When the Seattle Mariners owners announced on Wednesday that they’d agreed to a 25-year lease extension on Safeco Field without demanding any new public subsidies, I thought, “That’s nice, I’ll address it in the Friday roundup.” And here it is Friday, but now this is getting its own item, because it turns out the Mariners are actually looking for public money for stadium upgrades — $180 million of it, in fact:
The proposal announced Wednesday by King County Council Executive Dow Constantine would come from a “hotel-motel” lodging tax that previously helped pay for construction of the Kingdome. It currently is paying off debt for the construction of CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks and Sounders play their games. The CenturyLink Field debt is scheduled to be paid off by 2020.
Constantine wants 12 percent of that tax’s revenue given to the Public Facilities District (PFD) boards that manage both Safeco Field and the ShoWare Center in Kent, something Upthegrove says is ridiculous given more pressing priorities within the region.
“We all love the Mariners and they’re a part of our life but we have to remember this is a private, for profit business,” [King County councilmember Dave] Upthegrove, who chairs the council’s budget committee, said in an interview Thursday. “And a large one. It’s a billion-dollar company that can afford to and can and should pay their own expenses. Because if they don’t then we end up using public funds that need to go to other more pressing priorities.”
There are a lot of moving parts to this lease deal — the Mariners owners would also put in $120 million toward future upgrades, which are estimated at $545 million over the next 30 years for some reason even though the stadium only cost $517 million to build in the first place, and they would also kick in $175 million in ticket and parking taxes collected by the team, the latter of which supercedes parking taxes the city would normally get to charge (and collect). And the Seattle Times reports that the lease deal “is not contingent upon the hotel-motel tax revenue.” So it’s probably a bit overly definitive to write “Mariners owners seek $180 million in public upgrades as part of lease renewal” … enh, it’s Friday, if you can’t oversimplify headlines on a Friday, when can you do it? If things are clearer after the weekend, look for an update then.