in public subsidies for one stadium

  1. So, in a city that is home to Microsoft, Star Bucks, and Amazon public money is needed for private businesses. Extrapolating to other less business-rich cities, one must conclude that taxpayers should pickup an even larger portion of private enterpr
    ises expenses. Very sad…

  2. As noted, not the worst deal ever. But why?

    A team that can afford $30m/yr for Cano can’t pay for it’s own toasters and 4k TVs?

    Even if that were true (it’s not), that would mean M’s ownership has decisions to make on how they spend money… just like every other business owner (and taxpayer) does.

    1. Right on John!

      Not to mention the in-progress ‘$100 million +’ contracts of Kyle Seager and King Felix which are not currently yielding much value…

      But the Mariners are far from unique in signing very stupid expensive long term contracts with players.

  3. It amazes me that any council member would agree to these deals, knowing full well they take away from other services in their cities. The only explanation I can come up with is that team owners are bribing council members to vote in favor of these terrible deals. Why else would they vote in favor, if the threat of relocation is meaningless?

  4. When the MATH is done on most MLB teams each has received a billion plus in taxpayers money. Home, minor league, and spring training sites. It’s the only sport where politicians also build stadiums for semi pro teams. Hell the Texas Rangers of all teams might the biggest welfare Queen.

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